Moton holds annual Barbara Rose Johns Day celebration

The Robert Russa Moton Museum was abuzz with activity on Tuesday, April 23 as the facility hosted the Farmville Guided Tour Guides Project 2024. This student-led field experience marked the beginning of a profound day dedicated to learning and commemoration in honor of Barbara Rose Johns Day.

The morning’s highlight was a Q&A panel with distinguished figures from the Civil Rights movement, including Moton striker and Brown v. Board of Education plaintiff, Mrs. Joan Johns Cobbs; former Moton student Bob Hamlin, who was impacted by the Prince Edward School closing; Charlottesville plaintiff, Mr. Charles Alexander; Warren County plaintiffs, Ms. Ann Rhodes Baltimore and Ms. Geraldine Rhodes Smith; and Norfolk 17’s Dr. Patricia Turner.

Adding to the day’s excitement, the Good Morning America team, led by senior national correspondent Steve Osunsami, was on hand to do interviews, give autographs, and take selfies.

As the day unfolded, the Moton Auditorium transformed into a setting of elegance and historical significance, thanks to Juanomi’s Vision, which adorned the space in hues of purple and gold for the Barbara Rose Johns Day banquet.

The collaborative effort between Kya Carter, a senior at Longwood University, and the Moton Museum staff welcomed notable guests such as Julie Langan, Director of the Virginia Department for Historic Resources, and Margi Vanderhye from the Commission for Historical Statues in the U.S. Capitol. Their panel discussion centered on the upcoming induction of the Barbara Rose Johns statue, adding a layer of historical enrichment to the day. Barbara Johns’ family, including her brother Robert Johns, contributed valuable insights, bridging past and present.

As evening approached, the atmosphere was charged with a sense of unity and remembrance. The gospel choir B.A.S.I.C. set a reflective tone with their uplifting musical selections. Jocelyn Watson, a Longwood University student and Moton Legacy Scholarship recipient, enthralled the audience with her heartfelt remarks. The emotional depth of the evening deepened with a poignant original poem by Hampden-Sydney student Demario-Quintel Lonzer and was further elevated by an inspiring speech from Longwood student Amari Jordon and a compelling presentation by Layla Edmonds, a dynamic young voice, and recent Moton Bridge Builder graduate.

The day’s events culminated in a powerful rendition of “We Shall Overcome” by B.A.S.I.C., creating a moment of profound solidarity and song that lingered in the hearts of all who attended.

Moton officials said the day not only honored the legacy of Barbara Rose Johns but also underscored the museum’s commitment to educating and inspiring future generations. 

“We are deeply grateful to all the participants, speakers, and organizers who contributed to the richness of this memorable day,” said Jill Ahmad, Moton’s Assistant Director of Marketing and Community Engagement.