Townsend named executive director at Moton Museum

Published 12:32 am Monday, July 10, 2023

FARMVILLE – The Moton Museum is starting a new chapter, but with a familiar face. 

On Saturday, July 1, the Robert Russa Moton Museum welcomed Cainan Townsend as its new executive director. Townsend is no stranger to Moton as he has held numerous potions at the museum and grew up in Prince Edward County. 

“I’m very excited and there are lots of good things in the works,” said Towsend. “I’m very grateful for the support I’ve received and everyone’s faith in me to do the job.” 

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This opportunity came as former executive director Cameron Patterson became Longwood’s Vice President for Student Affairs this spring. Patterson is still working with the museum as the senior partner for strategic initiatives. 

Knowing this transition may come, Townsend became the managing director in the fall of 2022, focusing on gaining more administration experience. There was no guarantee that this transition would result in him getting the executive director position, but it was a chance for Townsend to receive great experience. Once Patterson decided to step down in light of his promotion at Longwood, the option became available.

A family connection

Townsend has always had a family connection to Moton as he has family members who were plaintiffs in Brown vs. Board of Education, participants in the 1951 student walkout who lost education due to the closing of the high school to avoid desegregation from 1959 to 1964.

He also has his own connection to Moton as he started as a volunteer at the museum before becoming an intern, part-time staff, director of education and then managing director. Despite his work throughout the years, he never saw himself one day being the one in charge. 

“I never would’ve considered it,” he said. “I’ve always contributed in some way and seen every rung of the ladder which is rare but very beneficial here because I have a good picture of what Moton does.”

Looking ahead at Moton Museum

Going forward, Townsend plans on continuing the good work that Moton has started. Currently, Moton is fortunate enough to work with members of the community who faced the impacts of the Civil Rights Movement in Prince Edward County. These are the locals who participated in the student strike, Supreme Court cases and lost years of education to the school closings. 

“I see my biggest challenge is engaging in our version of descendant work,” Townsend added. “We have so many that are living history… but time is not our friend here. I want to encourage their children and grandchildren and cultivate this next generation. They lived it but now it’s time to build that bridge.” 

With the start of this new season of life, Townsend hopes to repay the people that have supported and believed in him to this point and make them proud.