During the 1890s and early 1900s Virginians often seemed preoccupied with their historical heritage. Societies of Civil War veterans cooperated with the influential United Daughters of the Confederacy to erect monuments commemorating such heroes as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Care was also taken to ensure that the Confederate cause was favorably portrayed in public school textbooks. Meanwhile, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities worked to save and restore colonial and revolutionary-era buildings.
In subsequent decades these attitudes were gradually diluted—weakened by the deaths of those with personal memories of the Confederate past, by the movement into Virginia of many people from other states, and by the pervasive influence of externally produced, nationally oriented magazines, motion pictures, radio broadcasts, and television programs. The result was a more cosmopolitan society that was less firmly rooted in traditional values and beliefs.
Racial attitudes, however, proved resistant to change. For generations black Virginians had confronted a system of segregated—and inferior—schools, libraries, parks, and other public facilities and services. Few could vote, and fewer still enjoyed any kind of political influence. When the civil rights movement gained the national spotlight in the 1950s and 1960s, the state’s blacks protested against racial injustice with sit-ins, marches, and support for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other activist groups.
White opposition to the movement was strongest in the state’s southern region, a traditionally conservative area where the black population was comparatively large. Even there, Virginians of both races avoided the violent clashes that drew national attention to Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi during this period.
Efforts to desegregate Virginia’s public schools provoked bitter controversy, nevertheless. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling against school segregation, in Brown v. Board of Education, Senator Byrd called for “massive resistance” to the decree. This defiant stance ultimately proved futile. Governor J. Lindsay Almond, Jr., broke with the Byrd organization over the issue, and in 1959 several Virginia schools were desegregated. That same year Prince Edward County, in the heart of the southern region, closed its public schools rather than integrate them, the only county in the United States to do so. On order of the U.S. Supreme Court, Prince Edward’s schools finally reopened in 1964. Meanwhile, the integration of Virginia’s educational system proceeded, despite obstacles posed by the rise of segregated private schools and the movement of many white families from increasingly black inner cities to nearby middle-class suburbs. "Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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