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Johns, Griffin Day Is Sunday

FARMVILLE – As part of the Robert Russa Moton Museum's celebration of the 60th anniversary of the historic April 23, 1951 student strike, Johns-Griffin Day will be observed this Sunday, April 17, honoring the late-Barbara Rose Johns and the late-Rev. L. Francis Griffin.

The Virginia Civil Rights Memorial, unveiled in Capitol Square on the morning of July 21, 2008, contains statues of both Ms. Johns and Rev. Griffin for their historic contributions to the civil rights movement in Virginia and the nation.

Sunday's daylong observance begins with an 11 a.m. morning worship at Triumph Baptist Church located at 2756 Darlington Heights Road, with a Johns wreath-laying immediately after the service.

That will be followed by a 2 p.m. Griffin wreath-laying at the Oddfellows Cemetery on South Main Street, held prior to a 3 p.m. afternoon worship service at First Baptist Church-where Rev. Griffin was pastor-with dinner in the fellowship hall at 5 p.m.

Sixty years ago, R. R. Moton High School saw 16-year old Barbara Johns lead, with the help of key classmates, the historic strike against separate and unequal school facilities for African-Americans.

Over 450 students walked out that day.

The subsequent legal action challenging the constitutionality of public school segregation, filed one month later-Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward-led to Prince Edward County's pivotal inclusion in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1954.

“It seemed like reaching for the moon,” Ms. Johns said, in words carved on the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial.

Ten years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Griffin v. Prince Edward that all American children have a constitutional right to a public education and that localities must operate public schools to provide that opportunity.

Prior to the illumination of The Light Of Reconciliation in the cupola of the Prince Edward County Courthouse on the night of July 21, 2008, Skip Griffin, son of the late-Rev. Griffin, said there are lessons, evolving lessons, to be learned from Prince Edward County by the nation and the world.

“I'm interested in being a heart surgeon because what faces us as a nation,” he said during the public ceremony that filled Main Street that night, “we here in this community have dealt with. And what faces us in the world, we here in this community have dealt with.

“We don't need so much to be social engineers. We need to touch the hearts of our fellow brothers and sisters. Here in this community, we've already started…We need to be heart surgeons,” Griffin said.

“Each and every one of us is capable of doing that,” he told those in attendance, “because you touch the heart, not with instruments but with words, words that flow from a deep place within you.”