UMW, City of Fredericksburg Partner in Effort to More Accurately Tell the Local Civil Rights Story

Historians in the News
tags: civil rights, education, African American history, Virginia, local history, public history

Students and professors at the University of Mary Washington will assist Fredericksburg officials in efforts to more fully tell the story of the local civil rights movement.

Fredericksburg City Council last week approved spending $205,000 on multiple projects focusing on local Black history. In addition to installing two new historical markers and reinterpreting the site of the slave auction block at the corner of William and Charles streets, the work will include an oral history project and a civil rights trail—both of which will involve collaboration between the city and UMW.

“This is a wonderful partnership all the way around,” said Christopher Williams, assistant director of UMW’s James Farmer Multicultural Center. “This work is so important to the city of Fredericksburg. I can’t overstate that enough.”

Victoria Matthews, the city’s tourism sales manager, said she has been interested in putting together a civil rights trail for the city since 2017, when she learned about the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, which traces the movement through 100 sites across 15 states.

“I took a look at what the state of Virginia had on the trail and it was not well represented,” she said.

The two Virginia sites on the national trail—in Farmville and Richmond—both relate to the 1951 walkout at the all-Black Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, which was organized by 16-year-olds Barbara Johns and John Arthur Stokes to protest poor conditions at the school.

A lawsuit born from that event was later incorporated into the Brown v. Board of Education lawsuit. Barbara Johns is memorialized with a statue in Richmond for her role in paving the way for school integration in Virginia.

Matthews and Williams discussed their interest in telling Fredericksburg’s civil rights history when they met in 2017, but Matthews said discussions surrounding the slave auction block “took precedence.”

Read entire article at Roanoke (VA) Times

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