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Reminiscing on civil rights

I guess like most people when I think of the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, I think of the bigger, watershed moments.

I think of the Selma to Montgomery marches. It was these marches, and the violence inflicted on its participants, that highlighted to the nation just why the Voting Rights Act was needed.

Of course, I also think about my hometown of Greensboro, N.C., and my fellow aggies of North Carolina A&T State University who started the sit-ins. It became a national movement.

And, I am certainly familiar with how the Prince Edward County desegregation suit was one of those combined to become the famous Brown v. Board of Education case in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down segregated schools; and, how in Prince Edward opponents of desegregation closed the schools for five years rather than desegregate them. I have to admit that what I don’t think about when I think of the civil rights struggle is Lunenburg County. And, yet, it does have its history.

In August 1966, 180 children and 110 adults marched four miles from Victoria to the courthouse area. Originally, they were going to protest the limited hours available for voter registration.

It wasn’t considered a coincidence that registration was basically during business hours when most black farmers and sharecroppers were working. But shortly before the march, the electoral board extended the hours. In response, what was going to be a protest turned into a march of gratitude and a “thank you!”

A 50th anniversary march is being planned for Aug. 13, to commemorate it. Proponents are already lining up support from the county and its towns, and would like to get the school children involved.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised there was a march. The civil rights struggled wasn’t a series of big battles, but small, daily struggles for respect. For every Rev. Martin Luther King, there were local community activists and a thousand nameless marchers. There were people who were fired and lived in fear of being fired, or worse — and for some the worst happened, too.

No, it may not have been Selma, but the significance of the Lunenburg march is that it happened. Let us not forget it was considered necessary. In the end, we need to remember that there are always men, women and children willing to stand up not for a place in history, but for right.

Jamie Ruff is a reporter for The Kenbridge-Victoria Dispatch. He can be reached at jamie.ruff@kvdispatch.com.