16-year-old led protest produced 75 percent of Brown v. Board plaintiffs
As the nation prepares for the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, Farmville, Virginia, high schoolers unite to honor the local students who, on April 23, 1951, paved the way for the Supreme Court’s historic 1954 school desegregation ruling.
At 10:30am Wednesday, April 23, 2014, seniors from Prince Edward County High School and Fuqua School will depart from the Moton Museum, the National Historic Landmark site of the 1951 Moton Student Strike. Together, students will march 1 mile North along Main Street and convene at the Prince Edward County Court House steps, where they’ll hear from 1951 Moton strikers and local Brown v. Board plaintiffs, including Joan Johns Cobbs, sister of 1951 strike leader, the late Barbara Johns Powell.
Barbara Johns was 16-years-old when she rallied the Moton student body to walk out in protest of their school’s separate and unequal conditions. With NAACP backing, the Moton students and parents ultimately filed suit for integrated schools. Their case, Davis v. Prince Edward County, was combined with lawsuits from Delaware, Kansas, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C., and argued, together, as Brown v. Board of Education. Seventy-five percent of Brown decision plaintiffs came from the Moton strike. The Davis case was the only lawsuit initiated by students.
Though increasingly recognized as the “the student birthplace of America’s Civil Rights Movement,” Prince Edward County continues to wrestle with its more widely known, post-Brown legacy, the closing of its public schools from 1959 to 1964 to avoid integration. On April 23rd, 2014, seniors from the county’s now integrated, former “segregation academy” and formerly closed public school system will come together and take another step forward — another movement pioneered by Prince Edward County, Virginia, students.
In The News:
PECHS, Fuqua students marching together (Farmville Herald, April 17, 2014)