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Brown to Griffin and Beyond: Celebrating the Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement in Education

May 19 @ 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Since its founding more than two centuries ago, the citizens of Prince Edward County and Farmville have grappled with—and helped reshape—liberty and democracy in ways that have profoundly affected the nation as a whole. From Patrick Henry’s calls for independence to the free Black community of Israel Hill to witness to the final days of the Civil War, this place has borne witness to and left its mark on our common story.

Perhaps no role Prince Edward has played, however, was so acute on the national stage as its role in helping launch the modern civil rights movement. In 1951, African-American students of R.R. Moton High School, led by the courageous 16-year-old Barbara Johns, went on strike to protest school conditions. Those students filed a lawsuit, Davis v. School Board of Prince Edward County, which eventually joined the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education lawsuit. Of the five cases that comprised Brown, Davis was the only one initiated by students themselves.

In the ensuing 10 years, public education was upended in Prince Edward as schools were defunded and shuttered rather than integrate during a period of Massive Resistance. Again, the legal system became the vehicle for change, and in 1964, the Supreme Court ruled in Griffin v. School Board of Prince Edward County that desegregated public schools must be reopened and funded.

Longwood University was more than silent witness to these injustices. With its own policy of segregated higher education, it dissuaded qualified Black students from submitting applications, and when applications were submitted, admittance was denied until 1966. The university neglected to stand up for equal rights in public schools during Massive Resistance and used eminent domain to facilitate campus expansion into a predominantly Black community, actions for which it formally apologized in 2014.

Common to all students who fought for equal access to education in Prince Edward County and at Longwood is an uncommon courage and resolve that affected the course of our nation.

As part of Commencement ceremonies 2024, Longwood University will celebrate the heroes of this decades-long march to educational access. On the afternoon of May 19, 2024, Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV will join distinguished guests to recognize each group of civil rights in education heroes in turn: Moton strikers and Davis plaintiffs; 1959-64 public school lockout victims; and those denied or discouraged from enrolling at Longwood University on the basis of race. Degrees of Honorary Juris Doctor will be conferred on members of the three groups to honor their participation in, support of, or commitment to the pursuit of justice in education through the legal system.

Joining President Reveley to honor these civil rights heroes will be keynote speaker L. Francis “Skip” Griffin Jr., one of the lead plaintiffs in the Griffin decision.

In the coming weeks, Longwood University will solicit information from known members of each group of honorees, inviting their presence, if possible, at the May 19 ceremony. Family members of honorees who are deceased or unable to attend are invited to participate in the ceremony; diplomas will be issued to all honorees who so desire. There will be no time limit on requesting an honorary degree.


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May 19
3:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Moton Museum


Longwood University
Farmville, VA 23909 United States + Google Map
Signature Programs
The Moton Museum hosts many events throughout the year.

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