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WHEREAS, on February 22, 1960, 34 Virginia Union University students – 11 women and 23 men – refused to leave the segregated dining facilities at Thalhimers lunch counter in Richmond, Virginia, and were arrested; and
WHEREAS, these 34 brave students played a pivotal role in the desegregation of Richmond businesses and were at the forefront of the modern Civil Rights movement; and
WHEREAS, public accommodations, schools, housing, employment, restaurants, religious affiliations, health care services, the criminal justice system, and transportation throughout the nation were segregated under Jim Crow laws and the “separate but equal” doctrine established by the 1896 United States Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson; and
WHEREAS, these systems denied the civil rights and freedoms of African Americans and subjugated African Americans to racial inequality, injustice, and the abasement of second-class citizenship status in the United States; and
WHEREAS, these 34 individuals were inspired by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who had previously spoken at Virginia Union University, and by the first student sit-in by North Carolina A&T students at the Woolworth’s Department Store lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, in early February 1960; and
WHEREAS, on February 22, 1960, the “Richmond 34” peacefully protested the Thalhimers whites-only lunch counter in downtown Richmond, where they endured verbal and physical abuse from white customers, and when the students refused to leave, the owner had the police arrest the students for trespassing; and
WHEREAS, the members of the “Richmond 34” were Leroy M. Bray, Jr., Gordon Coleman, Jr., Gloria C. Collins, Robert B. Dalton, Marise L. Ellison, Joseph E. Ellison, Wendell T. Foster, Jr., Anderson J. Franklin, Donald Vincent Goode, Woodrow B. Grant, Albert Van Graves, Jr., George Wendall Harris, Thalma Y. Hickman, Joanna Hinton, Carolyn Ann Horne, Richard C. Jackson, Elizabeth Patricia Johnson, Ford Tucker Johnson, Jr., Milton Johnson, Celia E. Jones, Clarence A. Jones, John J. McCall, Frank George Pinkston, Larry Pridgen, Ceotis L. Pryor, Raymond B. Randolph, Jr., Samuel F. Shaw, Charles Melvin Sherrod, Virginia G. Simms, Ronald B. Smith, Barbara A. Thornton, Randolf A. Tobias, Patricia A. Washington, and Lois B. White; and
WHEREAS, the members of the “Richmond 34” were all convicted of trespassing, which was appealed to and upheld by the Supreme Court of Virginia, but subsequently overturned by the United States Supreme Court in 1963 in Randolph v. Virginia; and
WHEREAS, the brave and valiant actions of the “Richmond 34” galvanized the Richmond community, resulting in the Richmond Campaign for Human Dignity, which included shopping boycotts by the African American community and further pickets of business establishments by Virginia Union University students and high school students, which led to many businesses integrating their dining facilities; and
WHEREAS, members of the “Richmond 34” went on to become accomplished professionals in many fields, including law, education, medicine, ministry, business and industry, pharmacy, politics, the criminal justice system, and social sciences; and
WHEREAS, without hesitation, the “Richmond 34” confronted racist laws and discriminatory practices, and risked their lives, reputations, and futures to reject and dismantle Jim Crow policies so that future generations of African Americans could enjoy full citizenship and the unalienable rights to which they have been endowed by their Creator; and
WHEREAS, they continue to advocate for full freedom, justice, and equality for African Americans in Virginia and the nation; and
WHEREAS, the Commonwealth of Virginia joins in recognizing the bravery of the “Richmond 34” and the 61st anniversary of their transformational protest;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Ralph S. Northam, do hereby recognize February 22, 2021, as the 61st ANNIVERSARY OF THE “RICHMOND 34” in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.