Desegregation of Virginia Education (DOVE), the collaborative history project hosted at Old Dominion University, joined with AARP Virginia, Virginia Conference NAACP and Urban League of Hampton Roads, on March 14 in Richmond to kick off the project “School Desegregation: Learn, Preserve and Empower.”
The initiative, which includes a traveling exhibit this spring to six commonwealth locales, is designed to encourage the preservation of records that tell the story of Virginia’s school desegregation – through firsthand accounts of people who experienced both the segregation and desegregation of Virginia’s public schools.
As Andrew Heidelberg, one of the “Norfolk 17″ who integrated Norfolk’s all-white public schools in 1959, said at the news conference on Wednesday, “Let’s get the history as told by the people who lived the history.”
Sonia Yaco, ODU’s Special Collections librarian and university archivist, who serves as co-chair of DOVE, shared some stories of Virginia’s desegregation history at the event last week, but said there is much that is lacking in the public record.
“Public records and newspaper accounts tell part of this tale. But still missing are the stories told by those affected by integration,” she said.
“A man called me at Special Collections at ODU Libraries to ask where he could find any evidence of the cross burning, abusive late-night phone calls and death threats he had endured when he enrolled in a previously white rural south-side high school. Where was it recorded?
“A woman emailed me asking where she could find material telling what it was like to be bused for racial balance.
“Where are these stories? For most communities, the answer is nowhere. The experience of black children who walked into white schools, and the stories of the white children who were bused to black schools, is missing from history.”
Yaco said she created DOVE in 2008 to fill this gap, and this new initiative will add more pieces to the Virginia history puzzle.
DOVE, Yaco explained, locates, catalogs and encourages the preservation of materials related to massive resistance, including correspondence, reports, newsletters, photographs, personal papers, organizational papers and first-person accounts.
“We want to find material about those who experienced desegregation and make it available to the public. We have been surveying archives throughout the state for relevant material, and we have created a catalog showing where these various materials can be found.
“Last year, I learned about AARP’s work gathering oral histories from the activists in the civil rights movement. They, in turn, told me about historic photographs – of Oliver Hill and other attorneys who filed the Virginia Brown lawsuit – that are held by the Virginia State NAACP. We recognized that we had a common goal: preserving the history of diversity in education in Virginia. In this mission, we have been joined by the Urban League of Hampton Roads.”
Brian J. Daugherity, Virginia Commonwealth University, co-chair of DOVE, spoke at the press conference about the need to preserve this important history. Two members of the Governor’s administration spoke in support of the project – Lisa Hicks-Thomas, Secretary of Administration and Javaid Siddiqi, Deputy Secretary of Education.
The one-day traveling events this spring will include:
- An exhibit of photographs and documentaries on the history of school desegregation in Virginia.
- The chance for participants to tell their story about desegregation. The public is invited to bring anything that describes their involvement in desegregation to the events: letters, photos, fliers and posters. People can donate them to DOVE or allow them to be scanned for the digital archives. Oral histories will be collected.
- Workshops, voter registration and volunteer opportunities.
The events will be held Saturdays on the following dates:
- April 14—Eastern Shore Community College, Business Development and Workforce Training Center, 29300 Lankford Highway, Melfa, VA 23410
- April 28—First Baptist Church of Hampton, 229 N. King Street, Hampton, VA 23669 from 10:00 Am – 3 PM
- May 5—R. R. Moton Museum, 900 Griffin Bld., Farmville, VA 23901 11:30 – 3:30 PM
- May 12—Armstrong High School 2300 Cool Lane Richmond, VA 23223 9:30 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
- May 19—Charles Houston Recreation Center, 905 Wythe Street Alexandria, VA 22314 9:30 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
- June 2—Lynchburg Public Main Library, 2315 Memorial Avenue, Lynchburg, VA 24501 9:30 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
“We at DOVE are most eager to learn whatever Virginians are willing to share with us about segregation and desegregation and the history of Virginia education,” Yaco said.
For more information about the project, visit the DOVE website, http://www.lib.odu.edu/specialcollections/dove/index.htm.
Refreshments will be served. Registration is required. Call 1-877-926-8300.
For more information, call 1-866-542-8164.