Sponsored by the College’s history department, “Reconciliation and Reparations: The Prince Edward Story” brought back to campus two Hampden-Sydney alumni who have tirelessly worked to document Prince Edward’s role in the civil rights movement, from the first student protest in 1951, to the closing of public schools in 1959, to the economic reparations approved by the Virginia General Assembly in 2004. A cross section of area residents, Hampden-Sydney students, and College faculty and staff members gathered in Crawley Forum to hear remarks from documentarian and photographer Brian Grogan ’73 and former newspaper editor and activist Ken Woodley ’79, both of whom have recently published books on the topic.
A history major while at Hampden-Sydney, Grogan offered an engaging historical overview of Prince Edward County with a focus on five years of shuttered schools and the immediate aftermath in the local community. Woodley, who earned his degree in English at H-SC, presented an impassioned and highly personal plea for the ongoing work toward lasting reconciliation in both Prince Edward County and the nation at large. The two alumni were introduced by Dr. Ronald Heinemann, Squires Professor Emeritus of History at the College.
Grogan is co-editor of A Little Child Shall Lead Them, an anthology of primary sources that spans a century of race relations in the region, as well as producer of They Closed Our Schools, a documentary film project still in production. The 60 documents assembled in Grogan’s book include personal letters, legal cases, and even newspaper editorials, and the collection presents all political and racial perspectives, from those calling for the school closure to those most affected by the closings—some 3,000 local students denied an education.
Speaking from the perspective of a photographer and a documentarian, Grogan meticulously laid the groundwork leading up to the school closure and the eventual reopening five years later. “In writing and recounting history, it is far too easy in the grand sweep of events to lose sight of individual stories,” said Grogan, who interwove the historical scope of the Prince Edward events with stories of individual trial and triumph.