Reflections on Black History: “Telling One Story” Series Will Chronicle Educational Evolution in Westmoreland County

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Media Contact: Jim Schepmoes
804-493-8038 ext. 8119

For Immediate Release

STRATFORD, VA, (February 1, 2012) -On Saturday, February 25, 2012, from 3 to 5 p.m., the Armistead Tasker Johnson High School Museum (A.T. Johnson Museum), in partnership with the Westmoreland County Museum and Stratford Hall, will present the first of two seminars that will chronicle the evolution of white and black educational opportunities in Westmoreland County from 1653-1958. The program, to be held in the auditorium of the A.T. Johnson museum, is FREE to the public. This will be a family-oriented program and children are encouraged to attend. Light refreshments will be served.

This 2-hour program will highlight the struggles of both white and black communities to overcome the negligence and disparity in educational opportunities from enslavement to 1958. The program will offer a series of stories to explore the changing landscape of public education in Westmoreland County. Following a short intermission, a panel comprised of black and white teachers from the segregated era will speak on the evolution of the “separate but equal” county schools.

The seminars will be moderated by: Marian Ashton, Director of the A.T. Johnson Museum; Alice French, Educational Director of the Westmoreland County Museum; and Mrs. Joyce Clayton, retired teacher and administrator from Westmoreland County Schools. Additional insight for Part I will be offered by John Lewis, history instructor at Washington and Lee High School, and members of his current classes. Panelists will include: Mrs. Marilyn Harvey, Mrs. Betty Bailey, Mrs. Edna Crabbe, Mrs. Elnora Tompkins, Mrs. Emily Tate, and Mrs. Frances Jenkins.

Virginia Department of Education Continuing Education Units (CEUs)for state re-certification will be available for attendance and program presentations.

A second seminar on June 30 will follow a similar format and will focus on events from 1958-to the present.

A Short Overview of County Education:

The educational journey of Westmoreland County began soon after it was formed in 1653. As in most colonial counties of the time, the prevailing attitude among the less than gentrified was that “book learning” was not a priority; survival was simply more important. More commonly, if schooling was available, it often took the form of improvised educational experiences. In many cases parents would voluntarily pay tuition for a teacher to educate their children on an ad hoc basis. Education for children of the enslaved populations was not available and was often legally discouraged.

During the first two centuries, Virginia counties were free to interpret and implement their own public policies about education, which often took many different forms: the common, pauper, field, church, and private schools being just a few types found in Westmoreland County. The overall education climate began to change in 1810 when the Virginia General Assembly enacted the Literary Fund, a state-wide act that put into motion the framework to provide funding for education throughout the state.

Telling One Story, Part I, will explore the historical path toward equal educational opportunity. Though not realized until after 1958, the seeds of this educational equality and opportunity were firmly planted in the communities of Westmoreland County

For more information about this program, please contact organizers Marian Ashton at or(301)520-6796, Alice French at or (804)493-8440, Joyce Clayton at, or Jon Bachman at or (804)493-1972.