Behind each login on the map is a story. What does it take to get from a historical wrongdoing to contemporary redress? Below are insights and shared experiences from those working on the ground floor.
Highlighted local redress: Prince Edward County, VA
- Prince Edward County
- 1951: walk-out led by a 16 year old girl, Barbara Johns, protesting the inadequacy of separate but equal, wanted to equalize facilities
- One of the five counties who were original plaintiffs in Brown v Board of Education (1954)
- 1955/56 Harry Bird: James J Killpatrick, massive resistance, nullification, trying to make it so the state didn’t have to abide by federal rules
- Approximately 2300 students denied an education 
- Reconciliation, coming from the lens of South Africa
- It took almost eight years of community advocacy starting with the purchase of the Black-only school, R.R. Moton, by the African American community in 1998, to the successful passage of reparations, the Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship Program and Fund (the Fund)
- Prior to the passage of the Fund, the state/local governments expressed profound regret for this wrongdoing
- It took another decade plus to erect a monument to celebrate Barbara Johns and others in their quest for justice.
- The quest for justice continues
Rita Moseley, a Prince Edward County Student denied an education, spoke to her experience. “Equal justice under the law is a right guaranteed under the constitution. Any injustice done to African American matters because of the adverse impact it has on our lives. It’s important to treat everyone the same no matter whom they are. So justice, no matter, how long it takes matters. Being a recipient of the Brown Scholarship was an act of justice for those wronged by the school closing. It gave me the opportunity to continue my education, obtain a Bachelor’s Degree and subsequently my Master’s Degree. This had an enormous impact on my life but it did not or could not give me back what I had lost. My education, the opportunities that I missed out on as a youth can never be replaced at the age of a senior citizen. It healed me to a point; I was able to fulfill my mother’s dream of getting an education and earn two degrees. That to me is meaningful.” (Rita Moseley, Prince Edward County Student denied an education, 1959-1964; Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship Program and Fund activist and recipient, 2005; author of No School, No School -My Journey Back, Lillie Mae Found Her School and publishing next month, Silence Broken After 50 Years-Brown v Board and Prince Edward County 1958-1964.
Ken Woodley: On the morning of February 18, 2003, I was driving to work and God, I truly believe, put a dream into my head: a reparation to repair the harm of five years of Massive Resistance to the Brown decision in Prince Edward County, Virginia. The County had wiped public schools off the face of its earth from 1959-64 leaving over 2,000 African American children without a formal education. Most Whites were educated at a White-only private academy that, before the courts intervened, used state and local tax dollars to provide tuition grants. The conceived reparations would be a state-funded scholarship program for those deprived of an education as well as for their children and grandchildren due to generational impacts. This reparation would address the educational impacts from the school closings to include: literacy training, GED, community college, or any higher education degree.
Before lunch, I had a commitment from House of Delegates member Viola Baskerville and State Senator Benjamin Lambert to introduce legislation to achieve this goal during the 2004 session of the state legislature. Then I called the office of Governor Mark Warner. I knew I’d need him to be our biggest ally. He called me back and we began an ongoing conversation. Finally, during a May 2003 meeting at the governor’s office where I would not take No for an answer, Gov. Warner turned to me and said, “I’ll fight with you on this.” I enlisted the public support of former Virginia governors to stand with Gov. Warner at the critical moment. When the going got toughest in mid-February of 2004, Gov. Warner began publicly fighting by our side and played a pivotal role in achieving what the late Julian Bond told me in May of 2004 would become “the first Civil Rights-era reparation in US history.”
The fight in the General Assembly was tortuous. Virginia was facing a huge financial crisis and the partisanship was bitter. Gov. Warner was a Democrat and both houses of the legislature were controlled by the GOP. As the session ended, the House of Delegates didn’t want to provide a single dime of state funding. The state senate was hardly more generous. We were seeking $2 million but the approved state budget contained a total of just $25,000 a year for two years. We approached Gov. Warner to send the legislature a $2 million budget amendment when it reconvened six weeks later for the annual Veto session. He publicly agreed to do so and kept his word. The final $2 million amendment included a $1 million donation from the late philanthropist John Kluge. The Speaker of the House of Delegates, Republican Bill Howell also committed his support. Securing a bipartisan victory was important if the scholarship was to be meaningful. I aggressively reached out to Republicans as Veto Day approached. The final vote was a 94-4 triumph in the House and 36-0 in the Senate.
“This is what we’ve been praying for,” John Stokes had responded on the morning of February 18, 2003, when I’d told him of my idea. On June 16, 2004, those prayers of the African American community were answered.
