Barbara Johns, a sixteen year old student, staged a strike at Robert Russa Moton High School because of its deplorable conditions. One student John Stokes assisted Johns in the effort in 1951. He shares his story with me.
The newly renovated Virginia Attorney General’s Office has been renamed the Barbara Johns State building. The building dedication is February 23, 2017 at 202 North 9th Street. Watch video courtesy of CBS-6
John Stokes grew up in the Jim Crow South. He attended Robert Russa Moton High School in Prince Edward County, Virginia. This was the only school for African American students in the entire county. It was a one-story school that was built to hold 180 students. However, by 1950 there were more than 450 students attending the school. The educational resources at Moton were few with only eight classrooms, an office, and an auditorium. Stokes and classmate Barbara Johns recognized the inequalities between Moton and the white-only schools, and decided to do something about it. Together Stokes and Johns helped lead a strike by all the students in April 1951. All of the students walked out in the middle of class and refused to return until a new high school for African American students was built. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People encouraged the students to demand integration of all county schools instead. The U.S. District Court in Richmond rejected the lawsuit. The case went on appeal, and was combined with other lawsuits under Brown V. Board of Education. On May 17, 1954 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that public school segregation was unconstitutional.
Only a year after graduating from Virginia State University, Stokes went on to become Superintendent of Baltimore City Public Schools before retiring as principal in 1994.
February 23: This Day in Black History
1. Niecy Nash1 of 15
2. W. E. B. Du Bois2 of 15
3. Lee Quincy Calhoun3 of 15
4. Larry Demps4 of 15
5. The Chiffons5 of 15
6. Constance Baker Motley6 of 15
7. Wilt Chamberlain7 of 15
8. Angela Davis8 of 15
9. Marvin Gaye9 of 15
10. Whitney Houston10 of 15
11. Gary Coleman11 of 15
12. Melvin Franklin12 of 15
13. Brownie McGhee13 of 15
14. Tony Williams14 of 15
15. Carl Anderson15 of 15
Miss Community’s Rich History365: Barbara Johns & John Stokes was originally published on kissrichmond.com