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 four 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 researched Barbara Johns in preparation for the 2015 trip. They exhaustively researched Mrs. Johns, 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.