Expansion of Virginia’s Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail®

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, August 26, 2020

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Virginia’s Crossroads recently announced a major expansion of its groundbreaking Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail.

Twelve new sites will be built on the trail’s original 41 locations, expanding the stories which recount how African Americans, Native Americans and women fought for the right to equal education. Along with adding new sites, all 41 original signs will be updated with newly uncovered information and media.

The pedestals will feature new stories, like that of the Beneficial Benevolent Society of the Loving Sisters and Brothers of Hampden Sydney, originally founded by the African American community of Hampden Sydney in 1843, first as the social and spiritual heart of their community, and later becoming the center, where assistance was made available to their dues-paying members when tragedy struck families. Later, the fellowship hall was used to instruct the local children over the five-year period when schools were closed from 1959- 1964 in Prince Edward County. The fellowship hall was used to instruct the local children over that five-year period. Or, that of James Solomon Russell, who has ties to several sites on the trail. He attended Bishop Payne Divinity School in Petersburg with the help of Patti Buford, who started the Hospital and School of the Good Shepherd in Brunswick County. He was assigned as an Episcopal priest in Lawrenceville, where he eventually established, in 1888, Saint Paul’s Normal and Industrial School, later known as Saint Paul’s College. Saint Paul’s College trained many African American teachers who taught in schools throughout the region and state, including many of the schools included on the trail. He also was instrumental in the founding of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Mecklenburg County.

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As visitors follow this self-guided trail, they will patronize local businesses and enjoy the host of amenities, sites, and stories that our region offers, helping to drive our local economies. This is especially poignant as COVID-19 has greatly reduced traditional travel and tourism activities.

Each sign relays unique content which was developed by each participating locality. A host of directional signs and an updated brochure will help guide guests to each site. Brochures can be found at the visitor centers in many of the localities of Virginia, including at the Virginia Welcome Centers.

The expansion of the Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail® is expected to be completed by September 2020.