Scholars meet

FARMVILLE, VA. _ A group of scholars met at the Robert Russa Moton Museum over the weekend of March 26-27 to discuss the content, features, layout, and design for the Museum’s proposed series of exhibits.

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 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.

Fath Davis Ruffins, curator of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution, encouraged Moton officials to make strong use of visual images such as television footage and recordings of interviews and speeches from the period between 1959 and 1964 when students walked out of Moton school over inferior conditions and when the public school system reopened after being closed for five years.

Ruffins also encouraged use of time-lines and information crawlers telling of national or international events from that period.

“I think that is an important dimension,” Ruffins said. “Younger people live in a time when everything is on YouTube” internet site where users can share videos.

“I think having people’s voices from that time is enormously provocative.”

While the museum’s exhibits will use race-neutral language and define people by policy and not race, it will still deal with the various social and political issues that prompted Prince Edward County to close its schools for five years, longer than any other system that tried to avoid desegregation.

“Why would someone fight so hard to keep this group of smiling kids away from that group of smiling kids, and build walls and campuses to keep them apart?” Museum Director Lacy Ward Jr. asked.

The scholars have met periodically since 2008, and are expected to meet again later this year. Among the sponsors for the weekend event were the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Virginia Endowment for the Humanities, the Virginia Foundation and the Virginia Tobacco Commission.

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 1954 Brown v. Board Supreme Court decision.

For more information visit the museum’s web site at http://motonmuseum.org <http://motonmuseum.org/> .

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