Questions and a call to action
Recently while researching the deed to an adjacent property, I stumbled upon a transaction between two parties that nearly floored me and left me in a state of utter disbelief. I, along with many of the people in the area, were unaware and, to say the least, were uninformed regarding the transfer of ownership of the Moton Museum from the museum’s Board of Directors to Longwood University. To make this point perfectly clear — the Moton Museum now belongs to Longwood University. To say I was shocked would be a gross understatement. As I ponder the monumental history and now uncertain future of the Moton Museum, I, along with scores of other concerned donors, patrons and supporters, have many questions that need to be addressed. Who knew this transaction had taken place? Why wasn’t the public notified of such a drastic decision being contemplated and ultimately made by the Moton Museum’s Board of Directors? As owners of the Moton Museum, exactly what is Longwood University planning to do with the site in the future?
This transfer of ownership, in my opinion, is a personal insult to the life of Barbara Rose Johns, other 1951 strikers, the Martha E. Forrester Council of Women, Moton students, teachers and all of the many volunteers who put so much of their time, energy and money into the purchase of the Moton School from Prince Edward County in 2001. I can vividly recall traveling to Norfolk, Virginia, with a delegation of the Martha E. Forrester Council of Women to lobby members of the Legislative Black Caucus for funding for the Moton Museum. These volunteers, namely Clara Ligon, Vera Allen, Edwider Allen, Edna Allen, Thomas Mayfield, Martha Cook, George Bagby and Ken Woodley, along with many others, spent countless hours furthering this cause. After the formation of the Moton Museum, Thomas Mayfield served as the first president of the board of directors followed by General Sam Wilson. Later, I also served as the Moton Museum’s president and vice president and held these positions close to my heart. It was especially fulfilling for me as I was a part of the Moton Museum’s legacy. After my second year in school, 1958, the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors decided not to appropriate any funds for public education, which in effect closed the schools in Prince Edward County. For two years I did not attend school at all. Then my parents, Minor and Ruth Eggleston, rented a home in Cumberland County so I, along with my siblings, could attend school. In 1964 we came back to the Prince Edward County Free Schools. I later graduated from St. Paul’s College as a Moton/Brown Scholarship recipient with a majority of my classes being held at the Moton Museum.
In the past Longwood University has used eminent domain to force many black residents out of their homes as the university seized properties in its expansion efforts. These residents had their homes taken and saw their voting strength diluted. Now Longwood University, along with money and assistance from some individuals who had some power on the Moton Museum board, is taking one of the most important historic entities in the black community, the Moton Museum. Longwood’s hidden agenda seems to be finally revealed — they want to own everything in the vicinity of the university. Why Longwood University, the Moton Council or the Moton Museum Board of Trustees felt they did not need to discuss this issue with the Moton alumni or the community is a puzzling paradox.
I challenge all Moton alumni to rally in an effort to right this wrong done to the African-American community and the legacy of the Civil Rights era in Southside Virginia. I also call on all civic leaders in the area and abroad to look into this miscarriage of authority by the Moton Museum’s Board of Directors. Furthermore, I would like to call on Longwood University to return the Moton Museum to its rightful owners — the African-American community. Longwood can help the museum without owning this historic building. Who’s to intervene on behalf of the community to stop Longwood from turning the Moton Museum into a dorm or parking lot? Does this idea seem far-fetched? Remember, they do own the property.
The thoughts expressed in this letter are solely my own and do not reflect the thoughts or concerns of any group or organization.
Carl U. Eggleston
Former President of the Moton Museum Board of Directors