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Virginia Lawmakers To Decide On Fate Of Robert E. Lee Statue

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

One of the most fascinating parts of the United States Capitol is its collection of statues. Each of the 50 states has sent two statues representing figures they're proud of. Decades ago, many Southern states sent statues of former Confederate officials, a not-so-subtle symbol of defiance. The rebels still loom in the halls today, but now Virginia may be ready to replace its statue of Robert E. Lee.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And a statue of Barbara Rose Johns could replace him. In 1951, she was a 16-year-old student who led a walkout at Moton High School in Farmville, Va. She was protesting the segregated facilities.

CAMERON PATTERSON: The school was undersized to meet the needs of the Black school age population.

INSKEEP: Cameron Patterson heads a museum located on the grounds where the high school once stood.

PATTERSON: You know, when the students saw what was being provided to white students in this community at Farmville High School, there was certainly a recognition that our community was not meeting the needs of the students here.

MARTIN: The student strike at Moton High caught the attention of NAACP lawyers, who sued the schools. Barbara Rose Johns' case was also part of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. the Board of Education.

PATTERSON: Before the sit-ins in Greensboro, before the Montgomery bus boycott, there was the student strike here in 1951, led by Barbara Johns.

MARTIN: The Virginia General Assembly will vote in January to confirm the statue's placement in the U.S. Capitol.

(SOUNDBITE OF RUDY ROYSTON'S "PRAYER (FOR THE PEOPLE)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.