Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Department 1

Civil War Institute


On July 9, 1963, a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch informed his readers that black protesters had attempted two sit-ins in the college town of Farmville, the hub of rural Prince Edward County. Obviously shocked by these developments, he termed the events at the College Shoppe restaurant and the State Theater "the first reported Negro movement in this Southside Virginia locality, which has gained prominence in recent years as the focal point of a struggle over the closings of Prince Edward County's schools." In this writer's mind, and perhaps many of his readers' as well, social movements were synonymous with street protest. In reality, however, the two are not one and the same. The Prince Edward freedom movement did not begin in the streets, but rather in the schools. The 1951 student strike at R. R. Moton High School launched a decade of unprecedented activism on both sides of the color line. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, whites dismantled the public school system, pouring their energies into creating a homegrown whites-only private school system. African Americans, with the help of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), challenged the county's actions in court, scoured the region for new black voters, and developed grassroots community schools to temporarily educate their children. [excerpt]

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