Among the many ways Virginia has led the nation, its education heritage is worthy of deeper understanding. The free public education system our country now enjoys has its roots here in this region, where the right to equal education for all was the subject of challenge, debate and courageous acts. The sleepy back roads of these rural counties were an unexpected place for inspired activism – and this trail tells the poignant and often explosive story.
Even after emancipation, African Americans, like Native Americans and women, were denied education equal to white males. Young women were offered no public education beyond the 7th grade, and were denied the foundation allowing them to become teachers or nurses. African American children were denied even the most basic facilities and materials, and came by education only through the efforts of individuals committed to making a difference, sometimes holding class under a tree. Through small, steady steps over decades, the evolution of opportunity came slowly and sometimes at great cost.
The story of efforts to gain educational opportunities reaches back into the 19th century and follows the events of the 20th century Civil Rights movement. Through interpretive signage at over 41 sites along the trail, you will feel the echo of what happened here as you relate their experience to your own.
Begin your journey at the Heartland Regional Visitor Center where detailed information on the trail’s development and maps are available. Staff here can help you with options for activities and direct you to dining and lodging information. This self-guided driving trail is ideal for families to experience together, allowing you to set your own pace.
Your journey will take you to places both real and emotional, with some sites hauntingly quiet and others full of vitality. The Robert Russa Moton Museum is one stop on the trail, providing a comprehensive view of much the area’s Civil Rights in Education history. It was here that a student walkout in April 1951 set in motion more than a decade of struggle for equal education in Virginia – plan to spend at least an hour here.
A national center for the study of Civil Rights tells the story of events in Virginia that led to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Brown vs. Board of Education.
This resource in downtown Farmville offers recommendations, brochures and a display featuring High Bridge Then & Now; the glass negatives of Willis Vail 1914.
This full color brochure details the trail with map and historical notes.