63rd Anniversary of Moton School Strike Commemorated In Farmville

Farmville, VA - High school students in Farmville recreated a historical moment in civil rights history Wednesday. It's a movement that few outside our area know of, but locals say it was the beginning of the civil rights fight of the 1950s. Around 150 students from Fuqua and Prince Edward High Schools gathered to remember where they came from, and the role their schools played in the battle for integration. They began the event by retracing the footsteps the brave girls and boys of Moton High School took 63 years ago today.

"We know these major milestones like the march on Washington, like the Montgomery bus boycott. But before all of those events occurred you had teenagers, actually some students as young as 12 years old, protesting for equal education in Farmville, Virginia," said Justin Reid, Assoc. Director of the Moton Museum.

In 1951, there was a brewing battle in Farmville between black and white, and right and wrong led by children who knew all too well that separate didn't always mean equal.

"The conditions were you know, horrible. But right down the street there was a white school that had everything we didn't have," said Moton High Student Joy Cabarrus Speaks.

In a small Virginia town, a national movement began.

It all started at what used to be Moton High School. A group of students fed up with the bad conditions at their school decided to go on strike. The strike started with a walk.

"My sister, Barbara Rose Johns, at the age of 16, led students out of Robert R. Moton High School on a strike for a better school," said Moton High Student Joan Johns Cobbs.

"A spark that turned into a flame inside of her was catching because the students walked with her and it was really the beginning of the civil rights movement," said Francis Wood, Board of Directors, Moton Museum. "It's important for these young people to know if they have an idea of how they can change things, all they have to do is step up."

The Moton School strike went on to produce 75% of the plaintiffs in Brown versus the Board of Education, the case that ended in a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.

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