In the yellowing, cracked pages of the giant books, the history of Farmville and Prince Edward County play out. From local excitement over the 300th anniversary of Jamestown in 1907 to the turmoil of the Civil Rights Movement, moments in time are captured in articles, letters to the editor, and grainy photos.
In these books are the archives of the Farmville Herald, which in a historic collaboration between the Library of Virginia, Longwood University, and the Farmville Herald, will be digitized and print copies stored in the Greenwood Library.
Already, Greenwood Library patrons can make an appointment to visit the temperature- and humidity-controlled archives to explore the pages of Farmville’s paper of record. Inside they’ll find area perspectives on both World Wars, space shuttle launches, stock market crashes, and historic elections--alongside a picture of how Southside Virginia evolved over the last 120 years.
This town has played such a consequential role in our country that to have primary source material for researchers housed here is massively important.Dr. Brent Roberts, dean of Greenwood Library Tweet This
The Library of Virginia is in the process of digitizing the yellowing and brittle print copies, which should be complete in early 2021. When that is finished, the copies will be searchable and readable from the library website and added to virginiachronicle.com, the Library of Virginia’s historic archive of state newspapers.
“This is a major resource for anyone interested in not only the history of Farmville, but really the history of our country,” said Dr. Brent Roberts, dean of Greenwood Library. “This town has played such a consequential role in our country that to have primary source material for researchers housed here is massively important. We are so pleased to have the opportunity to partner with two great institutions in the Library of Virginia and the Herald in this way.”
The Farmville Herald was first published in 1890, during Benjamin Harrison’s presidency. Thirty years later, it was sold to legendary publisher and businessman J. Barrye Wall, whose family operated the newspaper for 94 years. In 2015, the semiweekly paper was sold to a conglomerate that owns several local papers in the South.
Archives from 1890-1902 only exist on microfilm, and are being digitized along with the rest of the papers by the Library of Virginia. When complete, the pages will be searchable on virginiachronicle.com.
Because of this resource, we’ll be able to understand better the motivations, thoughts, and decisions that have led this community to where we are now.Dr. John Miller, associate professor of English and a co-chair of the Bicentennial Initiative Tweet This
The most significant local event that plays out in the pages of the papers is the Civil Rights movement. In April 1951, Barbara Johns led a student strike over conditions at the segregated R.R. Moton High School -- now Moton Museum and affiliated with Longwood -- an action that garnered national attention and was ultimately part of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case.
The headline in the Farmville Herald: “Moton Students’ Claims Unjustified Board Feels Now,” reflecting the beginnings of Massive Resistance that were to follow later that decade.
In 1954, after the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the Farmville Herald announced “United States Supreme Court Outlaws School Segregation,” and then subsequently in 1959, “Private Schools Seen Answer To Court’s Integration Order,” marking the beginning of the county’s ignominious five-year shuttering of public schools.
A group with special interest in those issues of the newspaper and ones that followed is the researchers working on Longwood’s Bicentennial Initiative, which seeks to reckon honestly with the university and town’s past ahead of the university’s 200th anniversary in 2039.
“We will certainly draw on the information in the Farmville Herald archives for this project,” said Dr. John Miller, associate professor of English and a co-chair of the Bicentennial Initiative. “Historians put a high value on primary sources like newspaper archives and the variety of information contained within to paint an accurate picture of the past. Because of this resource, we’ll be able to understand better the motivations, thoughts, and decisions that have led this community to where we are now.”