The journey to equality in the American education system spanned over a hundred years, involving many heroic individuals willing to sacrifice their own personal comfort and safety to make the change necessary for future generations.
Many of these brave men and women hailed from Southside Virginia, and the Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail recognizes their contribution to the American free public education system. Learn about their fearless fight for equality in education when you visit a few of these iconic historic sites.
Today, a new self-guided driving tour brings together these historically significant sites and tells the poignant and often explosive story of civil rights in education in our country.
Before the Civil Rights movement, segregated school systems prioritized funding with blatant discrimination.
African Americans, women, and other minorities were denied the most basic materials and facilities when it came to their education, leading to inequalities that would echo for decades to come. Yet many Virginians would play a pivotal role in changing the system, taking the first steps towards equality in education.
The anchor of the trail, the Robert Russa Moton Museum in Farmville acts as a center for the study of Civil Rights in education. Located in the former R.R. Moton High School of Farmville, this historic site examines the individuals and events of the Civil Rights struggle in Prince Edward County.
As the site of the first non-violent student demonstration in the United States, Moton directly led to the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court case, which mandated equal education for all Americans, no matter their race or gender.
Moton High School was built in 1939 as a response to the legal challenges brought by African Americans regarding educational opportunities in Prince Edward.
Virginia State University holds a significant place in Virginia’s educational history as the first fully supported, four-year institution for African Americans in the United States.
Opened on March 6, 1882, the university was established by the Commonwealth of Virginia for African Americans in the region, who were at that time excluded from other public institutions.
The goal of the university was to help train both male and female teachers, who would then be able to serve their African American communities. Today, you can visit the historic campus and learn about the school’s role in working towards educational equality in America.
For a more thorough view of the Civil Rights struggle for equal education, travel along this self-guided driving tour to a few of the 41 historically significant sites to learn about the courage of these unique Virginians.