Virginia marks 1st Barbara Johns Day honoring civil rights pioneer

Virginia News
Virginia marks 1st Barbara Johns Day honoring civil rights pioneer

FARMVILLE, Va. (WRIC) — Monday is a historic day in the Commonwealth, as it’s the first official Barbara Johns Day.  

Barbara Johns was a civil rights pioneer, leading her fellow students in a strike against unjust school conditions. 

On April 23, 1951, 16-year-old Johns was told by her teacher to do something about the many issues they faced within their school. So, she led that strike out of the R.R. Moton High School, which is now the Moton Museum. 

It created a precedent felt years later during the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education trial. 

Last year, U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett drafted the General Assembly’s resolution, turning April 23 into a Virginia state holiday.

Moton Museum Director of Education, Cainan Townsend, told 8News Reporter Nick Conigliaro that making this day a holiday is important because it’s a tribute to not only the pursuit of equality but also shows the value of student activism.

“This is four years before Rosa Parks sits down on the bus. At this point in time, Martin Luther King Jr. is still in college and these students are here in Farmville, Va., peacefully protesting for an equal education,” Townsend said. “So, in many ways, these students are creating the start of, what we will eventually know as, the Civil Rights Movement.”

The Moton Museum will be taking part in a Q and A session on Monday. Longwood University students will also be honoring the strike by walking from the campus to the museum. 

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