Little Monuments, 1946 – 2019

Little Monuments in Grace Park, Grace Park North ~ (Grace to Broad)

Prince Edward Schools closed in “massive resistance” Schoolroom, flag in corner, ABC’s over blackboard,
Empty school desks.
Richmond 34 Lunch counter, students on stools in handcuffs
Jim Crow “White Only” “Colored Only” signs
Loving vs. Virginia Bride & Groom. Include quote: “Tell the court I love my wife.”
White flight, Jackson Ward cut in half Real Estate “Sold — Moved to Suburbia” signs
Bradley vs. Richmond School Board School desk with books, school bus seen through window
Wilder elected governor Campaign signs, flag bunting, hats and confetti
Leland D. Melvin Astronaut holding helmet, foot propped up on stone …
400 years ago today,
slaves were first brought to Virginia.
Plaque, dedication stone. Amazing Grace.

Walking into Grace Park North, we enter a new era in Virginia History. An era of great promise and great pain. Change and struggle. Haunted by the past, the ghosts of war and slavery, carrying the promise and the burdens of parents and grandparents into a new, post-WWII era.

Little Monument 17 represents the “Massive Resistance” that Virginia offered in response to Court-ordered desegregation of public schools. Prince Edward County lead the way, preferring to close the school system rather than permitting little white children to sit in the same classroom with little black children; denying a public education to all children. “When, on January 19, 1959, both a federal and a state court simultaneously ruled the state’s actions unconstitutional, the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors closed its public schools rather than integrate them. They stayed shuttered for five years. Another U.S. Supreme Court decision—Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward—finally forced the county’s schools to reopen in 1964.” (source: Encyclopedia Virginia, “Massive Resistance”)

Little Monument 18 — On the morning of February 22, 1960, a group of 34 Virginia Union students was arrested for sitting at the “whites only” lunch counter at Thalhimers Department Store. When the students were asked to leave and refused to do so, they were arrested and charged with trespassing. (see also Wikipedia “Richmond 34”)

Little Monument 19 is a collection of the wide variety of Jim Crow signs, notices and warnings used to enforce legal segregation in both private businesses and public accommodations. “In Virginia following the civil war, African Americans struggled to assert their independence and make freedom meaningful. Returning to power in the fall elections of 1865, white leaders enacted a series of laws known collectively as ‘black codes.’ These laws, which made a crime of vagrancy and turned such misdemeanors as petty theft into felonies, were designed mainly to ensure the availability of black labor. Black codes were enacted throughout the South.” (source: “Virginia Historical Society, “Jim Crow to Civil Rights in Virginia”)

Little Monument 20 represents Loving vs. Virginia. A bride and groom with the simple, best, only argument : “Tell the Court I love my wife.” “The case was brought by Mildred Loving (née Jeter), a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other.” (source: Wikipedia, “Loving v Virginia”)

Little Monument 21 represents “white flight.” One very good example of how government, society, land values, political strength, on and on, combined to build the new interstate highway on a path that would cut Jackson Ward (“The Harlem of the South”) into two separate pieces.

Little Monument 22 is the so-called “Judge Merhige decision” which ordered busing as a remedy for “white flight” from Virginia cities to counties (separate political entities, mistake by founder fathers). Many Virginians today carry a great deal of resentment having been personally mistreated; used to correct a social problem they didn’t create. (see also Virginia Historical Society, “School Busing”)

Little Monument 24 represents L. Douglas Wilder elected 66th Governor of Virginia, becoming the first African-American ever elected governor in the United States. Include Oliver Hill, other prominent figures in political, legal, civil rights struggle.

As the final little monument, Little Monument 25 looks to the future, both literally and figuratively, in the image of Leland Melvin, Virginian and astronaut. Helmet in hand, his foot propped on the stone noting the Rededication of Grace Park, August 20, 2019 (the 400th anniversary of the “20 and odd” slaves arrival in Jamestown, Virginia).

The audio will conclude with the words inscribed on the Grace Park rededication stone:

As long as our lives endure
May grace now lead them home
May God continue to shed His grace
On the United States of America.

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound    That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found    Was blind but now I see

NEXT: Network of Learning & Sharing

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