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Moton Museum, Longwood Look To The Future Together

BY DOROTHY HOLCOMB, JOY CABARRUS SPEAKES AND TAYLOR REVELEY

One year ago, the Moton Museum and Longwood University together announced our intentions to explore a joint affiliation that would preserve the museum’s site and educational mission in perpetuity. Both institutions realized how much stronger they could be working together.

For Moton, a formal partnership with Longwood offers not only operational support, but also increased depth in key areas such as marketing, technology, fundraising, and most especially scholarship and teaching. For Longwood, a formal partnership with Moton provides a unique opportunity to enhance the university’s mission to shape citizen leaders. There is no more compelling story of citizen leadership than the story of Barbara Johns and the Moton student strike. Longwood feels a deep obligation to advance the cause of civil rights in education and to practice responsible stewardship to our community. Working together, Moton and Longwood can become a national model for university-museum partnerships. More important, our partnership can ensure the story of the struggle for civil rights in Prince Edward County becomes as well known nationally as it ought to be.

Today, we are pleased to announce that the process of affiliation has been finalized, following a period of community discussion and due diligence. We are also pleased to announce that, in order to expand our reach as widely as possible, as of today the Moton Museum will no longer charge admission. The museum will be free to all visitors.

Our partnership has been quietly flourishing for years, with thousands of Longwood students visiting Moton. Community members have collaborated with Longwood students and faculty to produce publications and photo exhibitions. Longwood students regularly volunteer and serve as museum interns. A growing number of graduates who are now teachers themselves are bringing their own students to the museum.

But the pace of cooperation has accelerated in recent months, and with the affiliation now formalized we can begin new work together. In the coming weeks, the Moton Council and Board and Longwood will collaborate to assemble a search committee to identify and recruit a visionary executive director to carry forward the work of the museum.

The mission of the Moton Museum will not – indeed now legally cannot – change. Last week, a covenant was signed by both institutions that lays out that mission in perpetuity. This form of agreement represents the strongest form of contract that can be formed in American law. It cannot be altered or revoked by future boards or employees of either institution. If for any reason in the future the affiliation should wander from the mission laid out in the covenant, courts would be legally bound to enforce it.

The covenant can be read in full on the Moton and Longwood home pages. But its key point is to establish in perpetuity the purpose of the Moton Museum and its building on Griffin Boulevard: to share the Moton story, to advance understanding of the history of the struggle for civil rights, and to advance the cause of civil rights in education.

The covenant also “honors the generosity and labor of those in the community who worked tirelessly to establish the museum,” and requires that the “voice of the community is represented in its governance.” The Moton Council – the body of citizens who have been most actively involved with and committed to the museum – will remain in place and become the focus of collaboration with Longwood to guide Moton’s programming, strategy, operations, and outreach. Members of the council have been in unanimous support of the affiliation.

We believe deeply that the news we share today is profoundly positive for our community and region. We share a complex, challenging, and in many ways painful, past. But our history presents us with an opportunity to lead, to teach and to celebrate young people, taking inspiration from Barbara Johns, whose courage and determination to confront injustice truly changed the course of history.

It is in that vein we are pleased to share one final piece of news. Last year Longwood also announced the creation of a Moton Legacy Scholarship to support a Longwood student with a “demonstrated commitment to the cause of equality of opportunity in education.” Today we are pleased to announce the first recipient.

Chrischel Rolack hails from the town of Ivor, in the eastern portion of Southside Virginia. Studious, inquisitive, and committed to service, Chrischel realized her freshman year that it was her calling to be a teacher – to ensure young children are given every opportunity to flourish and grow, and to combat inequities in our education system. She has thrown herself utterly into preparing for that calling, and into public service as a tutor here in our community and with her local church here in Farmville.

“She is the student every teacher wants in class and the student each of her peers wants in a cooperative group,” said one of her Longwood professors, Gena Southall. “She is one of the best students with whom I have had the privilege to work.”

Chrischel carries a 3.8 GPA in liberal studies, on track to graduate in the spring of 2016. The Moton Legacy Scholarship will cover all of her remaining tuition and fee charges for next year, so she can begin practicing her avocation without a penny more of student debt. She is a remarkable young woman, bound for great things, and an embodiment of the hope for the future we all share.

Dorothy Holcomb is the Chair of the Moton Museum Council, Joy Cabarrus Speakes is a member of the Moton Museum Board of Trustees, and Taylor Reveley is the President of Longwood University.