The Richmond 34 and the Civil Rights Movement

Dr. Kimberly A. Matthews and Dr. Raymond Pierre Hylton

February 22, 1960, bore witness to an event that would forever change the social, political, and economic life of a city, a state, and millions of inhabitants. The arrest of 34 Virginia Union University students during a sit-in protest at the most upscale department store in Richmond, Virginia, heralded the upending of a long-established way of life and a change of direction from which there would be no turning back. The students would see their actions galvanize a community into effecting wide-ranging reforms in desegregation and play a significant role in ending the nearly 70-year grip on power of one of the nation’s strongest political machines. Bafflingly, their achievement faded into obscurity, and only in recent years has its importance been recognized.

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