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Civil War Institute


The fiddler came to Farmville in 1951, demanding payment for generations of neglect. The largest community in rural Prince Edward County, located at the northern tip of Virginia's Black Belt. Farmville was a segregated town. Privileged white men controlled the banks, the businesses, and the school, as their fathers had before them. Raised in a world defined by the principle of separate and unequal, they reserved the best jobs and schools for whites, congratulating themselves for their generosity in laying aside the leftovers for blacks. Jim Crow set the parameters of life in Prince Edward County, and until 1951 it was a quiet life. But everything changed one April morning. The young people rebelled, overthrowing the community's old model of race relations and setting in motion a chain of events that thrust Prince Edward into the national spotlight.

On April 23, 1951, the student body at Robert Russa Moton High School - the county's only black high school - went on strike. Demanding an expanded curriculum, an end to overcrowding, and increased local commitment to black education, the student immediately sent a letter to the NAACP special counsel in Virginia, asking for legal assistance in their fight for a new school. Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson, the pillars of the Richmond NAACP office, were the force behind a massive statewide litigation campaign against the inequality of Jim Crow. Under their leadership, the Richmond office was a beehive of activity, at one time simultaneously pursuing actions in seventy-five different school districts. The two were initially dismissive of the Moton action, but they agreed to make a brief trip to Farmville, fully intending to encourage the students to return to school. [excerpt]


This is the introduction to Dr. Jill Titus' book.

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