Beginnings of racial integration recalled with historical marker

Vernon Fleming, a member of Louisa County Historical Society’s board of directors, presented a historic marker to the Louisa County Board of Supervisors at the Oct. 7 meeting that explains the events that led to and followed the integration of 13 African American students in Louisa County Public Schools. 

“The purpose of the Freedom of Choice project is to capture the decisions that led to the partial integration of Louisa County High School in 1965,” said Fleming. 

He was one of the 13 Black students who began attending the high school that school year. The process took place 11 years after the United States Supreme Court deemed racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. 

At the time, state and local government officials tried to keep the schools segregated. But with help from parents and other community members and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the students were finally able to attend the high school. The integration process for the entire school system was not completed until 1970.

The 13 students had previously attended all-Black elementary schools or A.G. Richardson High School, located where Thomas Jefferson Elementary School is today. All 13 went on to graduate with their respective classes at Louisa County High School.

Fleming and other volunteers with the historical society felt the best way to honor the significance of integration would be to place a marker outside of the high school. 

Fleming worked with schools Superintendent Doug Straley, County Administrator Christian Goodwin, high school Principal Lee Downey, and members of the Louisa County School Board to determine the best location for the marker. 

“We did present to the school board and they overwhelmingly supported the placement of the marker,” said Fleming. 

He expressed his desire to have the marker placed at the school in February in honor of Black History Month. The total cost for the marker was estimated at $3,055. 

After Fleming’s presentation, Supervisor Duane Adams (Mineral District) said Sheriff Donald Lowe and members of Community Strong have decided to pay half the cost of the marker. Community Strong is a project of the sheriff’s office and other community groups to improve relations between law enforcement and Black residents. 

Supervisor Tommy Barlow (Mountain Road) motioned for the board to cover the other half of the marker’s cost. The board voted unanimously in favor.

“The objective is to not rewrite history but rather to shine a light on something that was significant in the county,” said Fleming.

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