Before Selma, the Freedom Riders or Rosa Parks there was THE STUDENT STRIKE IN FARMVILLE, VIRGINIA.
In Downtown Farmville, the Moton Museum – now a National Historic Landmark – tells the story of a 1951 student strike that helped ignite the Civil Rights era.
- On April 23, 1951, Barbara Johns, a 16 year-old high school student, led her classmates in a strike to protest the conditions at Robert Russa Moton High School, claiming they were vastly inferior to those enjoyed by white students at nearby Farmville High School. The strike got the attention of several NAACP lawyers.
- In 1954, the Farmville case became one of five that the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed in Brown v Board of Education when it declared segregation unconstitutional. When desegregation was mandated, Virginia state leaders responded with an official policy of Massive Resistance.
- On January 19, 1959, both a federal and a state court ruled the state’s actions unconstitutional. The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors closed its public schools rather than integrate them. They stayed shuttered for five years. Another U.S. Supreme Court decision finally forced the county’s schools to reopen in 1964.
From the Civil War to Civil Rights, Farmville is gaining recognition as a hidden gem of American history.