FARMVILLE, VA. _ The National Education Association has committed $250,000 to the Robert Russa Moton Museum.
The commitment, announced in late January, calls for the museum to receive $50,000 a year for five years. The first allocation was made with the letter of notification and will help with development of the permanent exhibit of Gallery VI, Bound for Freedom.
The exhibit, titled “Bound for Freedom: 1963-1964,” will depict the Prince Edward County Free Schools and the Griffin v. School Board of Prince Edward County decision reopening the county’s public schools.
Prince Edward County’s Board of Supervisors closed the county’s public school system for five years from 1959 until 1964 rather than desegregate. In response, Free Schools were set up to help the displaced students receive an education.
Moton Director Lacy Ward, Jr., said the contribution is “extremely significant.”
“It reflects the historic ties of the NEA to the events of 1959-1961,” he said.
In 1963, William vanden Heuvel recruited Neil Sullivan from an affluent school district in New York to serve as Superintendent of Prince Edward’s Free Schools to help those displaced students continue the education process.
The NEA helped recruit teachers and and supported the project with contributors who helped fund the schools with contributions from many of its chapters.
Sullivan wrote about his experience in his 1965 book “Bound for Freedom: An Educator’s Adventure’s in Prince Edward County, Virginia.”
The book has since been republished as a fundraiser for the Moton museum.
In a new introduction for the republished book, vanden Heuvel noted that it “tells an important part of the story of the Free Schools and how they emancipated 1900 children from the destructive racism of local government and how they brought hope and inspiration to the larger struggle going on across the country.”
“This tough, lean, fearless Yankee from New Hampshire helped establish a school system in Prince Edward County that he regarded as one of the great achievements of his life,” wrote vanden Heuvel in the new introduction. “It was.”
Al-Tony Gilmore, Archivist for the NEA and Visiting Scholar of History at George Washington University, says “the Moton Museum will allow the current and future generations to appreciate, through illustrative displays, the heroic contributions made by many largely unknown personalities in the funding and implementation of the historic Freedom Schools, one of NEA’s finest moments in the Civil Rights Movement. Much like slavery and the facade of the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’, the difficult lessons learned, lasting experiences gained, and costly sacrifices made during the Prince Edward County school closings, must never be forgotten or repeated. The NEA takes pride in being associated with Lacy Ward and the developers and sponsors of the Museum. ”
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 sophomore 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 historic 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/> .