At the Crossroads
Red, white, and blue signs marking historic Civil War sites are as common as stop signs amid the rolling farmlands of this southern Virginia community. The war took its last official gasp in and around this county. The final big battle of the war, fought 20 minutes east of here at Sayler's Creek, killed more than 3,000 Confederate stalwarts. And Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant spent the night in Farmville, the Prince Edward County seat, before heading to Appomattox Court House 28 miles away for the formal surrender.
Nearly 100 years later, the white people of the county were still tilting at some of the same windmills. This time, the enemy was the U.S. Supreme Court.
A school desegregation case that originated here was one of the five decided by the high court on the watershed day in 1954 when it handed down its ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. But rather than bend to the will of the federal court as the other communities involved in the legal fight eventually did, Prince Edward County closed its public schools--and kept them padlocked...
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