Historic site legislation ensures that the Black freedom struggle of Prince Edward County will be memorialized
President Joe Biden signed into law Thursday the Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park Expansion and Redesignation Act, which designates the Robert Russa Moton Museum in Farmville as a National Historic Site for its role in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court Case.
The Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park Expansion and Redesignation Act will expand the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Kansas and designate National Park Service (NPS) Affiliated Areas in Delaware, Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The Moton Museum is one of seven institutions involved in the Brown v. Board case to receive the recognition, which aligns the communities who worked toward fighting segregation in education. Until now, only Monroe School in Topeka, Kan., held the title of National Historic Site.
The events at Moton High School produced three-fourths of the plaintiffs in Brown v. Board, spurred by a walk-out led by then-16-year-old Barbara Johns in 1951 in protest of unsafe and inequitable school conditions for Black students in the region. The site is now the Robert Russa Moton Museum, which preserves and retells the Moton story in Farmville, the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond.
“The Robert R. Moton Museum is excited to join with communities involved in the historic Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision,” said Cameron D. Patterson, Executive Director of the Moton Museum. “In seeking to become an affiliated area of the National Park Service, we know this affiliation will allow us the opportunity to better collaborate with other communities involved in the historic Brown decision as we work to ensure that countless individuals have the opportunity to know of the courage and sacrifice that citizens made towards equality in education.
“The Moton Museum Board of Trustees, Moton Museum Community Council, and our partner institution Longwood University in offering their support towards this effort, recognize that the resources and benefits offered from this affiliation with the National Park Service will only strengthen our ability to fulfill our mission as a museum.”
The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund pioneered the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site Expansion Act, which President Biden signed in May 2022. The National Park Service designation ensures that the lessons of the Moton Story will extend far beyond Prince Edward County, inspiring future generations to take collective, anti-racist action.
“With the passage of the Brown v. Board National Historic Site Expansion Act to designate all of the sites associated with this monumental Supreme Court case, history is not just memorialized but also made whole,” said National Trust President and CEO Paul Edmondson in the initial press release. “The heroism of the communities, parents and schoolchildren who dared to demand equal access to education can now be properly celebrated through these historic places.”
United States Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine also released a joint statement praising the recognition.
“We’re excited legislation to commemorate the Moton Museum in Farmville and other historic sites associated with the Brown v. Board of Education decision was signed into law today by President Biden,” Sens. Warner and Kaine said upon the order’s announcement on May 12. “This bill will preserve the site and help ensure future generations can learn about its significance, as well as the history of Barbara Johns, who led her classmates in a protest against school segregation at the Moton School.”
Joining the Moton Museum in earning the National Park Service designation are Claymont High School (Claymont, Del.), Hockessin Colored School #107 (Hockessin, Del.), Howard High School (Wilmington, Del.), John Philip Sousa Junior High School (Washington, D.C.), Summerton High School (Summerton, S.C.) and Scott’s Branch High School (Summerton, S.C.).
In addition to serving as a policy center and providing community outreach services, the Moton Museum commemorates the 1951 student strike led by Johns, a 16-year-old student at Moton High School, who protested substandard learning conditions. Johns’ walkout sparked Davis v. County School Board, which became one of five cases reviewed in Brown v. Board. The leadership of the young Black men and women of Prince Edward County, who demanded equal treatment in the public school system, motivates all who fight for civil rights in education.