Moton Museum Will Anchor 12-County Civil Rights Trail

February 2, 2001

Courtesy of Farmville Herald – February 2nd, 2001

A project that could generate over $30 million annually for 12 counties and the city of Petersburg will have Prince Edward County and the Robert Russa Moton Museum as its hub.

J. Rodney Lewis, coordinator of Old Dominion Resource Conservation and Development Inc. (RC&D), joined museum representatives last week to install a sign at the former Moton High School for the Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail.

The sign is one of approximately 24 being erected in Appomattox, Charlotte, Cumberland, Buckingham, Prince Edward, Amelia, Nottoway, Dinwiddie, Lunenburg, Halifax and Petersburg.

“The strength of this whole trail is bringing the communities together … This trail will pull folks together. Folks who never worked together,” Lewis said Thursday morning. “Unity is the key. It will pull communities together.”

The 489-mile Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail is expected to open in the year 2003 and has received federal grant funding of $240,000 for the project.

The trail will focus on historic sites that relate to civil rights in education for African Americans, Native Americans, and women, as well as other significant contributions to education.

“It’s basically going to show the evolution of education in the southern Piedmont region of Virginia,” Lewis said, and how the region contributed to the evolution of education across the nation.

Virginia led the nation in many things, “Lewis said, “and education is one of them.”

Many of Virginia’s contribution are unknown. The trail plans to change that.

“It’s going to bring awareness to a lot of historical events that people were just not aware of before. It will tell history,” said Lewis, “in a way that it’s never been told in its entirety before.”

The Moton Museum was chosen as the Trail’s anchor for historic and geographic reasons.

“Because it’s a National Landmark and just by being elevated to that status it’s an attraction,” said Lewis, “and then its geographic location being in the center of the trail. People could leave the Moton Museum and go in any direction and follow the trail, east, west, north and south.”

The sign proclaiming the former R.R. Moton High School as the “birthplace of the movement for civil rights in education” was paid for, in part, by a $1,500 grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

The potential $30 million-plus annual economic impact prediction by the Old Dominion RC&D is based on a “conservative estimate of current visitor revenues to other new historic venues in the area,” according to a report presented to the R.R. Moton Museum board of directors.

The trail could also generate the equivalent of 1,100 full-time jobs for the region, the old Dominion RC&D analysis estimates, as travel-related positions in the food and lodging industry, and others, are created to accommodate tourists.

“The audience for this trail will be school children. The other audience will be retirees who want to travel in the country to learn about history and learn,” said Lewis, ” about the sacrifices made to bring education to all Americans, how education evolved, the story of education.”

The collection of sites was researched across the region and a Trail and Tourism Plan developed. The Old Dominion RC&D is undertaking what it describes as a “major effort to create the necessary synergies between local accommodations and other businesses and Trail segments.”

According to Old Dominion RC&D documents “packages” will be developed for “travelers who want to buy their accommodations, admissions … in one convenient purchase … Marketing these packages through Virginia Tourism and other available resources will begin to generate revenues for the local area on a short-term basis immediately after Trail implementation has been completed.”

Lewis said week-long packages and side trips will be developed and offered “and lots of other things to expand on this.”

The Trail is considered a three-day event, divided in three segments, with a full-day of sites in Prince Edward.

In addition to the Moton Museum, other Prince Edward sites – and their place in history (as described the Old Dominion RC&D) – will include:

Prince Edward County Schools – “considered by educators to be the most successful contemporary, integrated program existing at the five locations across the United States involved in the Brown vs Board of Education court case.”

Fuqua School – “the site of the former Prince Edward Academy started in 1959 for Caucasian children when the schools in Prince Edward County closed. Fuqua School offers an education for all students, demonstrating changes have occurred in education.”

Longwood College – “exhibits which reflect the changes that have occurred in women’s education .. throughout Virginia history.”

Hampden-Sydney College – “the site of an historical exhibit relating to male education since the Revolutionary War.”

Vernon Johns Grave Site – “Reverend Vernon Johns preceded the Reverend Martin Luther King, Kr. at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Also the uncle of Barbara Johns who led the first non-violent student strike at the R.R. Moton High School in 1951.”

In Cumberland, the tour will include:

Cumberland Courthouse – “the site of a display of documents about the Literary Fund established by Cumberland County to support education for the economically disadvantaged in 1806, well before Virginia legislated that every county should have a Literary Fund for this purpose.”

Rosenwald School at Cartersville- “one of the schools established through the cooperation of the Julius Rosenwald Fund and African American parents interested in having their children educated.”

In Buckingham, the tour will include:

Carter G. Woodson Birthplace – “born in Buckingham County and considered to be the Father of African American history, a project will be undertaken to relate the impact of Dr. Woodson on American education since no existing structure is still standing at his birthplace. A trail sign has also been erected at this location – funded by a grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities – one of three already in place. The third is the Thyne Institute in Mecklenburg.”

Signs at other locations across the 13-jurisdiction area will be erected as the project proceeds towards its 2003 opening.

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