Town seeks to honor Johns

Published 10:16 am Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Farmville Town Council is seeking ways to honor civil rights pioneer Barbara Rose Johns.

The prompt came from Mayor David Whitus during council’s Wednesday meeting.

“Several people have mentioned to (Town Manager Gerald) Spates and myself about the town coming up with a way to honor Barbara Johns, particularly since there’s being a building named for her in Richmond,” he said.

Whitus referenced Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s recent announcement, naming the renovated Ninth Street Office Building, which houses the attorney general’s office, after Johns.

David Whitus

David Whitus

With no comment to follow, Whitus appointed Ward C Councilman and Vice Mayor A.D. “Chuckie” Reid as chair of the committee. Joining him will be Ward B Councilwoman Sally Thompson and At-Large Councilman Dan Dwyer.

The committee, according to Whitus, will “look at ways that the town may honor Barbara Johns and bring some recommendations back to council.”

“I’m delighted to hear that the Farmville Town Council has decided to form a committee to explore how the town might honor Barbara Johns locally,” said Cameron Patterson, managing director of the Moton Museum and National Historic Landmark. “Recognition locally will serve as a powerful reminder to citizens of the impact that Barbara Johns and her classmates had and how young people can use the tools of democracy to create powerful change.”

Weeks ago, state Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, introduced a Senate Joint Resolution before his colleagues in the Virginia General Assembly that would designate April 23 of each year as Barbara Johns Day in Virginia.

“It is a resolution recognizing what she did,” Peake said in a previous interview of Johns, who, on April 23, 1951, led a student walkout of the R.R. Moton High School in Farmville, protesting the county school board’s lack of action regarding unequal educational facilities. The strike would lead to the five-year closure of public schools in the county and the Brown v. Board of Education lawsuit, where the U.S. Supreme Court would order the desegregation of all public schools.

“This was something that (former state Senator and current U.S. Rep.) Tom Garrett had started, and it just commends her for her significant impact that she had on race relations and on education in Virginia and nationwide,” Peake said of the resolution.

According to the resolution, Johns played a unique role in the early years of the civil rights movement by leading the only student protest associated with the Brown ruling.

If legislators adopt the resolution, Barbara Johns Day would first be celebrated April 2018.

Cameron Patterson

Cameron Patterson