FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 28, 2004
Contact: Maribeth Cowan, Public Relations Director
(804) 342-9665 email:
50TH ANNIVERSARY OF BROWN v. BOARD OF EDUCATION COMMEMORATED IN
THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT IN VIRGINIA, OPENING FEBRUARY 7
Richmond, VA–In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the U. S. Supreme Court's school
desegregation decision of 1954, the Virginia Historical Society presents The Civil Rights Movement in Virginia,
on view February 7 through June 19, 2004. In addition to regular operating hours, the exhibition will be open
free of charge during the extended hours of 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 12, 19, and 26. Gallery
tours will be available and the Museum Shop will be open.
Cast in the shadow of the national Civil Rights movement were the landmark legal cases and precedent-setting
decisions being played out in Virginia. The NAACP filed more lawsuits in Virginia than in any other state. A student
strike at Moton High School in Prince Edward County, Virginia, became one of the five desegregation suits decided
in Brown v. Board of Education. This 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision declared separate educational facilities
for blacks and whites to be inherently unequal. Less well known were important Virginia cases that outlawed
segregated interstate bus travel, mandated jury integration, and expedited a plan to enforce equality in student
and faculty ratios, school facilities, transportation, and extracurricular activities.
A dynamic display of more than 200 objects, photographs, documents, oral history interviews, and television
news footage explores the Jim Crow laws, the WWII "Double V" campaign for victory over enemies abroad
and Jim Crow segregation at home, the quest for integrated education, Massive Resistance, equal access to
public accommodations, voting rights, and the legacy of the Civil Rights movement today.
World War II gave impetus to the Civil Rights movement when blacks were drafted to fight but were
segregated and relegated to menial positions. Eventually, President Franklin Roosevelt was forced to issue
Executive Order #8802, which opened government jobs and defense contract work to African Americans
on the basis of equal pay for equal work. It wasn't until the 1950s, however, that the movement gained
momentum from the Brown decision, which overturned the "separate but equal" doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson
(1896). Following the Brown decision, Virginia passed a set of laws blocking school desegregation known
as Massive Resistance, largely struck down by the early 1960s. In 1968, Green v. School of New Kent
County, the most important case since Brown, declared freedom-of-school-choice a sham and
established a new approach to ensure speedy, equal racial balance in school personnel, student
population, facilities, activities, and transportation. This directive led to the school busing crisis in
the early 1970s, which had lasting consequences on school integration and national politics.
In addition to the search for educational equality, the exhibition addresses sit-ins at lunch counters and other
efforts for equal access to public accommodations, equal employment opportunities, political representation, and
voting rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 struck down literacy tests previously required to vote, and the 24th
amendment outlawed poll taxes in federal elections. In 1966 the U. S. Supreme Court outlawed poll taxes
in all elections. The Virginia electorate immediately responded. In 1967, Dr. William F. Reid became the
first African American delegate to the General Assembly in 82 years. In 1973 Hermanze E. Fauntleroy
of Petersburg became Virginia's first elected black mayor. He served Petersburg. In 1989 L. Douglas
Wilder became the first black governor elected in any state. And in 1992 Robert Cortez "Bobby"
Scott became the first black congressman elected from Virginia in 88 years.
Lastly, the exhibition explores the rising of black consciousness during the Civil Rights years, the increase in
African American studies, greater appreciation of the role of blacks in Virginia history, and expanded vocational
and educational opportunities for African Americans.
The exhibition is co-sponsored by the Department of Historic Resources, with additional support from
Philip Morris USA, the Jackson Foundation, the Virginia Foundation for Humanities and Public Policy, and
the Honorable and Mrs. Elliot S. Schewel.
The Virginia Historical Society is located at 428 N. Boulevard. The Story of Virginia, An American Experience,
a 10,000-square-foot exhibition with more than a thousand objects covering all of Virginia history from prehistoric
times to the present is featured in the Robins Center for Virginia History. Hours: Monday-Saturday 10am - 5pm
and Sunday 1pm - 5pm (Museum Galleries only). Admission: $5/adults, $4/seniors 55+ ($2/Tuesdays–galleries
only), $3/children and students, free/members. Admission to the galleries is free on Mondays. For group tour
information, call (804) 342-9652. For more information, please call (804) 358-4901 or visit