Moton Museum gets major funding boost from the National Endowment for the Humanities

Rendering of planned exhibit detail provided by StudioAmmons

The Robert Russa Moton Museum is one step closer to becoming Virginia’s leading civil rights heritage site with the award of a $350,000 implementation grant, announced by The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in April. The award, part of a $17-million funding round from the NEH, will go towards Phase II of the Moton Museum’s permanent exhibit fabrication and installation.

“We are very pleased to receive this grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities,” says Lacy Ward, Jr., Moton Museum Director. “NEH grants are highly competitive and it is rare that small budget museums like Moton receive such substantial support.”

Overall, the NEH announced 208 grants – an average of about $82,000 each. Of Virginia’s seven NEH grant recipients, the Moton Museum received the largest award, followed by George Mason University in Fairfax, which received $304,565.

“Our successful application is testament to the national significance of Prince Edward County’s public school desegregation saga,” comments Ward. “The award is also testament to the quality of scholarly work performed by Longwood University’s Dr. Larissa Smith Fergeson and the quality of exhibit design by StudioAmmons of Petersburg.”

With this grant from NEH and an earlier grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission, the Moton Museum now has nearly $800,000 earmarked toward its goal of $1.8 million to complete the permanent exhibits.

Everyday citizens, extraordinary change

Of the five localities involved in the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown decision, Prince Edward County was the only locality to have a case initiated by student protest. It is also the only locality to close its public school system for five years – the longest period in the nation’s history – in order to avoid school desegregation.

The Moton Museum will tell the Prince Edward County story from multiple perspectives, taking into consideration how gender, race, and class affected individuals’ position in these struggles. Visitors will have the chance to explore the meanings of equality and citizenship, while considering the role of education in our democracy. They will also be challenged to rethink their historical understanding as they discover how everyday citizens led extraordinary change.

The project shifts the focus of the movement away from prominent national figures and spokespersons, and instead highlights the importance of grassroots resistance to segregation. It eschews a “monolithically bi-polar racial confrontation” in favor of a much more nuanced, localized narrative, noted David Martz, Jr., Senior Program Officer for the NEH Division of Public Programs, which administers the grant.

“The Robert R. Moton High School story contains valuable lessons for all Americans about courage, non-violence, and human dignity that could not be timelier in today’s world.”

About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at:

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