State Historical Marker to Be Dedicated for Black Political Activism in Charles City County

Published October 10, 2023

Virginia Department of Historic Resources
(dhr.virginia.gov)
For Immediate Release
October 10, 2023

Contact:
Ivy Tan
Department of Historic Resources
Marketing & Communications Manager
ivy.tan@dhr.virginia.gov
804-482-6445

—The marker will recall the political achievements of the county’s majority-Black population during the 20th century—

—Text of marker reproduced below—

RICHMOND – A state historical marker issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) will be dedicated in Charles City County this Sunday that highlights the political activism of the county’s Black community from the 1940s through the ‘60s.

The dedication ceremony for the marker will be held October 15, starting at 3 p.m., at the Charles City Government Administration Building located on 10900 Courthouse Road (23030). An on-site parking lot as well as roadside parking will be available for attendees. A public reception is set to commence following the conclusion of the ceremony. The event will be live-streamed and those who wish to view the ceremony may do so at this link.

The dedication program will feature an invocation from the Rev. Danny Patterson of Little Elam Baptist Church. The Rev. James Johnson of Liberty Baptist Church will serve as the master of ceremony. Charles City County Administrator Michelle Johnson will provide opening remarks. Two former Charles City students, Ms. Daryl Robertson and Ms. Angela Bowman, will reflect on their experiences attending newly integrated schools after the county desegregated its public school system during the 1960s. DHR Community Outreach Coordinator LaToya Gray-Sparks and Tonnie Villines, a former attorney at the Hill, Tucker and Marsh law firm in Richmond, will also speak at the ceremony.

The Black residents of Charles City County actively fought for civil and political rights throughout much of the 20th century. Since the 1940s, Edward T. Banks and the local Civic League had mobilized Black residents to pay poll taxes and register to vote despite Virginia’s restrictions on Black suffrage. Banks was elected to the county’s Board of Supervisors in 1951, and by 1960, every board and commission in the county had a Black member. In 1963 six children of local NAACP leader Richard Bowman entered the all-White Charles City High School under a Freedom of Choice plan. In 1965 they filed a federal lawsuit challenging Freedom of Choice as an appropriate means to dismantle a segregated system. In 1967, James N. Bradby and Iona W. Adkins became the first Black citizens in Virginia to be elected sheriff and clerk of court, respectively, in the modern era. Charles City’s Black residents were nationally recognized for their political achievements in 1959, when Ebony magazine identified Charles City as “Virginia’s Model County.”

The marker about Black political activism in Charles City was approved for installation in 2022 by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, which is authorized to designate new state historical markers. The manufacturing cost of the marker will be covered by its sponsor, the Charles City County Richard M. Bowman Center for Local History.

Virginia’s historical highway marker program began in 1927 with installation of the first markers along U.S. Route 1. It is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,600 state markers, mostly maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, except in those localities outside of VDOT’s authority.

PLEASE NOTE: DHR creates markers not to “honor” their subjects but rather to educate and inform the public about a person, place, or event of regional, state, or national importance. In this regard, erected markers are not memorials.

 

Full Text of Marker:

Black Political Activism in Charles City

In 1959, Ebony magazine identified Charles City as “Virginia’s Model County,” recognizing years of political activism by its majority-Black population. Edward T. Banks and the local Civic League had mobilized Black residents since the 1940s to pay poll taxes and register to vote despite Virginia’s restrictions on Black suffrage. Banks was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1951. Every county board and commission had a Black member by 1960. In 1965, local NAACP leader Richard Bowman filed a federal lawsuit seeking school desegregation. In 1967, James N. Bradby and Iona W. Adkins became Virginia’s first Black citizens in the modern era to be elected sheriff and clerk of court, respectively.

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