The President and CEO of the NAACP told a crowd of about 140 people at the Robert Russa Moton Museum Friday, April 30, to find a cause to better their community and take action. In doing so, Benjamin Todd Jealous reminded everyone not to assume who will be supporters and who will be opponents, but to be open to unexpected alliances.
Jealous spoke on the topic of “Leadership for the Next Generation” during his presentation at Moton, sponsored by Our Schools, Our Vision, a partnership of Hampden-Sydney College, Longwood University, Prince Edward County Public Schools,, Fuqua School and the Moton Museum.
Jealous encouraged those in attendance to find a cause and pledge “before I depart this earth this is the change I want to make in this country.”
He pointed to the successful efforts of a 16-year-old girl who decided to abolish the death penalty for juveniles after reading an article in USA Today newspaper while at work at a fast food restaurant, and the unexpected support of a white Mississippi businessman in the successful fight years ago to keep two of the state’s Historical Black Colleges or Universities from being closed and being spurned by what they assumed was a liberal crowd. “We made a critical mistake that day,” he said. “We assumed we knew who our allies were.”
Moton Director Lacy Ward Jr. said it was encouraging to hear Jealous call for the formation of non-traditional alliances in addressing community challenges.
“He was essentially speaking to the work of the Our Schools, Our Vision partnership, and the partnership’s efforts at improving educational performance for all children,” Ward said. “ Mr. Jealous delivered a great message, to a receptive audience.”
Jealous said he was eager to speak at Moton “because museums like this are very important to remind us in the right way. When we were triumphant; when we were coming together.”
Jealous said the NAACP’s efforts continue to be needed today and its successes are more far reaching that some can imagine. “We start with problems as they affect the black community but generally they benefit many more people,” Jealous said. “Our solutions are not about black people. They are about benefiting the community.”
“Our job is to knit together the body of this country.”
The Robert Russa Moton Museum is located at 900 Griffin Boulevard, Farmville, Virginia. It is the site of the April 23, 1951 student walkout, led by 16-year-old junior Barbara Johns, in protest of inferior educational facilities. 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 four other cases, in the landmark 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 of Virginia 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 <http://motonmuseum.org/> .