The mission of The American Civil War Museum is to be the preeminent center for the exploration of the American Civil War and its legacies from multiple perspectives: Union and Confederate, enslaved and free African Americans, soldiers and civilians.
This memorial unveiled in 2008 pays tribute to a key moment in the history of the Civil Rights movement in Virginia. In 1954, Thurgood Marshall, along with a team of NAACP lawyers, won a breakthrough victory in Brown V. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas, with the Supreme Court ruling that “in the field of public education, the doctrine of separate but equal had no place; separate was inherently unequal.” Brown was actually made up of six different lawsuits, one of which was brought against Prince Edward County, Virginia where a 16-year-old by the name of Barbara Johns lead a student strike at Moton High School to protest the deplorable, overcrowded conditions. Richmond lawyers Spottswood Robinson and Oliver Hill (1st African American on the city council) filed suit. The year after Brown v. Board the Supreme Court ruled that desegregation was to proceed with all deliberate speed. Senator Harry F. Byrd, whose statue ironically stands at the opposite end of the square, lead a campaign to end integration, which became known as Massive Resistance. This was primarily done through school closings and the creation of a Pupil Placement Board that assigned students to schools using race as a criteria. In 1958, the government declared that the school closing law was in violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. Despite this, by 1964 only 5% of black students were attending integrated schools, largely due to the Pupil Placement Board. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 sought to remedy this by denying federal funds to schools resisting integration. Additionally, the act ended segregation in all public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It was followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. It is interesting to think that these changes came about roughly 100 years after the 14th Amendment was added to the Constitution. Photo by Ron Cogswell