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Supporting the establishment of a memorial commission to pay tribute to the Civil Rights Movement in Virginia. Report.


Agreed to by the House of Delegates, February 25, 2005
Agreed to by the Senate, February 24, 2005

WHEREAS, the Civil Rights Movement is an event of special historical significance for the Commonwealth and the nation; and

WHEREAS, the Civil Rights Movement secured the constitutional rights of African Americans and other victims of discrimination; and

WHEREAS, many of the most important legal landmarks of the Civil Rights Movement originated in Virginia, including Supreme Court decisions that desegregated interstate transportation, public accommodations, juries, courtrooms, and public schools, and also banned miscegenation laws and restrictive property covenants; and

WHEREAS, notwithstanding the aforementioned civil rights achievements in the Commonwealth, the "doctrine of separate but equal" remained unchallenged for 50 years until in April 1951, the students of Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia, led by 16 year-old Barbara Johns, undertook a strike to protest the longstanding unequal conditions at the school; and

WHEREAS, the protest undertaken by these students led to the federal court case, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, 103 F. Supp. 337 (1952), which was eventually consolidated with four other cases from Delaware, South Carolina, Kansas, and Washington, D.C.; and

WHEREAS, the five consolidated class action lawsuits culminated in one of the most pivotal decisions ever rendered by the United States Supreme Court, as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954); and

WHEREAS, this landmark decision was the catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement and subsequent events in Virginia that influenced the evolution of civil rights in both the Commonwealth and the nation; and

WHEREAS, a memorial to a generation of Virginians who stood up to fight for the truths, freedoms, liberties, and principles upon which the Commonwealth and nation were founded that would acknowledge the courage and determination of the high school students who helped to bring state-sanctioned segregation to an end and celebrate their achievement; and

WHEREAS, it is hoped that the many school groups and other children visiting Capitol Square will be drawn to and take note of the historical significance of the memorial; and

WHEREAS, due to the tremendous sacrifices of many Virginians and others throughout the nation, this era in history culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964, and the 40th anniversary of this historic legislation was commemorated on July 2, 2004; and

WHEREAS, moreover, a memorial to acknowledge the Civil Rights Movement would remind us of the brotherhood of mankind and that we all have the ability to influence and improve the society in which we live; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED by the House of Delegates, the Senate concurring, That the General Assembly support the establishment of a memorial commission to pay tribute to the Civil Rights Movement in Virginia; and, be it

RESOLVED FURTHER, That the Governor be requested to establish a memorial commission that shall consist of the Governor of Virginia who shall serve as Chairman thereof, the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, the Speaker of the House of Delegates, one member of the House of Delegates at-large appointed by the Speaker of the House of Delegates, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules, and three other members to be appointed by the Governor.

The Commission shall study and recommend to the Governor and General Assembly an appropriate memorial in Capitol Square to commemorate the courage and fortitude of Virginians, including the students of Robert Russa Moton High School, and other persons who contributed to or influenced the Civil Rights Movement in Virginia. All agencies of the Commonwealth shall provide assistance to the Commission for this study, upon request.

The Commission shall complete its meetings by November 1, 2005, and shall submit to the Governor and the General Assembly an executive summary and a report of its findings and recommendations for publication as a House or Senate document. The executive summary and report shall be submitted as provided in the procedures of the Division of Legislative Automated Systems for the processing of legislative documents and reports no later than the first day of the 2006 Regular Session of the General Assembly and shall be posted on the General Assembly's website.

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