This July here at VCU, the Encampment for Citizenship relaunches its celebrated summer youth program, which has been on hiatus for more than 10 years. From July 1 through 15, high-school students from around the country are gathering to attend special workshops on social and political issues, visit historic sites in Richmond and the surrounding area and participate in activities designed to foster a deeper understanding of democracy.
On Saturday, July 13, the Encampment will host an evening event of lively discussions among the students and alumni from earlier years about their experiences in the program, in addition to special musical entertainment featuring, among others, Jane Sapp, acclaimed singer-songwriter and cultural worker with deep roots in the gospel music traditions of the American South. The event, which will be free and open to the public, will be held at 7 p.m. in the Richmond Salons of the VCU Student Commons, located at 901 Floyd Ave. For details, contact EFCYouthProgram@gmail.com.
The Encampment was started in 1946 by activists Algernon D. Black, leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture, and Alice K. Pollitzer, a member of the Ethical Culture Movement. The Encampment grew rapidly to a nationally prominent organization, attracting socially conscious youths from all backgrounds, and gained support from the likes of Eleanor Roosevlt, John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Just a few of the many distinguished alumni of the Encampment are Gale Brewer, Ada Deer, Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz, Barney Frank, William Haddad, David Harris, Allard Lowenstein, Jean McGuire, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Charles Patterson, David Rothenberg, Hal Sieber and Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman. View pictures of past Encampment groups in the Encampment's promotional YouTube video.
Innocence Project co-founder and co-director Peter Neufeld, who spoke at this past spring's VCU Libraries Black History Month Lecture (see the video here), is an alumnus of the Encampment, as is Dr. Edward H. Peeples, VCU associate professor emeritus and VCU Friends of the Library Board emertius member, who has been a lifelong advocate of civil rights. Dr. Peeples describes the Encampment as "the most affirming experience of my life ... The strength for a lifetime of struggle for justice was poured into me. I found that I had become a member of a world-wide communion of other justice seekers and thus was never again to be alone."
Thanks to the assistance of Dr. Peeples, James Branch Cabell Library Special Collections and Archives is now home of the archives of the Encampment. The archives do much to tell the history of this storied educational program. See the online finding aid.