50th anniversary march planned
It was news to Wanda Morrison that her native Lunenburg County saw a civil rights march in 1966 over voting registration. But once she found out, she knew it was something that had to be shared and recognized.
Now, Morrison is helping plan a 50th anniversary march to commemorate the one from August 1966 that took 290 people – 180 children and 110 adults – along a four-mile trek from Victoria’s First Baptist Church to the courthouse, concluding at nearby Tussekiah Baptist Church.
The commemoration is planned for Aug. 13, 2016. Morrison has already solicited support — including law enforcement and rescue squad — from the county’s supervisors and the councils of Kenbridge and Victoria. She would also like the school system to be involved as well, noting, “I know the kids coming along know even less about what happened in the 60s.”
The march was planned to protest the need to extend voter registration hours, Morrison said. Registration was basically during business hours “when most farmers and sharecroppers were working,” she said. However, shortly before the march, officials voluntarily extended the hours.
“I would like to think it was because they said, ‘We need to do the right thing,’” Morrison said. “On the other hand, (maybe) they thought it would head off the protest.”
The march went on, but instead of being in protest it was to celebrate.
Morrison, who left the county in 1978 after she finished Central High School to go to college and moved back in 2009, was stunned when she read about the march in the book “The Lake Effect,” by Terry and Bill Monnie.
“I thought, where was I when all of this was going on?” she said. She may have only been a child at the time of the march, but it bothered that growing up she also never heard any mention of it.
At the time of the original march, race relations in the county reflected the nation, Morrison said.
“Race relations were strained at the time,” she said. “The Klu Klux Klan existed in the county.”
Civil rights workers, many white, came to the area to help locals in their struggle for equality, she said. Morrison said she has spoken to some march participants, who said they were scared, “but they said it had to be done because there had to be a change.””
Supervisor Edward Pennington was a teenager at the time and participated in the march.
“I really wasn’t scared,” said Pennington, who was elected to the Victoria town council in 1988 and served on that body until being elected a supervisor in 2001. “We knew it was something that needed to be done, from listening to the adults. Seeing it now, I could see it was going to be part of history.”
Morrison and Pennington said the anniversary event will provide a showcase what the county is.
“I think it’s important for Lunenburg County because we don’t always see the good things that happen in the county,” Morrison said. “This march shows things have changed in Lunenburg County.”
Added Pennington, “Lunenburg County is a very good county. We have had a lot of people work together to make this county what it is today.”