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More people are about to learn how Barbara Johns helped desegregate U.S. schools

Posted at 5:02 PM, May 18, 2022

FARMVILLE, Va. — The Robert Russa Moton Museum, already a National Historic Landmark in Farmville, is now part of the National Park Service.

The museum was the Virginia school which was a part of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned school segregation.

Executive Director Cameron Patterson said he hoped the new designation would help raise the museum's national profile and give it more access to support and funding as it continued to tell educate visitors about its role in America's segregation story.

In 1951, a 16-year-old student named Barbara Johns led a school walkout to protest the poor conditions at the all-Black school.

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"The students referred to them as adult-sized chicken coops, because of how poorly they were built," Patterson said.

Johns gathered over 400 fellow students to organize the walkout.

The walkout led to a lawsuit that was eventually one of the five cases that made up the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that desegregated schools.

"We think it's important that the legacy of the Brown decision is something that is widely continued to be talked about," Patterson said.

Meanwhile, work continues on another effort to honor Johns, who was picked to be one of the two statues representing Virginia at the U.S. Capitol in Statuary Hall.

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She will replace the now removed statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee which stood there for over 100 years.

Patterson said it will be immensely important to have someone like Johns standing in his place.

"It gives me chills to think about the fact that when young folks that visit the Capitol, walk up to this statue, that they will be able to see themselves in what is before them," he said.

The commission behind that replacement said it has gotten 10 submissions to create the statue. It is expected to pick the winning sculptor at a meeting next month.

Take a look inside the Moton Museum

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