Back in the spotlight

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Six decades ago, Farmville and Prince Edward County made national news for the wrong reason, shutting down the public schools to avoid court-ordered integration.

The glare of the national media spotlight will be back on this community for the first time next fall, when the only vice-presidential debate of the 2016 election will be held on the campus of Longwood University.

The transformation from object of a nation’s scorn to darling of the Commission on Presidential Debates is striking — and worth celebrating.

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The good people of Farmville, Prince Edward and Longwood for too long have borne the burden of the sins committed by misguided leaders of yesteryear. We’ve apologized, acknowledged and memorialized that painful chapter in local history. We’ve worked tirelessly as a community to reconcile with the victims, their children and grandchildren. All were necessary steps for a community desperate for healing. Institutions like the Moton Museum, newly strengthened by a partnership in perpetuity with Longwood, will educate future generations about a watershed event in the history of a community and nation.

At some point, though, current-day Farmville must rid itself of the guilt wrought by sins 57 years past and celebrate progress that is by any definition remarkable.

You know you’ve come a long way as a community when native daughter Kristin Green writes a book that resorts to a comment by a tipsy person at a cocktail party as evidence of a lingering significant race problem in Farmville. Green should have stuck to what was an outstanding historical account of the closure of the schools, her own family’s involvement and the impact on those who were denied an education. As an indictment of modern-day race relations in Farmville, her book was unconvincing — and surprising to those of us who live, work and play here.

To the extent that Green’s book misled the outsiders who read it, next fall’s vice-presidential debate presents an opportunity to set the record straight. The eyes of the nation will be on Longwood and Farmville. Let’s enjoy the well-earned spotlight and celebrate, without guilt or shame, what we’ve become – a successful college town no longer defined by its racist past.

STEVE STEWART is publisher of The Farmville Herald. His email address is