Students from Dr. Gail McEachron’s Social, Philosophical and Historical Foundations of Education class visited the Moton Museum in Farmville on March 18, with support from Curriculum & Instruction faculty.
Marcus Fussel, Ellen Larkin, and Emma Camille Peters learned about the Civil Rights struggle of African American students at former Robert Russa Moton High School, a "separate but equal" school that played a key role in Virginia’s history of segregation. In 1951, Barbara Johns, an African American student at Moton High in Prince Edward County, staged a strike with fellow students to protest the appalling conditions at Moton. The 1951 Moton Student Strike produced three-fourths of the plaintiffs in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), the landmark Supreme Court Case on segregation.
The field experience provided students with the opportunity to gain a deeper perspective on the Civil Rights struggle in Virginia. “The trip to the Moton was powerful and moving," said Larkin. "The fact that we stood in the auditorium where this took place was amazing. What stood out to me was the video we watched where Barbara Johns equated the tarpaper shacks [high school classrooms] to chicken coops.”
Students also learned about ongoing efforts to incorporate study of these events in Virginia classrooms and see the overall impact on national education policy. Mr. Cainan Townsend, the museum's Director of Education and Public Programs, is the son of one of the high school students who missed years of school during the period that became known as Massive Resistance, when white policy makers refused to integrate the schools. Cainan led the group through the museum and indicated that Barbara Johns will now be included in the VDOE social studies standards.
“It has been encouraging to see how the courageous efforts of Barbara Johns and other high school students who stood up to discrimination have been recognized," said McEachron.