Prince Edward County, Virginia closed its public school system in 1959 in "massive resistance" to the U.S. Supreme Court's historic Brown v. Board decision of 1954. The editorial pages of the local family-owned newspaper, The Farmville Herald, led the fight to lock classrooms rather than integrate them. The school system remained closed until the fall of 1964, when the County was forced by federal courts to comply with the school integration ordered by Brown. The vast majority of white children had continued their education in a private, whites-only academy. But more than 2,000 black students were left without a formal education by the five-year closure. Their lives were forever changed.
A Civil Rights Reparations Story: The Road to Healing in Prince Edward County, Virginia, by Ken Woodley, is his first-person account of the steps taken in recent years to redress the wound. The book's centerpiece is the 18-month fight to create what legendary civil rights activist Julian Bond told the author would become the first Civil Rights-era reparation in United States history; it was led by Woodley, then editor of The Farmville Herald, still owned by the original family. If the 2003-04 struggle to win passage of a state-funded scholarship program for the casualties of massive resistance had been a roller coaster, it wouldn't have passed the safety inspection for reasons of too many unsafe political twists and turns. But it did.
The narrative unfolds in Virginia, but it is a deeply American story. Prince Edward County's ongoing journey of racial reconciliation blazes a hopeful and redemptive trail through difficult human terrain, but the signs are clear enough for a divided nation to follow. The history is as important for its insights about the past as it it about what it has to share about a way into our future.
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About the Author
Ken Woodley was a journalist for 36 years at The Farmville Herald in Prince Edward County, Virginia, the final 24 years as editor. Unknown to Woodley, the community had been ground zero for white opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board decision of 1954. Rather than integrate classrooms, Prince Edward County shut down its entire public school system from 1959 to 1964, a policy the newspaper had passionately advocated. Woodley spent his entire career lending his voice, and his deeds, to the journey of racial healing and reconciliation in the community. In
2003, he proposed what Julian Bond would describe as the first civil rights-era reparation in U.S. history. Woodley led the triumphant fight for a state-funded scholarship program for those who’d been left with little or no formal education because of Massive Resistance to Brown. In 2006, the Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro Chapter, presented Woodley with its prestigious George Mason Award for lasting contributions to journalism.
Table of Contents
1 'God, Please Help Us. We Are Your Children, Too' 5
2 The 'Civil War' After the Civil War 15
3 The Click of Cosmic Tumblers 29
4 Balm for Gilead 47
5 'I'll Fight With You on This' 55
6 Into the Sausage Grinder 71
7 Destroy the Headline to Save It? 83
8 Wings For a Prayer 100
9 The Eye of the Storm 105
10 Bound for Civil Rights History 120
11 The Promised Land 130
12 We Gathered Our Light 139
13 Reparation Within the Sorrow 146
14 'For All Wounds Known and Unknown 152
Epilogue: Will We Live Happily Ever After? 169
"The account of Ken Woodley’s advocacy for civil rights reparations is told stirringly in The Road to Healing as a reporter, and ultimately a community, struggle to understand and amend for past grievances. Few crusades are as well-documented as this telling of Woodley’s quest for justice." The Mountain Times