History attracts tourists

Published 4:23 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2016

proposed civil rights walking trail, done correctly, can be an important piece of downtown Farmville’s revitalization.

Organizers convened citizens and community leaders recently at Moton Museum to get input on the proposal. Attendees discussed the plan in small groups, reviewed proposed sites on the trail, and suggested ways to make it successful.

At my table, a biracial group of citizens agreed that the tour should tell the full story of Farmville’s role in the modern civil rights movement and the progress our community has made in the half century since.

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The latter is critical if the walking trail is to garner the full support of the community.

Take this newspaper, for example. Organizers have identified The Farmville Herald office as a potential site on the trail because of the newspaper’s opposition to integrated public schools and, ultimately, support for closing the schools to avoid court-ordered integration.

Fair enough. But equally worthy of commemoration in the 21st century is what The Herald has become since: a newspaper that championed the cause of victims of the school closure and that today employs two African-Americans on a five-person news staff.

Such context is important as Farmville tells its story to the visitors such a trail would attract.

And make no mistake: Visitors will come. So-called “heritage tourism” is big these days, and Farmville has plenty to offer history buffs: from founding father Patrick Henry’s role in the formation of Hampden-Sydney College, to the town’s significance in the final days of the Civil War, to Barbara Johns’ formative role in the modern civil rights movement.   

A community doesn’t need an amusement park or an oceanfront to attract visitors. A compelling history can itself be a drawing card, as organizers of the walking trail hope to demonstrate.

STEVE STEWART is publisher of The Farmville Herald. His email address is steve.stewart@farmville.herald.com.