“It was time that Negroes were treated equally with whites, time that they had a decent school, time for the students themselves to do something about it. There wasn’t any fear. I just thought — this is your moment. Seize it!”
A statue of Barbara Rose Johns, who at the age of 16 led a student walkout at Moton High School in Farmville protesting the conditions of her all-Black school compared to a nearby school for white students, was chosen to replace the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee at the U.S. Capitol. If approved by the General Assembly, Johns would the only teenager represented in the collection that honors Americans from all 50 states.
“As a teenager[in 1951], Barbara Johns bravely led a protest that defied segregation and challenged the barriers that she and her African American peers faced, ultimately dismantling them,” Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said while making the announcement. “I am proud that her statue will represent Virginia in the U.S. Capitol, where her idealism, courage, and conviction will continue to inspire Virginians, and Americans, to confront inequities and fight for meaningful change now and for generations to come.”
Johns’ protest led to the lawsuit that resulted in the historic Brown v. Board of Education that declared segregation unconstitutional.
She was chosen from a list of five finalists that included Maggie Walker, John Mercer Langston, and Pocahontas.
Statue of Lee and President George Washington had represented Virginia at the U.S. Capitol since 1909.
The Lee statue will be removed from the United States Capitol in the coming days.
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