Gallery VI

Bound for Freedom

“Bound for Freedom” covers the period 1963 through 1964. The exhibition here focuses on the Prince Edward County “Free Schools” and the Griffin decision, reopening the Prince Edward County Public Schools. Upon entering, the visitor is immediately confronted with two contrasting situations. The culmination of preparations for the opening of the Free Schools set to open on Monday September 16, 1963 contrasted with the Birmingham bombing at 16th Street Baptist Church where four small girls were killed September 15, 1963 – the sunday before the Free School’s opening day. The visitor moves into this gallery with an understanding of how national events are directly effecting the course of events in Prince Edward County. Through the Kennedy’s involvement, the local story is now inextricably tied to the national story and the visitor will take this understanding with them as they explore the Free School Experiment during the 1963-64 school year.

The visitor will see what it took to get a school system up and running in a months time and will see the school presented with its challenges and its successes. The visitor will be presented with a continued emphasis on contrasts or highs and lows – JFK’s assassination in November of 1663 and RFK’s visit to Moton in the spring of 1964. In this section of the exhibit, the visitor will see the complex and difficult role the teachers had in pulling together varied teaching approaches to accommodate the range of educational deficiencies that existed in the county students, some of whom had never started school while others had aged four years without any education. So as our thirteen year story winds down, the visitor will carry with them a sense for how circumstances and accomplishments on many levels were in a constant state of flux and how legal change and social change were seldom aligned.

As the story of the Free Schools with commencement, the visitor will be presented one last legal case, the Griffin case where the U.S. Supreme Court mandates the re-opening of the Prince Edward County Schools on an integrated basis. The visitor can now move around towards the exit where a long curved bench will be provided for the visitor to sit and take in a large, three dimensional time line that helps summarize the thirteen year span of the exhibit story and ending with the Virginia State Constitution from 1971 affirming equal public education for all. When the visitor is ready to leave they will pass out of the classroom door and back into the rear of the Auditorium where they will proceed back down the same hallway where they entered. The Museum gift shop will be located in the school Library and visitors are welcome stop and shop on their way out of the museum.

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