Established in 2004, Virginia’s Civil Rights Education in Heritage Trail features local landmarks that tell the story of the Civil Rights struggles and triumphs for African Americans, Native Americans and women in Virginia. Originally comprising of 41 unique sites, Virginia’s Crossroads has recently added 12 new stops along the trail to provide an even more complete picture of the journey towards equal and free education. Scattered across numerous counties, the new additions to the Heritage Trail make the itinerary for a day trip into Virginia’s history.
Oak Grove Elementary School served as one of the only schools for African American children in Herndon and Loudoun and Fairfax counties in the 1950’s. Named after the nearby Oak Grove Baptist Church, the small, surrounding community was primarily comprised of descendants of slaves.
Opened in 1924, Buckingham Training Center was the first and only secondary school for African Americans in Buckingham County. Its grounds included a Vocational Building which held building trade classes. In 1953, the training center became Stephen J. Ellis Elementary School, named after the Reverend, who helped raise a substantial amount of funds to pay for the construction of the school.
Before Central High School opened in 1939, African American students in Charlotte County attended local churches of coal camps for schooling. The school served its community until 1969 when the county became integrated and was later repurposed to become Central Middle School. Now a museum, Central High School commemorates the achievements of its graduates and their contributions to the school.
Formerly known as Luther P. Jackson School, Cumberland Educational Advancement Center and Community Center opened in 1952. Although the center did not have any buildings for higher-level classes for African American students, it is a testament to the improvements that communities demanded for their schools and learning facilities. Banks, churches and schools raised funds and organized teams to create necessary amenities like sanitary outhouses.
Southside High School served as the only high school in Dinwiddie County for some time throughout Virginia’s segregation. The school offered classes from elementary to high school levels and was operated by African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Besides its educational duties, Southside High School also helped house homeless and underprivileged children in the area.
Established in 1900, Greensville County Training School began as a three-room schoolhouse. The facility offered classes like home economics, vocational agriculture, carpentry, English, history and more for African American high school students before transitioning into an elementary school. The training school was also known for hosting local NAACP chapter meetings.
Built in 1919, L.E. Coleman African American Museum Mountain Road School No. 1 is named after Reverend Lee Ernest Coleman. When the school was open, it served African American students of Halifax, Virginia. Now a museum, the facility celebrates Africana American art, history and culture.
Lunenburg County Training School, later known as Lunenburg High School, first opened in 1920. In order to provide a sufficient learning environment for their community’s children, the parents of Lunenburg raised money to buy ten acres of land to build the school.
Another essential facility to Virginia’s African American communities was St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and Carroll-Boyd School. Organized by Reverend James Solomon, his wife, Mary B. Carroll, became the first teacher at the parish school. Nannie V. Boyd helped train teachers in African American schools.
Bishop Payne Divinity School operated from 1878 to 1949. The school acted as the first seminary for theological education for African American students in the South and later merged with Virginia Theological Society — the second oldest and largest Episcopal seminary in the U.S.
Before Twin Lakes State Park was integrated, the lakes were segregated into two sides. Prince Edward State Park was reserved for African Americans, while Goodwin Lake State Park was reserved for whites. Although the parks were technically integrated after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Twin Lakes didn’t see a change in its social norms until 1986.
Also located in Prince Edward County is The Beneficial Benevolent Society of the Loving Brothers and Sisters of Hampden Sydney. Founded in 1843, the society’s headquarters served as an impromptu training center for African American children when the county’s schools closed in protest of integration.