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The U.S. House of Representatives has passed and sent to President Biden a bill that expands the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Kansas to include sites in Delaware, South Carolina, Kansas, Virginia, and the District of Columbia that also produced lawsuits that were incorporated into the historic civil rights decision.
The Virginia site is the Moton Museum in Farmville. In 1951, that building was the Robert Russa Moton High School, a segregated Black school. That year, teenager Barbara Johns led a student walkout to protest conditions there, an event that led to a lawsuit that was consolidated with four other lawsuits that challenged school segregation. Together, the combined cases became known as Brown v. Board of Education, the legal style of the Kansas case.
The bill now headed to the president’s desk would designate sites in those four other states as National Park Service Affiliated Areas. The former Moton school is now a museum. In 1998, it was designated a National Historic Landmark. In a statement, Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both D-Virginia, said: “This designation would help protect the site.”
The senators also said in a statement: “The creation of NPS Affiliated Areas in Delaware, Virginia, and the District of Columbia for sites associated with the Brown v. Board of Education case and an expansion of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site to include the related sites in South Carolina provides an opportunity for these sites to tell their own under-recognized histories of the Brown v. Board of Education case.
“In collaboration with local partners and other stakeholders, the National Trust will continue its work to bring recognition to communities that fought for school integration and make connections between communities engaged in the fight for educational equity, past and present.”
Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, told WIBW-TV in Topeka, Kansas that the focus on a single site in his state failed to tell the full story of the Brown case. According to the station, “he said the limited geographic scope condenses public memory of the events and inadvertently fails to recognize the contributions of the communities in Claymont, Del., Hockessin, Del., Wilmington, Del., Summerton, S.C., Farmville, Va., and Washington, D.C. that were also important to the fight for equality and that saw their cases consolidated with the Brown case. He said the dispersion of the locations shows the legislation is truly a story of a national struggle with national significance.”
In the Senate, the lead sponsors were Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delware, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina. Warner and Kaine, in their release, pointed out that they’d secured $500,000 “for critical facility upgrades at the Moton Museum in Farmville” in the current federal budget.
Virginia is in the process of replacing its statue of Robert E. Lee in the U.S. Capitol with one of Johns.