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Museum tells story of segregated education in Virginia County – The Virginian-Pilot

Spotsylvania, Virginia — With just a few weeks left of summer vacation, supporters of the John J. Wright Educational and Cultural Center Museum want families to take their kids to learn about the history of segregated education in Spotsylvania County.

Spotsylvania NAACP president and local pastor Mo Petway said: “This museum is important to the long memory of John J. Wright and his school. This is the history of the people of Spotsylvania County.”

Located just off Courthouse Road, the center was built in 1952 and was Spotsylvania’s only public high school for black citizens. The 1952 building replaced an older building that had been educating black students since 1913.

Originally named the Snell Training School, the school was founded in 1940 by the Spotsylvania Sunday School Association (12 African Americans originally organized to establish a secondary school for black children in 1905). It was renamed for John J. Wright, an advocate for education who led the United Churches. .

In 1968, when the Spotsylvania schools were consolidated, the last class of high school seniors graduated from John J. Wright. After consolidation, the school became a secondary school serving all students until its closure in 2006.

After renovations, it reopened in 2008 as an educational and cultural center. The museum tells the story of the building and showcases artifacts from his century-long education and daily life in Spotsylvania.

But museums do more than just tell stories of the past. The collection recently accepted a proclamation issued this year by the County Oversight Board in honor of Juneteenth, the day that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans, which was first recognized as a federal holiday last year. rice field.

Board of Trustees member Deborah Frazier, the first black woman elected to the board, visited the museum, read the proclamation, and presented it to Lenny Beverly, chair of the museum’s board of directors.

“This is about a black celebration in Spotsylvania,” said Frazier. “We cannot forget our history, nor can we make others forget it.”

The museum also showcases the work of Carlos Moore, a longtime teacher of county schools, including John J. Wright.

Moore’s work on display includes paintings and mixed-media sculptures on themes of religion and social justice. The civil rights movement decades ago and Black in recent years His Lives A collage made up of images of his Matter protests, pages of hymns from the local black church, which Moore calls “his baby.” There is one of his works (officially named “Sold, 1769”). “

The work is a doll-sized figure completely wrapped in black canvas and covered with chains. Moore said he felt like the figure was resisting being chained until he used a gold necklace.

“It was as if he was saying to me, ‘Let me see Your Majesty,'” Moore said, so the finished work would challenge the viewer to both the inhumanity of slavery and the humanity of individual slaves. face the

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Beverley said the goal of the John J. Wright Museum is to teach people about the past so that knowledge can help them in the future.

That’s also the goal of the John J. Wright Alumni Association, which recently gathered for its first annual reunion since 2019.

Alumni president Lena Henderson attended John J. Wright in the 1970s when it was the only middle school in the county.

“You had to meet everyone else from the other side of the county,” she said.

John J. Wright has always been a place where people from different parts of Spotsylvania came together and paved the way forward, Henderson said.

We still do, through our reunions and museums.

“We’re walking on other people’s shoulders,” Henderson said.