Longwood University’s Board of Visitors has passed a formal resolution expressing regret over the institution’s actions during the civil rights era, and established a new "Moton Legacy" scholarship program to support equality in educational opportunity.
The resolution comes at a time when the Virginia General Assembly, along with a number of universities including William & Mary and the University of Virginia, have issued similar statements of regret in connection with important anniversaries in the nation’s history. Prince Edward County’s public schools re-opened almost precisely 50 years ago, in September, 1964, after being shuttered for five years in an effort to forestall court-ordered desegregation.
"It is a moment of great promise, with the Moton Museum and Longwood poised to work more closely together in support of Moton’s mission of civil rights in education," said Longwood Rector Colleen McCrink Margiloff ’97. "Through time, Longwood has not always lived up to the ideals we hold dear, and that has caused genuine pain. The University’s mission of citizen leadership is at the heart of the Board’s action. "
The resolution passed by the Board also establishes the Moton Legacy scholarship program, which will provide financial assistance for Longwood students with a demonstrated commitment to the cause of equality of opportunity in education.
"This scholarship program will help Longwood honor those who strove so mightily for educational opportunity, by teaching and sending into the world citizen leaders who will do the same in their communities around the Commonwealth and nation," said Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV.
The resolution passed by the Board of Visitors reads:
WHEREAS, the 50th anniversary of the re-opening of the Prince Edward County public schools after five years of closure is a proper occasion for reflection, and Longwood University’s mission as an institution of higher learning calls us to reckon honestly and sincerely with our own history; and
WHEREAS, during the years of "Massive Resistance" to the integration of local schools during the 1950s and 1960s, while many individual members of the Longwood community spoke and acted bravely in support of the inarguable principle of equal protection under the law and educational opportunity for all, as an institution Longwood failed to stand up publicly for these ideals, resulting in support to those who opposed desegregation, and falling short in its duty to provide strong moral leadership in the community; and
WHEREAS, in subsequent years, after passing from direct state governance to governance by an appointed Board of Visitors in 1964, Longwood caused real and lasting offense and pain to our community with its use of eminent domain to facilitate campus expansion, and acted with particular insensitivity with regard to the relocation of a house of worship; and
WHEREAS, African-Americans played a vital role in the life and development of Longwood as an institution since its founding in 1839, but were not enrolled as students until the late 1960s, and at first only in small numbers; and
WHEREAS, this history places a special obligation on Longwood to harness the influence of its scholarship and teaching to serve as a leader in the cause for equality of opportunity, and to facilitate reconciliation in the community; be it
RESOLVED that the Board of Visitors on behalf of the University expresses its profound regret for these institutional actions, and apologizes to those who have been hurt; and be it
RESOLVED FURTHER that Longwood will work in conjunction with its neighbor the Robert Russa Moton Museum and embrace the museum’s mission of civil rights in education, helping share the story of the struggle for civil rights in Prince Edward County and its essential role in American history, while promoting scholarship and edifying our students about the events that took place here, in furtherance of the University’s mission to develop citizen leaders; and be it
RESOLVED FURTHER that, obliged by our history and our public mission, and conscious of the critical educational importance of a student body that reflects the diversity of the Commonwealth and nation, the Board of Visitors hereby establishes the Moton Legacy scholarship program, to provide financial assistance for Longwood students with a demonstrated commitment to the cause of equality of opportunity in education.
Adopted September 13, 2014