The evolution of racism in Farmville: the progress made since the end of segregation – The Rotunda

Posted: October 17, 2021 at 5:32 pm

To some of the areas college students, Farmvilles history involving equality may be surprising. Many may not know that when schools were being pushed to integrate with Brown v. Board in 1954, Senator Harry F. Byrd created a policy of massive resistance in which he encouraged continued segregation. At this time, black Prince Edward County students were already striking for equality and integration The Robert Russa Moton Museum is the building which served as the black-only school during segregation, and it has since been transformed into a comprehensive exhibit of the struggle for racial equality in Farmville.

The policy of massive resistance effectively closed the public schools in Prince Edward for five years from 1959 to 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was created. During this closure, Prince Edward Academy, now the Fuqua School, was a private white-only school. Consequently, there is a generation of people still in Farmville who never received a proper education.

The loss of education in the black community in Prince Edward has a direct effect on the community today. According to Cainan Townsend, director of education and public programs at the Robert Russa Moton Museum, the adult literacy rates here are absolutely abysmal. He attributes this in part to the school closures, but he also blames a long trend following 1964 of underfunded education in Prince Edward.

Speaking as someone who received an education from Prince Edward County Public Schools and from Longwood University, Ms. Jacquelyn Reid, funeral director and vice president of Bland-Reid Funeral Home, agrees that the public education is not at the height it should be. Reid said, though, that she thinks that partnerships between college students and the students in the public schools could be mutually beneficial. She feels that those that are going into education especially, theyre not all going to end up in rich school systemsand if they work with (less privileged) kids now and are going into education for the right reasons, theyll want to get that under their belt so that they are prepared to work with children in all situations.

Reid and her son, Elder Warren A. Reid, both work at their familys business, Bland-Reid Funeral Home, which is the oldest black-owned business in Farmville. The business was founded in 1936 by Ms. Reids grandfather, Warren A. Reid. The family has seen the evolution of racism fairly intimately as Mr. Reid, according to his granddaughter, was a quiet man, but when he talked, he was listened to. Reid was a bail bondsman, banker, undertaker, ambulance driver, and much more to the community. His great-grandson who shares his name has followed in his footsteps being a member of the Farmville Junior Chamber (The Jaycees) as well as a big player in the family business.

E.W. Reid has witnessed the effects of racism first-hand by working so closely with the community and the family business. He said that the funeral business is still rather segregated, but they have seen more diversity within their business since the beginning of the pandemic. As a community leader and parent of a Fuqua School student, he has seen sentiments of racism in the resistance to remove the sign that says Prince Edward Academy from the school. He said that There are people who are Prince Edward Academy graduates, and they say that this is their history and their heritage, but he feels that history can still exist without memorializing it as it is a racist history.

Perhaps the most personal way that racism affects Reid is that he does not feels safe on Longwoods campus because he may be perceived as a threat. Walking through a predominantly white school and people knowing that you dont belong there or that youre from the town creates anxiety. He said subconsciouslyas people were walking down the sidewalk, I would cross the street and walk down the other side and that if there were and altercation or miscommunication no one is going to care that Im on the Chamber of Commerce or on any board. Theyre going to hear that Warren Reid is accused of assault, is accused of sexual harassmentso we walk on eggshells, and I think a lot of the community does that.

The Reids grew up on Longwoods campus, and the change in attitude toward people of the town from the time that E.W. Reid was a child to now has gone in such a negative direction that he no longer feels safe in a place he once played. Ms. Reid said that I grew up right across the street where the commuter lot isand where the library, the music building, and the art building are all used to be black neighborhoods. The family, as well as many other black families, lost their house to eminent domain when the university expanded. She also said, there were 60-70 kids in those blocks, and weve lost that sense of community now that they are spread out.

Although the Reids and Townsend feel as though there is a divide between the college communities in the county and the community of people who have made lives here, they have hope and ideas for drawing people together and creating a more equal, well-rounded community. For starters, the 3 of them have all condemned the use of the word townie. Townsend said that I absolutely think its replacing the n-wordand many people mean it harmlesslybut when I was in school I and my black friends would go to a party and there would be 15 white guys going in before us then when its me and my black friends they want to see our Longwood I.D.s. and that he would regularly hear things like lets keep the townies out so he stopped going out altogether.

Townsend would like to see more local and diverse entrepreneurshipbecause we only have maybe 2 black-owned businesses not including funeral homes and barber shops. He and the Reids would like to see more affordable housing for families. Townsend said Farmville is kind of in an identity crisis. We want to attract young professionals and young families, but we cant do that if they dont have a place to live. Landlords and companies are buying houses, renovating them, and charging by the room because of college students. He adds that if a family wants to rent these houses, theyre charging them $600 a room, and who can afford that in Farmville?

The Reids especially think that Longwood and Hampden Sydney educating their students about Farmvilles history could create a closer bond between students and residents. E.W. Reid said that You need to know what happened here, and that has done a big disservice because students come here and have no idea of the history that surrounds them. They think that a required class about Farmvilles history could go a long way for creating an understanding for the community that students enter when they come to school. Longwood has taken steps to encourage its students to become educated on Farmvilles history through its partnership with the Moton Museum which began in 2015, and Townsend said that his biggest goal for the community is I want people to be genuinely surprised at the history that happened here because he invisions such a bright future for the area.

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The evolution of racism in Farmville: the progress made since the end of segregation - The Rotunda

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