Keogh Visits Moton Museum

June 16, 2009

(left to right) Moton Museum Director Lacy Ward, Jr. is photographed with President and CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce Hugh Keogh and Moton Museum President Robert Hamlin.

President and CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce Hugh Keogh was the recent guest of honor at a luncheon hosted by the Robert Russa Moton Museum for community leaders specifically interested in the Museum’s development.

“Taking pride in our historical assets is an inescapable part of successful Virginia business,” said Keogh.  “We do not deal with much of our history very well, as we often find fault with each other or point fingers.  We need to appreciate and have greater pride in our State’s role in American history.  The Moton story is one such part of our history where so little is known nationally.”

Longwood University President Patricia Cormier agreed fully.  “It is astonishing to me that so many people have no idea what a major role the Moton School played in the Brown v Board of Education cases, forever changing the face of education in America,” she said.

Though the role the Moton School played in the civil rights struggle and specifically the circumstances surrounding the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 brown decision striking down the concept of separate but equal public education is unknown to many, the Robert Russa Moton Museum plans to change that with its upcoming permanent exhibition, Moton 2011.

Fuqua School Communications Coordinator Linda Davis said the school had to look far and wide to find a classroom book in which the Moton story is told. “This needs to change,” Davis said. “To find the Moton story in a history book is most difficult.”

Moton Museum Board President Robert Hamlin, a student at the time of the public school closing, said, “There are those that feel shame and there are those that will not let go of the past. These feelings only serve to put this story on the back burner of American history.  What we need to do is to see Prince Edward County as an integral part of shaping American history.”

In closing, Keogh reminded the group that “Virginia was the first state to elect a black governor and, though there may be denial of the past, we are a progressive state that needs to embrace our past in order to build on tomorrow.”

The mission of the Moton Museum is to preserve and positively interpret the history of Civil Rights in Education, specifically as it relates to Prince Edward County and the role its citizens played in America’s struggle to move to an integrated society. The Museum is an educational resource for the Commonwealth of Virginia, accessible to students, educators and the public at large.  The economic development potential of Civil Rights tourism has been well documented by the states of the Deep South.

The Moton Museum is located in the former R. R. Moton High School at 900 Griffin Boulevard, Farmville, Virginia.  Moton was the site of the April 23rd, 1951 student walkout in protest of inferior educational facilities led by 16-year-old sophomore Barbara Johns. The Moton strike launched Prince Edward County’s 13-year struggle for Civil Rights in Education and resulted in the filing of Davis v. Prince Edward, which called for an end to racial segregation in public education.  Davis was decided, along with four other cases, in the Supreme Court decisions Brown v. Board (1954) and Brown II (1955) in which the court ruled that school boards must act “with all deliberate speed” to desegregate.