‘Courage to take that first step’
The Robert Russa Moton Museum held its sixth annual community banquet on Saturday, honoring and highlighting the successes of the museum over the past year, along with the families of the students who participated in the school’s walk-out in 1951 — led by 16-year-old Barbara Johns — in protest of the unequal facilities in segregated black schools.
The banquet, keynoted by former First Lady of Virginia and state Secretary of Education Anne Holton, was held at Longwood University’s Student Health and Wellness Center. Dinner was provided and music was performed by Longwood’s BASIC Gospel Choir.
“My wife, Anne, had an interesting … tough experience with her family while her father was governor of Virginia,” said U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, who introduced his wife. “When (former Gov. Linwood Holton) was faced with the decision … of doing anyth
ing they could (to block integration), Anne became part of that generation of kids that integrated the Richmond public schools and her father became the governor … to declare the country should close the chapter on the past, face forward and acknowledge that we should be an aristocracy of merit, not an aristocracy of race.”
During her remarks, Holton thanked and honored Johns for her bravery in leading the Moton High School strike.
“Barbara didn’t have a whole lot of plan for what happened after (the walk-out). What’s the outcome? What are the next steps?” Holton said. “She was ready and had the courage to take that first step not knowing what the outcomes were going to be.”
“People have known for a while that our great community is America’s oldest two-college town,” said Longwood University President W. Taylor Reveley IV. “People have known for a while that this is where the Civil War drew to a close and the country came back together. But something that we can celebrate now, tonight, is that America and the world are coming to know that this is the place where the civil rights movement began.”
During the banquet, those who participated in the Moton Family Challenge were honored for their contributions to the museum, and the top fundraisers, representing themselves and their families, were presented with awards.
“The Moton Family Challenge honors the families whose children were at the center of the Prince Edward civil rights struggle between 1951 and 1964,” Moton Family Challenge Chair Joy Cabarrus Speakes said. “The Family Challenge offers a way for relatives and friends to donate to Moton in memory and in honor of those children’s sacrifices for equality in education.”
Awards for the Family Challenge were bestowed to the families and individuals who raised the greatest amounts to the Moton Museum.
Museum Managing Director Cameron Patterson recognized the Family Challenge Team Leader Award winners. The Team Leader Award winners included Glento Allen, Alejia “Mickle” Pride Carrington, Megan Clark, Shirley Davis Eanes, Beatrice Woolridge Kennedy, Donna Nunnally, A.D. “Chuckie” Reid, Justin Reid and Margaret Stiff.
Speakes then announced and recognized the Silver Circle Award family winners. The Silver Circle Award went to families whose contributions totaled between $1,000 and $2,000. Families honored included the Eggleston family, the Hamlin family, the Moton family, the Warren Kaiser Reid family, the Scott-Carrington family, the Woolridge family and the Pride-Morton family. Dr. Martha Cook and Sonja M. Foggie were also honored with the Silver Circle Award.
Patterson then announced the Gold Circle Award winners, with donations between $2,000 and $5,000. The Reid family and the Womack family were honored for their contributions.
Larissa and Jarrod Fergeson were honored with the Platinum Circle Award for their contributions of over $5,000 and Drs. Twitty and Constance Styles were honored with the Diamond Circle Award for their contribution of $25,000 or more. Dr. Hattie N. Washington, Dr. Alfred Cobbs, Charles Taylor and Nannette Taylor were bestowed Individual Donor Awards for their contributions.
“We would not be able to do this without (the support of these families and individuals),” Speakes said, thanking the donors. “To see that we can come together to support those families once affected by the walkout is amazing to see.”
Overall, this year’s Moton Family Challenge raised more than $80,000 for the museum. Since its inception, the challenge has raised more than $300,000.
Speakes told the crowd that after visiting the Moton Museum, brothers Barrye, Angus and Geoffrey Wall agreed to increase the Moton Family Challenge Scholarship, previously at $500 for four years for two students, to $2,500 per year, totaling $10,000 over the course of four years. Barrye also committed to $20,000 to help in projects at the Moton Museum, she said.
“Barrye’s brother, Angus, also agreed to work with Cam and Cainan (Townsend) on other projects that would be beneficial to the community.”
Members of the Styles family pledged a commitment of $10,000 to the Moton Museum Scholarship Fund.
“We started the Family Challenge Scholarship Fund to inspire our youth to continue higher education,” Speakes said. “We are always stronger together.”