Our Exhibits

Photographer Russell “Rip” Payne (1916-1990) captured this historic moment one afternoon as children left an integrated public school for the first time in Charlottesville. Like most of the former Confederate South in the wake of the May 17, 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, white leaders in Virginia pledged a protest of “massive resistance” against any effort to desegregate public schools. On September 19, 1958, rather than accept integration, Virginia Governor Lindsay Almond ordered the all-white public schools closed in select communities, which included the City of Charlottesville. The move attracted national press attention. It was not until September 8, 1959, owing to a court order, that the schools were at last desegregated and children of color began to attend the formerly all-white schools in Charlottesville: nine at Venable Elementary and three at Lane High School, known collectively as “the Charlottesville Twelve.”