Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2010

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission

October 4 and December 7, 2010

The many initiatives of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission are designed to perpetuate Dr. King’s dream of the “Beloved Community” in Virginia, and to educate citizens concerning the totality of Dr. King beyond his place in history as a great civil rights leader and peacemaker. Working with The King Center in Atlanta, the Commission’s efforts include familiarizing the public with Dr. King’s work as a scholar, prolific writer, philosopher, historian, educator, humanitarian, gifted orator, theologian, and a man of deep faith. The Commission has also designed its work to emphasize Dr. King’s passion for lifelong learning and history, commitment to democracy and freedom, social and economic justice, fiscal responsibility, public and community service, faith and traditional values, sound and equitable public policies that promote employment, housing, public safety, health care, national security, successful international relations and global competitiveness, science and technology, and human dignity for all persons.

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission and its subcommittees met on October 4 in Norfolk, and on December 7 in Charlottesville to complete the planning for the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, review collaborative projects with institutions of higher education and various organizations, and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the closing of public schools (Massive Resistance) in Virginia. The Commission’s subcommittees reported their recommendations to the Commission at each meeting.

Partnership and Expenditure Review Subcommittee

The Partnership and Expenditure Review Subcommittee, chaired by Dr. Kirk T. Schroder, has been tasked with reviewing proposals for collaboration with various agencies and entities with which the Commission shares mutual goals and advising the Commission regarding the feasibility and appropriateness of such arrangements, and whether they enhance the Commission’s work and assist it in furthering its mission. The subcommittee recommended that the Commission pursue the following collaborative projects in 2010:

  • Lincoln Homestead in Rockingham County, to work with the Lincoln Society of Virginia to preserve the historic homestead of Abraham Lincoln’s family in Virginia.
  • Lincoln in Petersburg, Phase III, to commemorate the Bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln and his visit to Petersburg in April 1865.
  • Northside High School Museum Committee for the preservation of formerly all-Black schools in Virginia.
  • “They Closed Our Schools,” Prince Edward County documentary and book, to publish the account of desegregation in Prince Edward County.
  • Robert Russa Moton Museum, Phase III, to relate the Prince Edward County story during Massive Resistance.
  • Desegregation of Virginia Education (DOVE) Project at Old Dominion University to catalog for the purpose of preserving public records and promoting scholarship on Virginia’s desegregation history.
  • Lincoln Symposium, to commemorate the Bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln and his visit to Richmond in April 1865.

Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Subcommittee

Dr. Robert C. Vaughan, III, subcommittee chair and Executive Director of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy, reported that the Lincoln Symposium, a two-day event in Richmond consisting of a reception and lecture by Dr. Edna Greene Medford, a renowned Lincoln scholar, at the State Capitol and a site visit and meeting at the American Civil War Center at Tredegar, its partner for the Symposium, was immensely successful. This commemorative event, a part of the national Lincoln Bicentennial, launched the Commission's commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. The Commission, through the subcommittee, issued a statement on the relevance of the Commission’s endeavor and the commonalities between Dr. King and Abraham Lincoln. Commission plans for the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation are well under way and include among other things:

  • Slave Burial Ground/African American Cemetery Project with the Institute for Historical Biology at the College of William and Mary.
  • Symposium on the Legacy of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Reconstruction Amendments.
  • Exhibit of the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln’s pen with which he signed the document.
  • Emancipation Proclamation Jubilee.
  • Symphonic tribute.
  • Commemorative license plate.
  • Support of the Spielberg movie on Lincoln.
  • Preservation of the Lincoln Homestead.
  • Educational and cultural activities.
  • Scholarly writings and editorials.
  • Lincoln in Petersburg, Phase III.

The Special Subcommittee on the 50th Anniversary of Public School Closings (Massive Resistance)

The Special Subcommittee is co-chaired by Senator Henry L. Marsh, III, Commission Chairman and Delegate Rosalyn R. Dance, Chairwoman of the Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship Committee. As a part of the commemoration of this historic event, the Commission and the Committee have agreed to meet jointly in each of the localities in which public schools were closed to avoid desegregation after the landmark Brown decision. The Commission began its commemoration with a town hall in Warren County, in which the subject of the closing of Warren County High School had not been discussed by residents since the closing of the school 50 years ago. The meetings in Norfolk and Charlottesville also featured a town hall to promote public dialogue concerning the effect and legacy of the public policy of Massive Resistance in each locality and throughout the Commonwealth. The co-chairs reported that students, as well as local elected officials, businessmen, educators, and citizens who were directly affected by the public policy, participated in the deliberations, which were often tense, insightful, and reflective. Several of the town hall participants shared intimately the immediate and long-term effects of Massive Resistance, stating that many persons lost an education, jobs, family, and friends due to racial animus and the divisiveness within communities. Other participants cautioned the Commission that many wounds have not healed, that persistent social ills agitate and exacerbate underlying problems resulting from Virginia’s and America’s past, and that too often policy makers and leaders marginalize minority concerns and fail to see the nexus between the past and the present. Concern was expressed about the need to ensure that students and prospective teachers are taught an unvarnished American history, and that emphasis be placed on reconciliation among the races, addressing the educational needs of students, and reversing disturbing social trends that affect high school graduation and college admissions and persistence. The Special Subcommittee will conclude its work and the commemoration in 2011, with meetings and town halls in Arlington and Prince Edward County, and a final event in Richmond.

Other Responsibilities and Events

The Commission agreed to co-sponsor the African American Teaching Fellows program in 2011, in which qualified minority classroom teachers are recruited for Virginia’s public schools. In addition, the Commission voted to incorporate in its commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, relevant objectives of House Bill 1200 (2010), which would have established the Slavery Commission. As a part of its duties to lead the King Holiday in Virginia, the Commission agreed to co-sponsor the Community Leaders Breakfast again in January 2011, promote community service, and participate in The King Center’s Salute to Greatness Celebration and the year-long programs of Living the Dream, Inc., which promotes the legacy of Dr. King in the Commonwealth. It was the consensus of the Commission to request an appropriate state organization to consider planning the observance of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in America. Also included on the Commission’s work plan, in addition to its on-going responsibilities, is support for the annual Emancipation Proclamation Observance in January 2011 in Richmond.

The Hon. Henry L. Marsh, III

For information, contact:
Brenda Edwards, DLS Staff

Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2010