October 30, 2009
The premiere of a documentary about Virginia’s Massive Resistance efforts to avoid public school desegregation was held at the Robert Russa Moton Museum on Thursday, Oct. 23.
The one-hour documentary “Locked Out: The Fall of Massive Resistance” was produced by the University of Virginia Center for Politics and WCVE PBS Richmond and explores the tragedies and triumphs of the children of Virginia who found themselves on the front lines of a cultural war that forever altered American history.
The documentary also talks about how, 30 years after the fall of Massive Resistance, Virginia would elect L. Douglas Wilder as governor, and how in 2008, exactly 50 years after the first Virginia school was closed, Barack Obama carried Virginia in the presidential election.
“Locked Out” tells the story through personal interviews with former students, political leaders and civil rights historians from all over the state. “It’s just amazing that people were willing to talk about it in such an open way,” Mason Mills, the documentary’s director said. “I have a feeling the people will watch this, even in Kansas and learn about what happened in Virginia and be inspired to learn more.”
“We started here first because this is where it all began,” said Ken Stroupe, chief of staff at the U.Va. Center for Politics. “The movie is filled with heroes who … (are) luckily still with us.”
Bob Hamlin, one of the students affected by the school closing and president of the museum’s board of directors said, “It was worth it. We’ve got a long way to go yet, but we have come so far.”
R.R. Moton High School — now theRobert Russa Moton Museum:Center for the Study of Civil Rights and Education — was at the center of Massive Resistance. Student led protest at the school in 1951 would become part of the historic Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas Supreme Court decision declaring separate but equal education inherently unequal.
“Locked Out” will air statewide on November 16 at 9 p.m. on most PBS stations, and is one of the featured films at this year’s Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville. In February 2010, the documentary will be distributed to PBS stations nationwide in conjunction with Black History Month.
Additional premieres are scheduled at locations where the Massive Resistance struggle played out including Warren County High School on November 4, the University of Virginia on November 7 featuring a panel discussion with former Governor L. Douglas Wilder, Norfolk on November 8 and Richmond on November 10.
The Robert Russa Moton Museum is located at 900 Griffin Boulevard, Farmville, Virginia. It is the site of the April 23, 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 five other cases, in the 1954 Brown v. Board Supreme Court decision.
The museum is establishing a permanent exhibit that will trace Prince Edward County’s 13 year struggle to establish an integrated school system. The exhibition will be in place by April 23, 2011, the 60th anniversary of the student protest. It will offer the only place in the Commonwealth where visitors can come to understand the processes by which citizens and their national, state and local governments resolved the policy issues of segregation in public education. For more information visit the museum’s web site at http://motonmuseum.org.