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Events mark Free School anniversary

Events mark Free School anniversary

Symposium, panel talk in Farmville will look at civil rights

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Two events in Farmville on April 7 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Prince Edward Free School movement and examine the current landscape of civil rights in education.

Longwood University will hold a symposium at 7 p.m. in Jarman Auditorium moderated by LU President W. Taylor Reveley IV.

The symposium, which will look at the experimental educational techniques used by the Free School, and a panel discussion at noon at the Robert Russa Moton Museum are free and open to the public.

The Free School was a privately funded effort spearheaded by Attorney General Robert Kennedy that provided free education to students in 1963-64, during the five-year period when Prince Edward County public schools closed to forestall integration.

At the symposium, Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education, will be joined by three speakers with close personal connections to the civil rights history of Prince Edward: L. Francis “Skip” Griffin Jr., Oliver W. Hill Jr. and Margot Rogers.

Griffin was a plaintiff in the suit against the Prince Edward School Board that was part of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision 50 years ago that forced the county’s schools to reopen after being closed during 1959-64.

Hill, a professor of psychology at Virginia State University, is the son of Oliver W. Hill Sr., the Richmond attorney who led the Virginia NAACP’s campaign against segregation.

Rogers is a graduate of the county schools and former chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

At the Moton Museum, a panel moderated by Larissa Smith Fergeson, associate professor of history at Longwood, will discuss “50 Years after the Free Schools and Griffin: Recent Scholarship.”

Panelists include Candace Epps-Robertson, assistant professor at Michigan State University, who is researching literacy education in the Free School; Brian E. Lee, doctoral student at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro researching the role of the Kennedy administration in restoring public education to Prince Edward; and Jill Ogline Titus, associate director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College.

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