A Community Response to Segregated Education, 1951-1963

The Robert Russa Moton Museum, located in the National Historic Landmark school building, uses the evocative power of place to connect us to America’s segregated past and to understand the actions that contributed to the toppling of Jim Crow. We know of no other historic site that can so effectively tell the story of the “road to Brown” and the lesser known story of the “road beyond Brown” – the long grassroots struggle from a segregated to an integrated society that spanned the decades after 1954. Standing in the auditorium where Barbara Johns gave her speech, imagining 450 students crammed into classrooms and temporary buildings dubbed “Tar Paper Shacks,” visitors understand the nature of segregated education, as well as the emotions that moved the students to act.

They Closed Their Schools will use a combination of community archival work (called a History Harvest), inquiry-based curriculum design, and innovative technology to create a forum that will provide a deeper understanding of this era and its consequences. Central to this project will be the archival data and crowdsourced resources collected by the very community that was most affected by these events. Geographic thinking will provide an effective lens with which to investigate big data sets by allowing the teacher and student to see and present trends and understandings over time and place. This inquiry-based approach provides the scaffolding that is often missing when the general audience works with massive digital archives and online libraries.

PARTNERS: This project will collaboration with the the Departments of History, Geography, and English of Longwood University, Moton Museum, Virginia Geographic Alliance, and Danville Regional Foundation.

FUNDING & SUPPORT: Funding pending from the National Archives and Research Administration.

Team Biosketches