Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) kicked off the vice presidential debate Tuesday night by paying tribute to Barbara Johns, a black woman who led a walkout to protest school segregation in 1951 in Prince Edward County, Virginia.
Johns and her fellow students walked out of Robert Russa Moton High School, an all-black school suffering from overcrowding and poor facilities. The school was designed to hold roughly 200 students, but around 400 students attended it at the time. Some classes were held on buses and in the auditorium.
When parents of students at the school asked the local school board for a new school, the school built tar paper shacks to hold the overflow of students. Johns, frustrated by the decision to build shacks instead of classrooms, decided to organize a protest.
Johns and other organizers asked the NAACP to advise them and the group agreed ― under the condition that the students sue for an integrated school system. The case became one of the five reviewed by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, which integrated schools after declaring segregation unconstitutional in 1954.
“She made history by protesting school segregation,” Kaine said of Johns before comparing the civil rights crusader to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“I am so proud to be running with another strong history-making woman, Hillary Clinton, to be president of the United States,” Kaine said. “Her vision of stronger together, building an economy that works for all ― not just those at the top ― being safe in the world, not only with a strong military, but also strong alliances, to battle terrorism and climate change, and also to build a community of respect ― like Barbara Johns tried to do 65 years ago.”
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