May 7, 2003
Story by Ken Woodley of the Farmville Herald
RICHMOND – The Robert Russa Moton Museum has been awarded the Fitz Turner Silver Anniversary Award for Human Relations and Civil Rights by the Virginia Education Association.
“I’m happy and elated,” museum board chairman Carl U. Eggleston said Monday.
The award, Eggleston said, further validates the museum’s importance. “No doubt about it,” he said.
Martha Cook, secretary of the museum board, said Monday the award is particularly significant because “there is no constituency that the museum values more than educators.”
Ms. Cook, a Longwood University professor, said that the “support of the VEA, particularly the Fitz Turner Commission, is very important to the work of the museum.
“Its members have made great efforts to enlighten teachers about the importance of the history that the museum represents,” she said, “so that they in turn can pass this knowledge on to their students.”
The award was presented to Moton Museum representatives during the VEA’s annual Delegate Assembly in Richmond. Eggleston, past Museum board president Thomas Mayfield, board member James Young, and past board member Anita Winn attended the ceremony.
The award is named after Fitz Turner, who was a staff person of the black Virginia Teachers Association and, later, with the VEA when the two organizations merged.
Turner successfully enabled the two organizations to work effectively together. The commission named in his honor deals with human relations and the need to advance human dignity, while also addressing extremist activities and diversity in the Commonwealth.
In accepting the award, Eggleston told the VEA, “This award is very special to us because it represents the value you place on the service we do in the area of inter-group relations and civil rights, and because it is a unique form of recognition. Choosing to celebrate 25 years of valuable work of the Fitz Turner Commission by honoring us touches us deeply.”
Beblon Parks, VEA’s Director of Leadership Development and Human Relations, said the award was a first-time special honor bestowed on the museum.
“It’s the first time the award was given,” said Ms. Parks, who works directly with the VEA’s Fitz Turner Commission, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
The Moton Museum has been embraced by the VEA, she said, since former Prince Edward resident Lacy Ward Jr. brought it to the VEA’s attention in the mid-1990s.
The VEA publicizes the museum to schools across the state and, she said, the study of the museum has been linked to state SOLs.
“We encourage our members to take students on field trips there,” said Ms. Parks, noting that some of the SOL requirements can be addressed through study of the Moton Museum.
As the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board decision approaches, that focus will be increased.
“In Virginia,” she said, “our Brown is Moton.”
The school building at which American history was made by students has been a magnet for school children half a century later, museum officials confirmed.
Eggleston told the VEA “many of our visitors have been groups of students from elementary, middle, and secondary schools throughout Virginia, and we encourage you all to contact us and to give your students this unique educational opportunity.”