Longwood University and the Robert Russa Moton Museum, the National Historic Landmark where a 1951 student strike helped launch the modern American civil rights movement, will pursue an affiliation that will preserve the museum’s site and educational mission in perpetuity.

The governing boards of both institutions have endorsed exploring a formal working relationship through which the Moton Museum, which has operated as a stand-alone nonprofit, would become affiliated with Longwood while maintaining its 501(c)3 philanthropic entity status. In a manner similar to other university-museum partnerships around the country, Longwood will provide largely administrative and back-office support services for the museum, engage in academic and research collaboration, and work together with Moton to advance the museum’s mission of "civil rights in education" in conjunction with Longwood’s own mission of developing citizen leaders.

"The Moton Museum is truly sacred ground, and it is key in Longwood’s mission of service to the community and commonwealth to help ensure Moton and its mission are secure in perpetuity," said Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV. "Longwood, Farmville and the surrounding counties will all benefit in the years ahead from drawing attention and visitors to this region, with its remarkable history as the place where the Civil War ended and the civil rights movement began.

"For Longwood, this affiliation is also an extraordinary opportunity to help us become a center nationally for civil rights teaching and scholarship, and to offer remarkable learning opportunities for our students, many of whom already encounter Moton during their time on campus and are deeply influenced by the experience.

"Few steps I could imagine would more effectively aid our mission of preparing citizen leaders than ensuring more of our students experience this remarkable place and carry its lessons into their lives and careers after graduation," Reveley said.

Last week Longwood’s Board of Visitors authorized Reveley to enter into discussions and forge an affiliation with the museum. On Monday, Moton’s Board of Trustees took similar steps toward formalizing discussions.

The Moton Museum Council, the museum’s local advisory, outreach and volunteer management arm, would play an elevated role in representing the community to the university. The 2014-15 academic year will serve as a transition period, with Longwood history Professor Larissa Smith Fergeson serving as liaison between the university and the museum. Justin Reid will stay on as Moton’s associate director for museum operations, with normal operations and staff continuing.

"An affiliation with Longwood would help us ensure that the Moton story becomes as well known nationally as it deserves to be," said Dorothy Holcomb, chair of the Moton Council. "We want to make sure this story is told, and I’m confident this is the best way for us to do so."

"We’ve been working closely with Longwood faculty, staff and students for years now, " Reid said. "Having a formal partnership in place would allow us to make even greater use of these resources. This is a good step forward for Moton, Longwood and the community."

The court case that arose from the 1951 Moton student strike was one of five decided by the Supreme Court in its 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, and the only one initiated by schoolchildren, not parents. But in the massive resistance movement that emerged after the ruling, Prince Edward continued to find itself at the center of the civil rights story, with local leaders closing the county’s schools from 1959 to 1964 rather than integrate them. Only after another Supreme Court decision in 1964 were the schools re-opened.

The former Moton High School became the Moton Museum in 1996 and was soon thereafter designated a National Historic Landmark, thanks in large part to the work and fundraising efforts of the Martha E. Forrester Council of Women and other members of the community. In 2013, with assistance from Fergeson as lead historical consultant, the museum opened its new permanent exhibit, serving as an educational and tourism resource for the commonwealth. This month the museum received an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History, a top national honor.

This year, Moton is on track to meet a goal of more than 13,000 visitors, and more than 1,300 Longwood students visited during the most recent academic year. The substantial joint programming already underway between Longwood and Moton includes collaborative work with individual Longwood classes, the Gordon Moss Memorial Lecture and a symposium this past April exploring past and contemporary issues related to civil rights in education.

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