Close up photos show what police saw during Farmville civil rights protests

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – In the summer of 1963, civil rights protests in Farmville, Va. marked the town’s reaction to Prince Edward County’s 1959 decision to close schools instead of desegregating them.

Now VCU Libraries released its digital collection of more than 200 photos taken during the protests and created The Freedom Now Project. The photos were taken by a photographer hired by Farmville Police to use as evidence in case any arrests were made.

“Since the photographs were taken for the police, demonstrators may often be seen reacting to the camera, revealing some of the emotional and psychological tension present during this period of non-violent civil dissent,” Freedom Now Project organizers said. “[This is] the largest collection of the Farmville protest photos ever made publicly available online.”

“The photographs in the Freedom Now Project make a significant contribution to our understanding of a very important event in the history of Virginia and the nation,” Alice Campbell, a VCU Libraries digital initiatives archivist, said. “By sharing them on Flickr, we hope to reach a broad audience – which could be anyone from primary school students to researchers, citizens of Farmville, the commonwealth of Virginia, or anywhere in the world.”

“We hope that, by opening the collection up to comments, we can learn more about the people and events depicted, thereby increasing the collection’s value for future research, and preserving a record of Americans whose persistence and bravery helped move the nation closer to the promise of justice for all,” she said.

Click here to visit VCU Libraries’ in-depth website on the 1963 Farmville protests.

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