School Interrupted

Subject: School Desegregation in Virginia (1950-1970)
Themes: 20th Century Civil Rights Education Young Activists
Age groups: Middle School High School
Resource type: Video

School Interrupted  is a video produced by VPM (Virginia Public Media) in 2020,  as part of its multi-season series The Future of American's Past


The Supreme Court decision outlawing school segregation began with a student strike in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Justice didn’t follow that ruling — white officials in Prince Edward County closed public schools rather than integrate. Host Ed Ayers learns about the drama that unfolded through conversations with two of the student strikers [Joy Cabarrus Speakes and Rev. Samuel Williams, Jr., fellow students of Barbara Johns]. He discovers how black women activists defied the school closures by starting grassroots schools, and he meets an author whose grandfather helped start a whites-only “segregation academy.” In a museum at the school that started it all, Ed talks with a descendant of strikers who inspires students today to take up the fight for justice.

View full 27-minute video here