Edward H. Peeples Prince Edward County (Va.) Public Schools

Context for this collection
The Edward H. Peeples Prince Edward County (Va.) Public Schools Collection explores the history of school segregation issues of the 1950s and 1960s.

During the 1950s Prince Edward County would become the focus of the public schools desegregation issue in Virginia. On 23 April 1951, African American students at Robert Russa Moton High School walked out to protest squalid conditions at the segregated site. Four years earlier the school had been ruled inadequate by the State Board of Education.

Attorneys Spottswood Robinson and Oliver Hill of Richmond met with the student leaders and agreed to represent them in court if they agreed to challenge Virginia's public school segregation law. The students' challenge to Virginia's law eventually became one of five such complaints heard in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case. In 1954, the nine Justices ruled unanimously in favor of the students, overturning the "Separate But Equal" precedent established by Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. The decision also set in motion a course of "Massive Resistance" by segregationists and the Virginia political power structure. In Prince Edward County, rather than integrate their public schools, segregationists chose instead to close their public schools from 1959-1964.

On the ground documenting these events was Edward H. Peeples (RPI graduate '57 and Emeritus professor at VCU). By the late-1950s, Dr. Peeples had become active in the Civil Rights Movement and participated in activities seeking to reform social injustices. While earning his graduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania, his concerns for the state of race relations in Virginia prompted him to return to Prince Edward County to research his thesis, A Perspective of the Prince Edward County School Issue (1963).

The Collection
During the course of his research, Dr. Peeples photographed over 100 images of schools in Prince Edward County. In addition to taking photographs of segregated public schools that had been in use prior to 1959, he also took images of the private schools established after the public schools did not open in 1959. These photographs were taken from 1961 through 1963 and are illustrative of the lack of resources provided by the state and the county for its African American students. VCU Libraries is proud to present all of the images here, digitized from the original negatives in 2009. Also included are Dr. Peeples' original annotations.

In addition, the collection includes contemporary photographs and several of Dr. Peeples' written works in order to provide context for the early 1960s images. The contemporary photographs were taken by Dr. Peeples from 1988 until 2003. He photographed buildings, persons, and events, such as the ceremonies conferring national historic recognition on the Robert Russa Moton School in 1998 and the 50th anniversary of the Prince Edward County Student Strike in 2001. Among the text documents are a mimeographed chart dated 1965, titled "13 Known Private Schools in Virginia Established Since 1958 to Circumvent Desegregation", and two highway maps, annotated by Dr. Peeples, pinpointing the location of the Prince Edward County photographs. Using these maps and other information, we have identified and supplied GIS coordinates for most of the buildings in the 1960s photographs.

Browse by time period: 1960s (segregation era) -- 1988-2003 (commemorative events)

Browse by format: Photograph -- Document -- Map

Browse schools by racial orientation: African American -- White

To browse by name of school or building, use the facets on the left side of the search/browse for this collection

For more information on works by Dr. Peeples, see the two finding aids describing his papers, Accession Number M 68 and Accession Number M 342, housed in Special Collections and Archives at the James Branch Cabell Library. For more on civil rights activities in Farmville and Prince Edward County, see Farmville 1963 Civil Rights Protests.

This material is protected by copyright, and copyright is held by VCU. You are permitted to use this material in any way that is permitted by copyright. In addition, this material is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/). Acknowledgment of Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries as a source is required.

In honor of Dr. Edward H. Peeples
With gratitude for his devotion to justice for all the people of Virginia. VCU Friends of the Library, 2007–2012.

"A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Ghandi to come back - but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you." – Marian Wright Edelman


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13 known private schools in Virginia established since 1958 to circumvent desegregation
Chart, originally created in 1965, listing the thirteen known private schools by district in Virginia which were established since 1958 to circumvent desegregation. Includes statistics on population, enrollments, budgets and tuition grants.
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Annotated map of south central Virginia
Partial map of south central Virginia annotated by Edward H. Peeples, Jr. Includes concentric circles around Farmville, Va., with numeric notations and additional lines.
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In genuinely democratic service, the servant is well served
In this essay, based on notes written in September 1961 and revised March 2001, Dr. Peeples discusses the Richmond Committee of Volunteers to Prince Edward County, a group of volunteers from central Virginia who helped organize recreational activities for the African American students in Prince Edward County.
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In the honor and memory of Leslie Francis Griffin and the other heroes and heroines of the Prince Edward County, Virginia, school closing tragedy [A message from Dr. Peeples…]
A message from Dr. Edward H. Peeples, Jr.,about Rev. L. Francis Griffin, the Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Farmville, Va.
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Making heroes of those of lesser sin
Unpublished editorial written in 1979 about the political leaders of Virginia during the days of massive resistance. It was sent by Dr. Edward H. Peeples, Jr., to the Richmond Times-Dispatch which chose not to publish it.
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Material opportunities in public education in the Commonwealth of Virginia: a study of public school property differentials between the races (1962-1963)
Unpublished report of a study by Edward H. Peeples, Jr., which looked at the value of public school properties in Virginia by race. The study was financed by the Virginia Teachers Association, and the data was collected in 1964 by Edward H. Peeples, Jr.
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Perspective of the Prince Edward County school issue
Thesis (M.A.) -- University of Pennsylvania. Bibliography: leaves [81]-[84]
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Prince Edward County: the story without an end; a report prepared for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, July 1963
A report prepared for the United States Commission on Civil Rights by Dr. Edward H. Peeples, Jr., in July 1963. The report is based on interviews and other research done for Dr. Peeples' masters thesis, as well as further interviews and research conducted immediately after the thesis was written. Includes special note to the contemporary reader by Dr. Peeples.
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Prince Edward County, Virginia: a study in infamy
Article by J. Rupert Picott and Edward H. Peeples, Jr., published in Phi Delta Kappan describing the events and issues leading to the closing of the schools in Prince Edward County, Va.
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Prince Edward County, Virginia: showing primary and secondary highways
Map of Prince Edward County, Va., annotated by Dr. Edward H. Peeples, Jr., showing locations where he took photographs and conducted interviews for his research on Prince Edward County schools. Title on panel: Commonwealth of Virginia, Prince Edward County: primary and secondary highway systems, January 1, 1961.
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Study of county decision-makers, Prince Edward County, Virginia
A study conducted in 1963 by Dr. Edward H. Peeples, Jr., to discover information about the system of decision-making in Prince Edward County, Va., which led to the school closing and the continued abandonment of public education in the county.
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Tragedy of public schools [Part 1 of 3: Special note to the contemporary reader, 2004] : Prince Edward County, Virginia: a report for the Virginia Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights
Note to the contemporary reader by Edward H. Peeples, Jr., concerning the report for the Virginia Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights.