The Supreme Court’s historic 1954 Brown decision involved 217 plaintiffs from across the country. Over 70 percent came from rural Prince Edward County, Virginia. By age 17, John Stokes was a leader among them.
Mr. Stokes, now retired after 40 plus years in education, is on a mission to inspire the next generation of active citizens; and it begins by changing the way we teach and learn civil rights history.
Helping accomplish this goal is CINE award winning director Sam Hampton, Ph.D. and Hampton Films’ third documentary, Mr. Stokes’ Mission. The 30-minute film has been endorsed by the National Council for the Social Studies and will premiere November 16th at their 2012 national conference in Seattle, Washington, followed by screenings at the Alexandria Film Festival and other national festivals.
Mr. Stokes’ Mission seeks to enhance understanding of citizenship, citizen engagement and the power of the individual in democratic systems for both students and adults, especially given the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress survey wherein only 2% of 12th graders correctly identified the purpose of the Brown v. Board of Education landmark ruling.
As senior class president of the Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia, Stokes helped strike leader and fellow student Barbara Johns organize a student walkout to protest untenable conditions of the school in Prince Edward County.
The strike, which began on April 23rd, 1951 and lasted for 10 days, originally intended to call attention to the high school’s poor condition and minimal resources, but became a catalyst for the NAACP’s Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County — one of the five principle cases in the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education argued by Thurgood Marshall and others. The Prince Edward case was the only case under Brown v. Board initiated by students themselves.
Mr. Stokes’ Mission is produced by Kirsten Hampton, with original score by Robby Aceto and voiceover by Terry Rumsey. Dr. Robert Green, Alumni Distinguished Professor, Clemson University, serves as academic advisor. The film uses historic footage and personal photos from the archives of John Stokes’ and his family. Additional students who took part in the strike are interviewed in classrooms of Robert Russa Moton High School, with the building now a national landmark and museum.
For more information, see www.mrstokesmission.com