These photographs were taken during the summer of 1963 to document protests conducted as part of a "Program of Action" undertaken by the African-American community in Farmville, Virginia. Led by The Rev. L Francis Griffin, the mostly student protesters spoke out against the discriminatory practices of local businesses and churches, and Prince Edward County’s four-year long closure of public schools in defiance of court-ordered desegregation. Many people were arrested and there was much tension during the summer, but the Program of Action never resulted in the violence seen in Danville, Virginia and Birmingham, Alabama.
By summer's end, the NAACP-sponsored Prince Edward Free Schools opened and students were at last able to go to school. The Free Schools opened on Monday, September 16, 1963, one day after the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham. The following year, following the Supreme Court ruling in ruling in Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Prince Edward County public schools opened to all students.
The images were intended to be used by law enforcement as evidence; consequently, protesters are often seen responding directly to the camera. Onlookers, passersby, and personnel from newspapers and other media organizations are also captured in the photos.
The Freedom Now Project is organized into sets by protest location. The images are presented by VCU Libraries in the hopes that we might better identify the people in these historic photographs. Comments, including remembrances of these events, are encouraged and appreciated. To date, more than 60 people have been identified in these photographs. VCU Libraries is grateful to all who have contributed their time and assistance to this work.
Please note that any comments left on this website are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License and will become part of the historic record.
If you have questions or relevant information that you do not wish to share here, please feel free to contact project manager, Alice W. Campbell at freedomnowproject.vculibraries [at] gmail.com
Thank you for you interest and your help. We hope you enjoy exploring these photos, and will find them a witness to the courage and perseverance that moved America closer to her promise of justice for all.
The Freedom Now Project is presented by VCU Libraries, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.
Special thanks to all who contributed to the creation of this project: Erin White, Sam Byrd, Mary Anne Dyer, Wesley Chenault, Sue Robinson, Brian Lee, Brian Daugherity, and John Ulmschneider.
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