Editorial: A forgotten determine in Virginia’s civil rights historical past | Editorial

John’s name didn’t appear in the Roanoke Times until 1994 – three years after her death. The occasion was then stories about the 40th anniversary of the Brown decision that year. It was apparently these memories that brought Johns to public consciousness, although it wasn’t mentioned again in our archives until 2001 – when the 50th anniversary of the student strike was celebrated. It wasn’t until 2005 that Johns received official recognition when the Library of Virginia named her one of their Virginia Women in History. In other words, the official recognition of Johns came in the past two decades – well after her death.

That’s unusual, but not unusual. Our appreciation of certain historical figures is constantly changing – whether they have statues or not. Consider our appreciation of various presidents. When Harry Truman stepped down, he was considered a fool to head a scandal-ridden government. Years later, these scandals (none of which touched him personally) are forgotten, but we credit Truman for laying the foundations for international security for the post-war era. When Dwight Eisenhower resigned from office, he was considered the president of doing nothing. Now we owe him great foresight at the start of the motorway system. John Adams, Ulysses S. Grant, William McKinley, and Calvin Coolidge, all presidents who were once unappreciated, have received a boost in recent years from authors who have put their contributions in a new light. Many non-presidents have benefited from similar second looks. Alexander Hamilton has now become a Broadway star. On the other hand, our reassessment of the Confederate numbers has resulted in many of them literally or otherwise being pulled from their pedestals. This is unsettling to some, but it is really a natural thing. When we talk about someone who makes history, the first thing we need to understand is what kind of story it is. Our understanding of the past is constantly changing because our understanding of the present is often quite incomplete. We grew up thinking that only white men would sit us on the moon. Thanks to the book and film “Hidden Figures” about black women in the early days of NASA, we know this was not the case at all.

Comments are closed.