Staff Profile: Cainan Townsend, Director of Education & Outreach

The Moton Museum continues its staff profile series. With this profile, we feature Cainan Townsend, Director of Education & Outreach for the Robert Russa Moton Museum (Moton). Cainan also serves as the Co-Director of the Longwood University Bicentennial Initiative that explores the history of the institution particularly as it relates to race. Prior to his appointment at Moton, Cainan served as a Governor’s Fellow for the Office of the Secretary of Education for Virginia. Additionally, Cainan has worked in numerous positions in the education arena. Cainan attended Longwood University where she obtained a Master’s in Counselor Education.

How long have you been with the Moton Museum? 

I started on August 4th, 2016.

What’s your favorite part of your job? 

It’s hard to say what my favorite part is. I love engaging with the students who visit. I enjoy seeing when people understand what we teach here. I love telling a story that many have not heard, but critical to U.S. History. I really enjoy our visitors. You never know who will walk through the door from living historical figures, to government officials, to the casual visitor who found us online.

What’s your favorite part of our permanent exhibit Moton School Story: Children of Courage

Very hard to say. I definitely spend the most time in Gallery #2. There is so much background to go over and I very much enjoy setting the scene for the rest of the Moton School Story.  Discussing Martha E. Forrester and her efforts to Barbara Johns and the Student Walkout. Talking about the founding documents and the ideals of American freedom are extremely important in discussing this history. I think the most important thing I say in gallery #2 is about perspective. It is easy to view this story as a tragedy and this community as victimized. I think the problem with that is we take away the agency of this community. They were not passive simply existing in this space, but they were fighters and they were resilient.

What do you like to do when you’re not at the museum? 

Spending time with my family, exercising, and watching soccer!

What are you excited to see Moton do in the future? 

I want a feature film to be done on Moton.

Anything else you’d like people to know about you or Moton? 

Moton is more than a museum. It is a community.



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