While you are marching Lee’s Retreat, also follow the march of Civil Rights

For those of use tracing the Appomattox Campaign “on the road” these are familiar stops:


But at several places along that same route, we see trail-blazes and markers of another sort:

26 Feb 11 041

I’ve mentioned the Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail a few times before.  That marker series highlights sites across southern Virginia which have significance in the history of education reforms leading the efforts for Civil Rights.  From the Virginia’s Retreat website:

Even after emancipation, African Americans, like Native Americans and women, were denied education equal to white males. Young women were offered no public education beyond the 7th grade, and were denied the foundation allowing them to become teachers or nurses. African American children were denied even the most basic facilities and materials, and came by education only through the efforts of individuals committed to making a difference, sometimes holding class under a tree. Through small, steady steps over decades, the evolution of opportunity came slowly and sometimes at great cost.

Often these markers are co-located with Civil War Trails markers, as at Dinwiddie Court House:

Petersburg 4 Mar 12 136

And I think that co-location, where found, is important.  We see in play there in the photo some of the many layers of history which define that particular site.  We might marvel in the complexity of history as it lays in situ.

But most important, we see a real, physical link in the interpretive thread of Civil War to Civil Rights.  We often try to simplify our story.  We want to graft on Appomattox to Selma as if 100 years in between were just time marked on the line.  In that, we bypass ten-thousand Topekas or Selmas.  Some of those occurred at the same locations where the closing acts of the Civil War played out.  Consider, for instance, the story of Prince Edward County Public Schools at a point 100 years after the armies marched through (an event 100 years from this posting).  I’ve often wished that other counties, regions, and states would pursue similar marker “trails” to showcase how our education system evolved during those first 100+ years after the Civil War.

So, if you are out tracing the march to Appomattox during this 150th anniversary, be on the lookout for the Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail blazes.  Take a moment to read the stories they offer.  Consider them with the full context of what was going on 150 years ago, 100 years ago, and today.

There are about fifty markers in the Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail, and we have most of those in the Historical Marker Database.


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