The Road to Healing: A Civil Rights Reparations Story in Prince Edward County, Virginia

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NewSouth Books, 2019 - Education - 224 pages
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. The Road to Healing: A Civil Rights Reparations Story 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 is about what it has to share about a way into our future.

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About the author (2019)

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.

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