It is now a museum and study center, honoring the brave young women and men who challenged the leaders of Prince Edward County to give them equal educational opportunities. The museum features eyewitness accounts and exhibits that document the struggle to end racial segregation in education.
What happened here? On April 23, 1951, a group of Moton High School students walked out of their school and into history. To protest the overcrowded and inferior facilities at their school, 16-year-old Barbara Johns (niece of civil rights pioneer Reverend Vernon Johns) organized and led a two-week strike, during which students refused to attend classes. The students called upon lawyers from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), including Oliver W. Hill, to help them in their struggle for equal educational opportunities. The NAACP agreed to take the Prince Edward case on the condition that students and their parents would sue to desegregate the schools, rather than just equalize them. Moton students and their parents agreed, and the case Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County advanced to the Supreme Court, along with four other cases that challenged segregation in public education. In May 1954, the Supreme Court would decide these five cases in Brown v. Board of Education, which declared segregation in public education unconstitutional. Although a constitutional victory had been won, implementation of the Brown decision involved decades of struggle. The state of Virginia imposed a policy of “massive resistance” that would effectively delay school desegregation until the 1960s. In 1959, under federal court order to desegregate its schools, the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors voted not to fund the schools, causing them to close. The school closings dramatically affected lives. Teachers lost their jobs. Families sent their children away to attend school. Many children simply did not go to school. Led by Rev. L. Francis Griffin of First Baptist Church, the locked-out students chose to demand their constitutional right to public education. It would be five years before public schools in Prince Edward County re-opened, after another Supreme Court ruling in Griffin v. County School Board, in 1964.
What is here now? Today Moton School, a National Historic Landmark, stands as a stirring reminder of the struggle for Civil Rights in Education. Yet even more than a monument to the past, the Robert Russa Moton Museum stands as a monument to a community moving from a divided past into a common future. A 1994 New York Newsday report commended Prince Edward County as the only area involved in the Brown decision to desegregate its schools successfully and peacefully. The Robert Russa Moton Museum serves as a Center for the Study of Civil Rights in Education, providing programs to explore the history of desegregation in education and to promote dialogue about community relations. The Moton Museum is also an anchor site of the Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail. The trail contains 41 sites across southside Virginia which depict the broadening of educational opportunities. The museum houses exhibits containing Moton High School memorabilia, artifacts of the Civil Rights Movement, and oral histories of former teachers and students who recall their experiences of the student walkout and the school closings. Docents are available to give guided tours of the museum. It is an experience not to be missed, one that will inspire admiration for the courage of those students long ago who, young as they were, dared to demand justice for all.
R.R. Bowker & OCLC plan electronic ordering/ cataloging service. (Reed Publishing Inc. (USA) R.R. Bowker Co.; OCLC Online Computer Library Center) (Brief Article)
Jan 01, 1994; (ONLINE/CD-ROM '93, Washington, DC) R.R. Bowker, a Reed Reference Publishing Company, and OCLC Online Computer Library Center,...