12 May, 2021
A civil rights road trip through the heart of Virginia

A civil rights road trip through the heart of Virginia

First day: Appomattox & Lynchburg

In Appomattox, Virginia, visit the Carver Price Legacy Museum. The museum documents the history of Carver-Price High School, the high school for black students during segregation. In 1959, Prince Edward County closed its entire school system instead of integrating students, and schools remained closed until 1964. During that time, Black Prince Edward County’s students were seeking education in other counties, and Carver-Price enrollment rose to over 50 students per classroom. In 1964, eleven classrooms, an auditorium and a new library were added to Carver-Price High School. Tours can be arranged by filling out the online form.

Three minutes from the Carver Price Legacy Museum is historic Camp Winonah, home of Mozella Price. Mozella Jordan Price was instrumental in improving the education and quality of life of black residents. She opened her home as an intermediate school when the local elementary school burned down and she was foster parents for many children. Visitors can tour their home, learn about their legacy and history of Camp Winonah, and view original camp artifacts.

After the museum, drive about 30 km to Barb’s dream hut and try the burger or one of the typical breakfasts. Barb’s is located in the Lynchburg Community Market, where owner Barb has been offering breakfast and lunch options for more than 34 years.

Save space for a lemon donut at Mrs. Joy’s Absolutely Fabulous Treats.

After your meal, take some time to stroll around Lynchburg in the Pierce Street Historic District. This is a small two block walkway that is most notable primarily to the people who once lived there rather than the actual buildings.

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Visit the Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum to learn about Edward, the first black parcel postman in Lynchburg, and his wife Anne, a civil rights activist.

1422 Pierce St is the property that was the launch pad for the first Black Major Tennis Champion. Here, Dr. Robert Walter Johnson has been black players from his personal seats for more than two decades. Among those players were Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson. In 2002 the property was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Walk or drive past the property to see Dr. Honor Johnson.

Day two: Danville

Stop at the today Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History, a former Confederate President headquarters that has been converted into a library. Student protests took place in the museum in the 1960s.

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Photo credit: David Hungate

Next, head over to Soul Food Express and grab a fish plate. There are actually 3 locations in Danville; The original is located at 258 Nor-Dan Dr, Danville, VA 24540. Your portions are huge!

Now is the time to burn some calories! Head to the Danville Riverwalk Trail. Either on foot or by bike on this 9 mile trail that runs along the Dan River.

Time to cash out at Mas Cakes on Wendell Scott Drive. Wendell Scott was the first Black Nascar driver born here in Danville. Wendell started driving on the Dixie Circuit because he wasn’t allowed to drive in Nascar. He was later inducted into the Nascar Hall of Fame. Mas Cakes, owned by Mary and Charles Walker, is a legend in the area. Grab a piece of cake or a whole cake. Check their Facebook page for hours and updates.

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Another treat could be a great pint of craft beer. There are always many options at Ballad Brewing.

Third day: Petersburg

Today you will spend the day south of Richmond in Petersburg. The Petersburg area is rich in the experience and legacy of Black Americans, from early settlers to civil rights. In the early 1800s, Petersburg had the largest population of free black citizens in the south. These liberated black Americans were instrumental in helping enslaved blacks in the area escape via the subway.

Drive by first or take a stroll and stop at the building on Fillmore Street and Harrison Street. This is Virginia’s first public high school for black students and one of the oldest in the south.

Would you like to see the oldest black church in North America? “First Baptist is the oldest church in North America,” said Julian Greene Jr., historian for the First Baptist Church. “Before there was a Declaration of Independence, before there was a US Constitution, before there was a Continental Army, there was a first Baptist.” Tour the First Baptist Church and hear the stories of Julian Greene by calling the church direct.

Visit Virginia State University (VSU). It was the first fully federally funded four-year college for black Americans. VSU is the parent institution of Norfolk State University. With a student population of around 4,000, the university has beautiful landscapes that overlook the Appomattox River.

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Croaker’s Spot opens daily at 11 a.m. Mr Croaker wanted to create his own place to get the best soul food in the Petersburg region. Try the Hot Buttered Soul Wedges and a crew of fried oysters.

After your meal, visit the Pocahontas Island Black History Museum, once a subway stop.

Visit Virginia Motorsports Park about 10 miles from the museum. It’s a 500-acre facility that houses drag racing, motocross, tractor trains, and a new family ATV park.

Drive back to Petersburg for a dinner of Charlotte’s chicken and waffles.

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You can find more information about civil rights in Virginia in a brochure.

A civil rights road trip through the heart of Virginia first appeared on Virginia’s travel blog.

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