Historical society gains grant funding for local African American history projects

The Louisa County High School boys’ basketball team as it appeared in the 1966 high school yearbook, The Core. Two of the 13 Black students who enrolled in the school the previous fall were team members. 

Pictured are, front row, Kenny Lancaster, Coach Lindsay Woolfolk, and George Gordon. Second row: James Ford, Tommy Smith, Steve Montgomery, Dwight Rigsby, Barry Noel, Bobby Marshall, Joe Morris, Andy Woolfolk, Ronnie Laws, Russell Marshall (scorekeeper), Elmo Daniel, Robert Wright.

The Louisa County Historical Society has received a $10,000 grant to remember how school integration began in the fall of 1965. The grant will also support the collection of oral histories focused on African Americans’ stories, and a plan to bring local Black history to classrooms.  

 

The Louisa County Historical Society received a $10,000 grant in the fall of 2020 from the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation’s Community Recovery and Catalyst Grant program to develop and implement a new African American history program. 

The society’s newly-formed community advisory council chose three initiatives as the first projects to be developed through the program in 2021. The society will oversee a remembrance project on the partial integration of Louisa County High School in 1965 under the “Freedom of Choice” Plan, the collection of oral histories that focus on local black history, and the development of a plan to bring local African American history into local classrooms. 

The grant funding will provide staff and resources dedicated to the development of these projects scheduled to commence this month.

In December of 2020, the society hired a program manager, Marilyn Campbell, to oversee the program during its first year. Campbell is a Virginia Commonwealth University alumna in mass communications and has worked with many organizations to foster programs that are African American-centered involving strategic planning, fund development, and genealogical research.  

“Many of the people from Louisa were on the frontline, whether recognized or not,” she said. “They lived marginally but with hopes like many universally, of a better future for their children through education. Their stories tell of the effects segregation had on their families’ lives. The stories are the healing fiber of hearts, minds and souls for America’s future.”

Additionally, LaTika Lee was hired to coordinate the oral history segment and Gabriella Whitefield, a Louisa County High School student, will work with staff to construct a plan for developing resources for local schools based on feedback from school administrators, instructors, and fellow students gathered during the year.  

“I think it’s really important to have local history in schools, and even more so with African American history,” Whitefield said. “That’s why I’m really excited to be able to help bring Louisa history into the main curriculum.” 

Vernon Fleming, a member of the community advisory council, is one of the 13 students who integrated Louisa County High School in 1965. Executive Director  Karleen Kovalcik will work jointly with Fleming on the remembrance project.

The historical society hopes to capture oral narratives through interviews with the students who integrated the high school as well as interviews with other students, teachers, administrators, and members of the community.Their account of events of the time and personal experiences will be captured in interviews and made publicly available through the society’s website and other resources. The project will also involve collecting records and artifacts such as yearbooks, school records, and more to add to the society’s collection.

There is plenty of opportunity for the community to get involved in these projects. Volunteers are wanted to help with these projects as well as people who would like to be interviewed or would like to donate records or artifacts, either originals or copies. For more information, contact Marilyn Campbell at louisahistoryprograms@gmail.com or call the historical society at 540-967-5975.

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