On April 23, 1951, 16-year-old Barbara Johns and several fellow students led a strike to protest the conditions at their racially segregated school near Farmville in Prince Edward County. Under the leadership of Rev. L. Francis Griffin, students and parents contacted NAACP attorneys. The lawsuit that followed was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court and joined with four other cases as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954), in which the Court banned school segregation on the grounds that racially separate educational systems are inherently unequal and unconstitutional.
The Virginia Civil Rights Memorial, located on the grounds of the Virginia State Capitol, recognizes and celebrates Barbara Johns, her fellow students from Robert Russa Moton High School, their parents, and community leaders and civil rights attorneys. The memorial features eighteen statues of leaders in the civil rights movement on four sides of a rectangular granite stone block onto which are carved quotes (see below). In addition to Johns, among those depicted include Spottswood William Robinson III, Oliver Hill, and Leslie Francis Griffin.
The monument also prominently features two quotes which are engraved on the granite on each of the long sides of the monument:
- “It seemed like reaching for the moon.” — Barbara Rose Johns
- “The legal system can force open doors and sometimes even knock down walls, but it cannot build bridges. That job belongs to you and me.” — Thurgood Marshall[
Virginia Civil Rights Memorial
N 10th Street & Bank Street
Richmond, VA 23219