University of Richmond President Brings Group of Educators to Moton Museum and the Moton Home Place

July 1, 2009

A group of 28 teachers from 20 states and Bermuda came to Prince Edward County to visit Robert Russa Moton Museum and see the home place of the museum’s namesake.

Robert Russa Moton was an advisor to presidents, educator and author in the early 20th Century. His home place is in the county’s Rice community.

The group of mostly public high school teachers participating in the visit was part of a one-week summer class taught by University of Richmond President Edward L. Ayers and sponsored by The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History on “The South in American History.”

The educators participating in the Prince Edward visit were from: New York, Virginia, Illinois, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming. There was also an educator from the island of Bermuda.

Throughout the week of June 29th, the class combined course readings, classroom discussions, and visits to historical sites, Ayers said. Besides their visit to Moton museum the afternoon of Wednesday, July 1, the group also visited the Jamestown Settlement and Historic Jamestown; the Slave Trail, Lumpkin’s Jail, Negro Burial Grounds and Drewry’s Bluff in Richmond, Ayers said.

Ayers said he worked with Moton Museum Director Lacy Ward Jr. to arrange the visit to the Prince Edward County sites.

“Our original plan had been just to visit the Museum,” Ayers said. “I was grateful when Mr. Lacy Ward invited the group to visit the Moton home place, where they heard about the education provided young Moton which paved the way for his education at Hampton University and ultimately leading Tuskegee Institute.  Most of the students in the class were not aware of the educational struggles in Prince Edward County during the 1950’s and 1960’s.  I have been impressed with Mr. Ward and his work and knew our teachers would benefit from seeing Moton first-hand.”

“Now that these teachers have heard the inspiring story of the young people of Robert R. Moton High School who made their voices heard, it’s likely some of them may return or encourage people to visit.”

Added Ayers, “The visit was memorable, both for the place itself and for the generous way we were greeted.”

Each member of the class was asked to develop an audio podcast about one of the sites visited, and six of the students did their podcast project on their visit to the Moton home place and Museum, Ayers said.

The mission of the Moton Museum is to preserve and positively interpret the history of Civil Rights in Education, specifically as it relates to Prince Edward County and the role its citizens played in America’s struggle to move from a segregated to an integrated society.

Moton was the site of the April 23, 1951 student walkout in protest of inferior educational facilities led by 16-year-old sophomore Barbara Johns. The Moton strike launched Prince Edward County’s 13-year struggle for Civil Rights in Education and resulted in the filing of Davis v. Prince Edward, which called for an end to racial segregation in public education. Davis was decided, along with four other cases, in the Supreme Court decisions Brown v. Board (1954) and Brown II (1955).  For additional information, please telephone 434-315-8775.

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