SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. — With a few more weeks of summer vacation left, museum supporters at the John J. Wright Educational and Cultural Center hope families will bring their children to learn about the history of segregated education in Spotsylvania County.
“This should be on every kid’s bucket list for summer vacation,” said Mo Petway, president of the Spotsylvania NAACP and a local pastor. “This museum is still important to ensure that we remember the John J. Wright School for a long time. This is the story of the people of Spotsylvania County.”
The center, located off Courthouse Road, was built in 1952 and was Spotsylvania’s only public high school for black citizens. The 1952 building replaced older structures that had been educating black students since 1913.
First called the Snell Training School, the school was renamed in 1940 by John J. Wright, an education advocate who led the Spotsylvania Sunday School Union, the coalition of 12 African-American churches organized by first in 1905 to establish a high school for black children. .
The last high school class graduated from John J. Wright in 1968, when the Spotsylvania schools were integrated. After integration, the school became a middle school serving all students until 2006, when it closed its doors.
After a renovation, it reopened in 2008 as an educational and cultural center, housing a museum that tells the history of the building and displays artifacts from a century of education and daily life in Spotsylvania.
But the museum doesn’t just tell the story of the past. He recently accepted into his collection a proclamation issued this year by the county Board of Supervisors in honor of Juneteenth, a day commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans that was first recognized as a federal holiday in past
Board of Supervisors member Deborah Frazier, who is the first black woman elected to the board, visited the museum to read the proclamation and present it to Renee Beverly, chair of the museum’s board of trustees.
“It’s about celebrating black people in Spotsylvania,” Frazier said. “We cannot forget our history and we cannot let others forget it.”
The museum has also debuted an exhibit of art by Carlos Moore, who taught in county schools, including John J. Wright, for many years.
Moore’s work on display includes mixed media paintings and sculptures with themes of religion and social justice. There are images of protests from the decades-old civil rights movement and the Black Lives Matter movement of recent years, collages made up of hymnal pages from local black churches, and a piece Moore calls “his baby,” officially called ” Salary, 1769″. .”
The piece is a doll-sized human figure completely wrapped in black canvas and surrounded by chains. Moore said that while he was making it, he felt that the figure resisted being chained until he used gold necklaces.
“It was like he was saying to me, ‘Show me in my majesty,'” Moore said, so the finished piece confronts the viewer with both the inhumanity of the institution of slavery and the humanity of the person. individual slave
The goal of the John J. Wright museum is to teach people about the past so that knowledge can inform the future, Beverly said.
That’s also the goal of the John J. Wright Alumni Association, which recently gathered for its first annual meeting since 2019.
Lena Henderson, president of the alumni association, attended John J. Wright in the 1970s when it was the only middle school in the county.
“You have to know everybody else from the other end of the county,” he said.
John J. Wright was always a place where people from different parts of Spotsylvania came together and forged a path forward, Henderson said.
Today, through the alumni association and the museum, it still is.
“We walk on other people’s shoulders,” Henderson said.