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Johns considered for statue in U.S. Capitol

The late Barbara Rose Johns may soon be representing Farmville and Virginia in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.

As the Virginia Office of the Governor announced in a July 24 press release, the Commission for Historical Statues in the U.S. Capitol recommended, via unanimous vote, the removal of the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from National Statuary Hall.

“The eight-member state commission, authorized by the General Assembly, is charged with determining whether the Robert E. Lee statue should be replaced, and if so, recommending to the General Assembly a replacement to represent the commonwealth of Virginia alongside George Washington in the United States Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection, where each state is entitled to two statues,” officials said in the release.

It was recently noted that Johns is a popular suggestion to be recognized alongside Washington.

Barbara Rose Johns

At the age of 16, Johns led more than 400 students on a strike April 23, 1951, peacefully protesting the unequal treatment of African American students as illustrated then by the poor facilities at Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville.

Her stand helped birth the civil rights movement, leading to the desegregation of public schools in the U.S.

Farmville Mayor David Whitus spoke to the impact it would have on the town if Johns is selected to be represented in the National Statuary Hall.

“What an honor it would be for her, the Moton Museum and Farmville,” he said. “Having a local native honored in such a manner would boost Moton, Farmville and our entire area, especially in tourism. She would shine a light on our community, guiding people to find us that otherwise may not.”

Robert Russa Moton Museum Managing Director Cameron Patterson said the museum is excited that Johns is under consideration for this high-profile recognition.

“Any time we are able to recognize her in that way, it naturally helps to elevate the Moton story and our local civil rights history,” he said. “The courage and sacrifice of our local citizens as they fought to bring forward equality in education is something that we should continue to recognize in powerful and meaningful ways.”

Following are some of the different forms of recognition Johns has previously received. She has been posthumously honored in Congress in 2018, Barbara Rose Johns Day became an official holiday in Virginia in 2017, and it was announced in 2017 that a newly renovated state building located on Capitol Square in Richmond would bear her name. In Farmville, the Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library was renamed in honor of Johns in 2017, and it was announced this past June that one of Longwood University’s residence halls would be named after her.