January 5, 2001
Editorial by Ken Woodley from the Farmville Herald January 5, 2001
The decision by Governor Gilmore to provide $300,000 in his proposed state budget for the Robert Russa Moton Museum is a watershed moment. Beyond what the funds will do for the museum project in the immediate future, this action by the governor can be a major step toward developing this Farmville/Prince Edward site as the official civil rights museum for the Commonwealth of VIrginia, which currently lacks such a facility. The Moton Project should cultivate its blossoming relationship with the state to achieve that goal.
There is no other location anywhere in the state that approaches the significance within the Civil RIghts movement of this building at the intersection of S. Main and Griffin Boulevard. The governor’s appropriation would not be the project’s first state funding. The General Assembly has provided $25,000 several times. However $300,000 in the governor’s budget seriously elevates the Moton Project and its significance to the region, the state, and the United States of America.
It is difficult to put a price on words, but the explanation the governor’s office gave for providing nearly a third of a million dollars in Mr. Gilmore’s budget carries the riches of credibility for state officials looking at the Moton Project seriously for the first time. These words are worth their weight in gold for the Moton Project: “Historians increasingly recognize that the Civil Rights Movement began in Virginia in 1951, when more than 400 students at the all-black Moton High School in Farmville walked out of classes to protest the separate but unequal conditions of their education.” That’s the office of the governor hailing the Moton school building as the birthplace of the Civil RIghts Movement in this nation. Attorney General, and Republican gubernatorial candidate, Mark Earley has made the same proclamation. Those statements should be used as building blocks to elevate the Moton Project’s stature statewide and, as a result, nationally.
The Moton museum will be one of the most historically significant destinations in the United States of America. It will education and illuminate, while providing a significant boost to the local economy. How fortunate, then, that Prince Edward County chose to sell the school to the museum board, rather than to a commercial developer who would have torn the building down. The county’s decision, and its subsequent votes to extend the purchase deadline, have certainly been justified. So has the faith and determination of museum supporters to transform the building into a museum and center for the study of civil rights in education. The museum board has now successfully paid the County $300,000 for the property- which also justifies the County’s decisions- and is taking the next steps toward opening and operating a museum in a building which is a National Historic Landmark.
While announcing the appropriation, Gov. Gilmore said, “I am pleased to offer this funding to help educate Virginians and people across the nation about this high school’s role in the Civil Rights Movement. The Robert Russa Moton Museum will be a significant tourist attraction for Prince Edward and a great educational resource for all of America.”
That’s the governor of Virginia and chairman of the Republican National Committee talking. More and more people are going to listen. And learn.