Seeking Closure on Closings
Aid Delayed for Victims of Brown-Era Shutdowns
Virginia lawmakers believed they were making history in June by approving $1 million in scholarships for African-Americans who had suffered gaps in their education decades ago when their local public schools closed rather than enroll blacks.
But thousands of potential recipients still await information on how to seek the financial aid, which could be used for General Educational Development programs or classes at community colleges or four-year institutions.
Sen. Benjamin J. Lambert III, a Democrat from Richmond who co-sponsored the scholarship bill, said that it has taken some time to get the details of the program’s implementation ironed out. He also blamed some of the delay on what he sees as unforeseen flaws in the program.
Yet while he plans to seek legislative modifications—such as an extension in funding beyond 2008 and the inclusion of private as well as state-run colleges—he said last week that the program is now poised to get off the ground.
Applications for the Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship Program and Fund will be available later this month at post offices, churches, and other locations, especially in Prince Edward County, Va., he said. Schools in the county were closed for five years in the late 1950s and early 1960s to keep black students from enrolling. The lawsuit to desegregate the county’s schools was among several that were consolidated into the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
“The money’s there,” Sen. Lambert said, noting that the Charlottesville, Va., philanthropist John Kluge is matching the state’s $1 million contribution.
The kickoff of the application process is good news for Virginians who were hurt by the school closings. They include Rita Moseley. a secretary at Prince Edward County High School—a campus she was once denied the chance to attend. Ms. Moseley wants to take business classes at a community college in her hometown of Farmville.
Still, Ms. Moseley wishes the state would extend the program to current out-of-state residents who were students in Prince Edward County during the closings. Now the program is for Virginia residents only.
“It changed everything about our lives,” Ms. Moseley said of the ordeal over desegregation.
Vol. 24, Issue 12, Page 17