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Sept. 10 event, new digital collection look back at 1963 civil rights protests

August 22, 2013

VCU Libraries Digital Collections

Historians Brian J. Daugherity, assistant professor of history at VCU, and Brian E. Lee, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, visit the James Branch Cabell Library's Special Collections and Archives for a talk at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 10, about their article "Program of Action: The Rev. L. Francis Griffin and the Struggle for Racial Equality in Farmville, 1963," in the current issue of Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. The talk is free and open to the public, and a reception follows.

In the article the historians make use of several images from a new VCU Libraries digital collection of photographs documenting civil rights protests in Farmville in the summer of 1963. The images in the collection show dozens of Prince Edward County African-American students and others using an array of protest tactics to draw attention to racial discrimination.

The protesters were demanding that local and state authorities eliminate racial segregation in public facilities and reopen the public schools in the county which had been closed since 1959 to avoid integration. Rev. L. Francis Griffin, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmville, organized the protests. Protesters called their summer of protests a "Program of Action."

Many of these activities are documented in this collection of images. Many of the black and white photographs were taken by J.D. Crute, an amateur photographer hired by the Farmville Police Department, under the supervision of Police Chief Otto Smith Overton, who served 42 years before retiring in 1996. These police surveillance photographs were intended to be used in court as evidence against many of the protesters who were arrested and jailed. Currently the originals are in a private collection.

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