An Independent Study in Civil Rights History
The Farmville Story:
On April 23rd, 1951, Barbara Johns led her classmates at the all-black Robert R. Moton High School to go on strike in protest of unequal educational facilities in Prince Edward County, Virginia. This demonstration evolved into a class-action lawsuit that was later combined with four other school desegregation cases that went before the Supreme Court in 1954 as Brown v. the Board of Education. When Virginia's "Massive Resistance" policies to prevent integration were ruled unconstitutional in 1959, the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors responded by closing down the public school system. It remained closed for five years until a Supreme Court decision forced the county to reopen schools on an integrated basis in 1964. No other locality in the United States resorted to such extreme measures to avoid integration.
The Farmville Tour Guides Project:
For the past two years, Rockingham County Public Schools has conducted a “student-led field trip” where students have selected a component of the Farmville story, conducted in-depth research, and then presented this information to their peers at a historic site related to their topic. For example, the East Rockingham High School students in the adjacent photo chose to research Barbara Johns in preparation for the 2015 trip. They exhaustively researched her story, developed a well-written script, and acted out her story while standing on the very auditorium stage where she called forth the student-strike of 1951. In addition to these historic surroundings, we were accompanied by former Moton students and members of the Farmville community. In fact, Mrs. Johns' sister, Mrs. Joan Johns-Cobbs was present in the audience to witness this tribute to her late sister. The day culminated with a private tour of the Moton Museum and a Q & A session with our honored guests.
The 2017 Independent Study:
The Farmville Tour Guides Project is now an accredited "independent study" course in Rockingham County Public Schools. This year's project will challenge students to create a digital version of the student-led field trip by developing a website that features a singular day in Farmville history. Each student group will be assigned to interview someone who directly experienced the events that occurred on that specific day. For example, students assigned to interview Mrs. Joan Johns-Cobbs will research the R.R. Moton Student Strike that was led by her sister, Barbara Johns, on April 23rd, 1951. These interviews will take place during a special field trip to Farmville's Moton Museum on Thursday, April 20th, 2017. Participating students will prepare for this interview by conducting considerable research about the events that led up to their assigned day in Farmville history. In addition to the interview, students will also have the opportunity to accompany their interview-subjects to specific locations in Farmville where the events they experienced actually took place. Students will document these excursions by taking photographs and videos. Following the field trip, students will complete the project by developing a comprehensive website about their assigned day in Farmville history. Only one group of four-five students from each high school will be able to participate in this unique endeavor, so get your applications in early! Applications are due by Friday, January 20th, 2017.