Virginia Civil Rights Memorial at Capitol Square


Virginia Civil Rights Memorial at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va.

WHAT: Virginia Civil Rights Memorial at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va. See and listen to a slideshow.

LOCATION: Capitol Square, Northeast Corner near Governor Street entrance.

ARTIST: Stanley Bleifeld.

DEDICATED: July 21, 2008.

DESCRIPTION: Cast in bronze, the 18 figures are slightly larger than life. The wall the statues back up to is 12 feet long, 8 feet high and about 5 feet wide. The $2.6 million granite and bronze memorial was privately financed.

* * *

The following was culled from excerpts of the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s coverage of the statue’s unveiling:

Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson in the Virginia Civil Rights MemorialA Commonwealth once synonymous with defiance of court-ordered school integration celebrated the latest symbol of its often-difficult embrace of equality with the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial in 2008.

It represents a key moment in the history of the civil-rights movement in Virginia.

The statue spotlights the African-American students in rural Prince Edward County whose 1951 walkout to protest their run-down school led to a lawsuit that was folded into the challenge that triggered the 1954 Brown vs. the Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court banning segregated public schools.

Among the figures in the memorial is Oliver W. Hill Sr. holding a rumpled legal brief aloft as he stands shoulder to shoulder with law partner Spottswood W. Robinson III. They took on the case of the Prince Edward County students who protested the shabby condition of their school.

Barbara Johns in the Virginia Civil Rights MemorialBarbara Johns was the one who called the school strike in 1951 and she is a key figure in the sculpture. Her statement “it seemed like reaching for the moon” is boldly featured.

The student protests garnered support from the local community, benefiting from the moral leadership of the Rev. L. Francis Griffin, known as the “Fighting Preacher” and is also featured in the memorial.

A plaque in front of Virginia Civil Rights Memorial reads:

On April 23, 1951, 16-year-old Barbara Johns and several fellow students led a strike to protest the deplorable conditions at their racially segregated Prince Edward County school. The Rev. L. Francis Griffin united parents in support of the strike and encouraged the students to contact NAACP attorneys Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson. The lawsuit that followed was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court and joined with four other cases as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), in which the Court ruled that racially separate educational systems are inherently unequal and unconstitutional.

This memorial is dedicated to these Virginians and countless others who courageously fought for the principles upon which the nation and this Commonwealth were founded.

Virginia Civil Rights Memorial at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. It’s an awesome article for all the online viewers; they will get advantage from it I am sure.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Bob Faesy on January 27, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    What a masterful execution of a very important story! Thanks to the sculptor, Stanley Bleifeld, for this thoughtful and appropriate piece. Richmond must be proud to have this monument.

    Reply

  3. Posted by R. S. O'Connor on November 27, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    We visited your city for the purpose of running the marathon. As we walked around the Capitol area I was very impressed and moved by the statues, architecture, and overall beauty. As can be expected, we saw the usual Civil War statues, and the Arthur Ashe statue on Monument Dr.. However, it was the Civil Rights Memorial that particularly stuck in my head. I have told all friends, runners or not, that Richmond is a great destination. We look forward to returning.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Glenn in Chester on January 21, 2010 at 11:40 am

    I still have not made it downtown to see this memorial. I was told it was wasn’t that great, but it looks good with these pics. Very important step in our state’s history.

    Reply

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