Feb 23, 2024 - News

New mural honors the Richmond 34's place in civil rights history

A picture of a mural with tuquoise, orange, yellow and purple stripes going diagonally and renderings of photos of the Richmond 34

The Richmond 34 mural at the Dominion Energy Center. Photo: Courtesy of Richmond Performing Arts Alliance

This week marks 64 years since Black Virginia Union students protested a Broad Street store's "whites-only" lunch counter by taking up as many seats as possible.

Why it matters: Their sit-in led to the desegregation of Richmond's restaurants and businesses.

Driving the news: The Richmond Performing Arts Alliance unveiled a mural Thursday to honor "the Richmond 34," the name given to the 34 protesters arrested on trespassing charges for refusing to leave that day.

  • The mural, done by Hamilton Glass and VUU alumna Germany Ray, is inside the Dominion Energy Center — the same site of the Thalhimers Department Store where the sit-in took place.
  • RPAA plans to install a permanent art gallery with work from local artists, including students, inspired by the Richmond 34's place in civil rights history.

Zoom in: The mural centers a rendering of an infamous photo of policemen walking out Richmond 34 members Joseph and Marise Ellison.

  • It also marks major milestones following the protest, like the 2004 march in Richmond commemorating them and when the Flying Squirrels retired the #34 jersey in their honor in 2021.

Catch up fast: More than 200 Virginia Union students marched toward Thalhimers on Feb. 22, 1960.

  • The arrests of the Richmond 34 were the largest stemming from a civil rights protest at the time.
  • Their records weren't expunged until February 2019, even though they had taken their case to the Supreme Court and won in 1963.

The bottom line: "This is an example of what can happen when people come together for a unified cause," said Richmond 34 member Elizabeth Johnson Rice in a release. "Without love there can be no truth, there can be no justice. Truth marches on."

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