Virginia's Civil Rights History

Aug 28, 2013

Virginia Civil Rights Memorial at Capitol Square

While the nation reflects on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s "I Have A Dream" speech in Washington, a Virginia historian looks at the Commonwealth’s role in the civil rights movement and where it stands today.  

Virginia may be best known for its Massive Resistance against school integration as the civil rights movement progressed.  The Library of Virginia’s Gregg Kimball says King and some other civil rights leaders confronted racism with events like the March on Washington and bus boycotts. 

But in Virginia, black attorneys such as Spottswood Robinson engaged in a legal battle in Brown vs. Board of Education.  The library has records of the struggle.

Kimball says Virginia still has more work to do to realize King’s "dream."  But the state has its own accomplishments as well.  It was the first in the nation to elect a black governor, and in 2000 Republican Governor Jim Gilmore proposed separating the Lee-Jackson state holiday, finally giving King his own recognition separate from Confederate generals.