An Independent Study in Civil Rights History
The Farmville Story:
On April 23, 1951, Barbara Johns led her classmates at the Robert Russa 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 collectively 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. Schools remained closed for five years until the Supreme Court case of Griffin v. Prince Edward County forced them to reopen on an integrated basis in 1964. During this time, thousands of black students were denied the right of a free and public education in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The Farmville Tour Guides Project:
For the past six years, Rockingham County Public Schools has conducted a “student-led field trip” on the very grounds where these pivotal events unfolded. Students prepare for the trip by researching a specific chapter of the Farmville story in order to develop a creative presentation to give to their peers on the day of the on-site field experience in Farmville. For example, the East Rockingham High School students in the adjacent photo researched Barbara Johns in preparation for the 2015 trip - students read everything they could find regarding the Farmville case, they developed a well-written script, and they then acted out the events of the 1951 student strike while standing on the very auditorium stage where Ms. Johns stood in 1951. In addition to these historic surroundings, we were honored to be accompanied by former Moton students and members of the Farmville community. The day culminated with a private tour of the Moton Museum and a Q & A session with our honored guests.