Gallery IV

Massive Resistance

“Massive Resistance” leads the visitor through the swirling time between the reaction to the first Brown decision in 1954 through the end of Massive Resistance in 1959. The exhibition here focuses on state action and deals with such topics as the actions of the General Assembly, the positions taken by the Governor, the formation of The Defenders of State Sovereignty, state-ordered school closings of 1958, and other issues. The exhibits in this gallery will reflect the nature of the swirling information and perspectives that existed in the wake of the Brown I, and Brown II decisions beginning with the ambiguity created by the Brown II decision, President Eisenhower’s response and the Southern Manifesto’s legislative challenge to the decision. As the visitor first enters the gallery they are stopped by a large three sided column representing the Federal Governments reactions to the Brown 2 decision in 1955.

The visitor will have to move around this obstruction representing the ambivolence of the Federal government and will see, beyond in the gallery, three other columns of varying heights and diameters. The visitor does not move in a linear fashion in this gallery but rather they can explore the room as an open place where all sides of the issue are struggling, through the swirling voices of the time, to find leadership and direction. Moving to the right, the visitor can explore the County’s reaction to the Brown ruling. A video piece will be presented with both Robert Crawford, the leader of the Defenders of State Sovereignty and the NAACP attorney Oliver Hill. A second Video piece will present perspectives from that time through a series of downtown interviews with Farmville citizens. The column on the right will present Barrye Wall, the editor of the Farmville Herald, and the voice of the local resistance to Brown. The Defenders of State Sovereignty and the Allen case are presented along the outside wall. As the visitor moves around to the left side of the room, they can explore the Commonwealth of Virginia’s reaction to Brown with the column focus on Senator Harry Byrd, the leader of the resistance movement at the State level and the interposition arguement presented by Kilpatrick through his paper the Richmond News Leader. An audio station will be playing Governor Stanley’s response to the Brown II decision and will be heard in the background as you enter th is area of the classroom gallery.

Massive resistance policy will be explored along the outer classroom wall. Looming in the center of the room is the tallest column representing the Little Rock, AK incident in 1957 and the influence it had in building resolve within Virginia’s political leadership in the year preceding the fall of Massive Resistance. As the visitor moves towards the far wall of this gallery they can use a touch screen interactive to explore the other school closing cases in Virginia, Charlottsville, Warren County, Arlington, Norfolk. In order to understanding the context of the court cases throughout Virginia during this time the visitor will pass a curved wall where they will learn about the laws Virginia passed to outlaw the NAACP and how their resources were stretched thin by the efforts both to try the school cases and the time spend defending themselves in order to survive. An audio interview with Lester Banks will be available for the visitor to listen to talking about these challenges. As the visitor turns to leave the gallery, they are drawn to Governor Lindsay Almonds capitulation speech on the far wall signaling an end to Massive Resistance. An A/V screen will allow the visitor to hear Governor Almond’s speech at the Virginia General Assembly before leaving the gallery.

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