Ken Woodley, author of The Road to Healing, was editor of The Farmville Herald, in Prince Edward County, the newspaper that had adamantly opposed integrating schools following Brown and supported shutting down public education during Massive Resistance. As quoted by Ken, “Editorial after editorial in the 1950s and early 1960s had used words as swords of segregation rather than plowshares of integration. I spent my years at the newspaper trying to bridge that racist chasm.”
House Joint Resolution, no. 613 (2003). Department of Education, Virginia. Retrieved from: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?041+mbr+HB846
A conversation: Speak to your experiences of historical injustices?
Melisandre Short Colomb (M.S.C.) My first personal experience with historical injustice had to be at birth, I was born in the very segregated, deeply racially compromised New Orleans, Louisiana in 1954. At the time of my birth, the only hospital in New Orleans open to Black women in the city was Flint-Goodridge Hospital. White women did not give birth at this hospital, Black medical professionals were not allowed by law to treat White people. So that would be my “first” although the segregation of my family and community for the first dozen years of my life was the safest and strongest place to be.
Darold Cuba (D.C). Where do I begin? Well, from the beginning, I guess. I was born to parents and into a family racialized as “Black” and “not-White” on the traditional lands of the Powhatan, Pamunkey and Mattaponi in what the settler colonial systems of institutionalized governments now call Portsmouth, Virginia – at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital at that. My parents were military officers recently stationed at Ft. Eustis, near Williamsburg, Yorktown and Newport News – in the Tidewater area after having been in Panama.
James “Darrell” Broach (D.B): My memory takes me back to the time my grand dad was killed. I was working as a newspaper boy for a Birmingham Newspaper. Once a week the newspaper truck would come, and both Black and White newspaper boys would get their papers from this truck. Every week, the White carriers would sit and wait for the Black carriers to unload all the papers. I became less and less tolerant of this difference in treatment between the White carriers and the Black carriers. We complained to the manager. To show his displeasure toward our attitude, he began to hold us at the branch office a little longer each Saturday. One Saturday, he held us up for a meeting. After the meeting, he held our papers for over an hour and a half. After consulting with each other we walked off the job. We then proceeded to our customers, told them we had quit and why, and returned their money.
How did you find yourself in a position of activism and what do you hope to achieve?
M.S.C: Three years ago, I was included in a large group of descendants of enslaved families sold by the Society of Jesus in 1838. Having access to direct transactional economic records of this sale opened my consciousness and focused my attention. The University made an offer to applying descendants of legacy status admission. As a fully actualized adult, I decided to make the application. The University accepted me as a student in August 2017, and this is my rising third year there.
My hope is to be a participant in the circle of healing we create as institutional/descendant/student activist to participate fulling and divesting totally from the ravages of racially based social and economic inequity in this country, these things that were birthed in enslavement and nursed by violent social and economic White supremacists’ laws and policies.
D.C.: My very existence is activism. The descendant of people racialized as “not-White” “Black” and “native” – and who thus were enslaved as a consequence of those structural realities – my ancestors walked off of plantations to create “freedom colonies/Black towns,” “century old family reunions, schools and colleges and other communal foundations, and I owe my very existence to them. If my ancestors endured the hundred years of indigenous genocides, racialized Atlantic Slave Trade enslavement, Black codes, Jim Crow, etc., etc. to get me here., it is my duty to “activate” with all cylinders firing towards equity and parity (not “progress,” “diversity,” “inclusion,” “tolerance.”)
D.B.: My grandfather’s death gave me the courage to stand up for myself and others and move on the path of activism.
Looking Ahead: Our Next region to explore: East and West South Central
Historical trauma and legacy. Elaine Arkansas. My brother is a descendant of 1919 feeling like a knee is on his neck. Sent to prison by a judge who didn’t even give a reprimand to the White men with the same charge. Sent to a prison in which 76 percent of those incarcerated have or had Covid-19 while his compassionate release is denied although it is a nonviolent charge to my nonviolent brother. We need the nation’s eyes on the Delta where White power is still able to lynch and put knees on necks by different names, Lenora Marshall, Elaine Legacy Center.
As Covid-19 and the will to end racism are energizing our nation, we remember with tears that no White person was charged with even one murder when probably at least a thousand were killed in the Elaine Massacre of 1919. No one was charged with a hate crime 100 years later when the Memorial Tree was maliciously chopped down. At the Elaine Legacy Center we are creating The Elaine Museum and Civil Right Center and descendants are adding family stories to substantiate Land Theft of African American property by white empire builders as the cause of the racial terror at Elaine and other massacres across the country. People are speaking out. As we work with national leaders toward ending racism, we are determined to build a new future right at home out of the pain of the past and present, Mary Olsen, Elaine Legacy Center.