Moton gains national recognition

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, May 18, 2022

A Farmville historic site will now become officially known as a National Historic Site following last week’s signing of a law by President Joe Biden.

Biden signed the Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park Expansion and Redesignation Act, which expands the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Kansas to designate National Park Service affiliated areas in Virginia (the Moton site), Delaware, Kansas, South Carolina and the District of Columbia.

The Moton Museum was one of seven sites that were involved in the Brown v. Board case to receive the recognition Thursday, May 12. The events at Moton High School in 1951, spurred by a walkout led by then-16-year-old Barbara Rose Johns in protest of unsafe and inequitable school conditions for Black students in the region, led to Davis v. County School Board, one of the court cases that was ultimately folded into the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board. The 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka transformed the United States, overruling Plessy v. Ferguson and striking down school segregation as unconstitutional, and became a major catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

The site where Johns led her protest is now the Moton Museum, which preserves and retells the Moton story in Farmville and beyond.

“The Robert R. Moton Museum is excited to join with communities involved in the historic Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision,” said Cameron D. Patterson, executive director of the Moton Museum. “In seeking to become an affiliated area of the National Park Service, we know this affiliation will allow us the opportunity to better collaborate with other communities involved in the historic Brown decision as we work to ensure that countless individuals have the opportunity to know of the courage and sacrifice that citizens made towards equality in education.”

Patterson gave credit to the museum’s board of trustees, the Moton Museum Community Council and Longwood University for their support toward the effort.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund pioneered the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site Expansion Act. The National Park Service designation ensures that the lessons of the Moton story will extend far beyond Prince Edward County, inspiring future generations to take collective, anti-racist action.

“With the passage of the Brown v. Board National Historic Site Expansion Act to designate all of the sites associated with this monumental Supreme Court case, history is not just memorialized but also made whole,” said National Trust President and CEO Paul Edmondson in a press release. “The heroism of the communities, parents and schoolchildren who dared to demand equal access to education can now be properly celebrated through these historic places.”

Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine applauded the signing of their bill, which garnered unanimous support in Congress in April.

“We’re excited our legislation to commemorate the Moton Museum in Farmville and other historic sites associated with the Brown v. Board of Education decision was signed into law today by President Biden,” said Senators Warner and Kaine. “This bill will preserve the site and help ensure future generations can learn about its significance, as well as the history of Barbara Johns, who led her classmates in a protest against school segregation at the Moton School.”

Warner and Kaine also secured $500,000 in funding for critical facility upgrades at Moton through the Fiscal Year 2022 omnibus appropriations bill.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s President and Director-Counsel Emeritus Sherrilyn Ifill said: “The Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education changed the course of American democracy in the 20th century. But Brown was more than just a legal case. It is a testament to the courage, sacrifice and resilience of Black families and communities and the attorneys who represented them, who never stopped demanding that this country live up to the promises of equality and justice in our Constitution.

“It is only right for our government to recognize its full dimensions by honoring all those who helped make the case a reality and expanding the number of historic sites designated for that purpose,” Ifill continued. “I commend the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, and all those inside and outside of Congress who have done so much to support and champion this necessary and important bill.”

Joining the Moton Museum in earning the National Park Service designation are Claymont High School (Claymont, Del.), Hockessin Colored School #107 (Hockessin, Del.), Howard High School (Wilmington, Del.), John Philip Sousa Junior High School (Washington, D.C.), Summerton High School (Summerton, S.C.) and Scott’s Branch High School (Summerton, S.C.).