Saying goodbye

FARMVILLE, VA. _ Hundreds turned out for the funeral of Vera Allen, one of the driving forces behind the creation of Robert Russa Moton Museum.

Allen was president of the Martha E. Forrester Council of Women in 1995 when the group began efforts to preserve the old high school and turn it into a museum. Her funeral was Friday, April 9, 2010 at First Baptist Church where she was a member. She died Sunday, April 4, 2010.

“Anything the museum is today is because it stands on her shoulders,” Museum Director Lacy Ward Jr. said. “It is an honor to continue to live the wisdom she imparted and fulfill her vision for what the Moton Museum might be.”

Allen moved to Farmville after marrying Edward B. Allen in 1935, working for over 43 years in elementary and secondary levels of public education in Virginia and North Carolina. She worked in positions ranging from a classroom teacher, to elementary school principal, to Central Office Administrator before retiring in 1976 as Director of Instruction for Prince Edward County/Assistant to the Superintendent.

After moving to Farmville, Allen would also join the Council of Colored Women, which became the Martha E. Forrester Council. Among the group’s founders were its namesake, Martha E. Forrrester, who was her mother-in-law, and Edward Allen’s aunt, Annie Miller. Allen would serve as the council’s president for many years and also help the Moton museum become a historical landmark, as well as working with Prince Edward’s branch of the NAACP, the Voters League, the Cancer Society, the Chamber of Commerce and the Southside Community Hospital Nursing Board. The hospital is now Centra Hospital. The E.B. Allen Funeral Home would become a local landmark.

At the funeral, friends and family praised Allen as a carrying person and friend to all.

Erenest Miller, Assistant Principal at Prince Edward County High School, called Allen his friend, mentor, adviser and “educator extraordinaire. … We are all better off today because Vera Omega Jones Allen passed our way.”

Added Rev. James P. Ashton, pastor of First Baptist, “If you could find a place large enough to bring all the folks who knew her, whom she taught, whose life she touched, it would not be First Baptist Church because we don’t have enough room.”

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 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 about the museum visit the Moton web site at http://motonmuseum.org <http://motonmuseum.org/> .

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