Barbara Rose Johns

Today, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced that a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee would be replaced by a statue of Barbara Rose Johns. Don't know that name? I'll be happy to teach you!

Barbara Rose Johns was a civil rights activist and school desegregationist. At 16 years old, Johns became enraged over the inadequate facilities at her high school, which was all-Black. When she shared her thoughts with a teacher, he/she responded, “Why don’t you do something about it?”

And so she did. Johns orchestrated a strike among her classmates that began on April 23, 1951.

“The plan was to assemble together the student council members…. From this, we would formulate plans to go on strike. We would make signs and I would give a speech stating our dissatisfaction and we would march out [of] the school and people would hear us and see us and understand our difficulty and would sympathize with our plight and would grant us our new school building and our teachers would be proud and the students would learn more and it would be grand…” she wrote according to the Robert Russa Moton Museum.

NAACP lawyers Spottswood Robinson and Oliver Hill heard the news, and filed a lawsuit at the federal courthouse in Richmond, Virginia. The case, Davis vs. Prince Edward, became one of the five cases the Supreme Court reviewed in Brown vs. Board of Education decision, which declared segregation unconstitutional.

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