Edward H. Peeples
( — 2019)

NAACP, SRC, AFSC, others, 1955-1990, VA, KY others

I am age 82 and my mobility is restricted.

CRMVet asks for the years and states in which one was active. I have included some of the organizations in my summary below. As for years, it would be 1955 through the middle 90s in what UNC historian, Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, calls "the Long Civil Rights Movement." As for states where I was involved in large and small, known and unknown civil rights organizations of various descriptions: AL, GA, MS, TX, TN, SC. NC, VA and KY. See my book with Nancy McLean, Scalawag: A White Southerner's Journey Through Segregation to Human Rights Activism, University of Virginia Press, 2014.

Born in 1935 to a white working class, single-parent family in Richmond, Virginia, the former Capital of the Confederacy, I was steeped in the ways of white supremacy and segregation. But by 19, I found my way into civil rights activism. The story is told in my book and on my website.

The civil rights movement was inaccessible to me in 1955, so I began with solo attacks on segregation on my college campus, the Richmond Professional Institute (now Virginia Commonwealth University) and in 1958-1959 in the still largely segregated US Navy at Great Lakes Naval Training Center. By February, 1960, back in Richmond, Virginia, with the news of the Greensboro, North Carolina lunch-counter sit-ins, I joined, as the only white, with Virginia Union University students in the lunch counter sit-ins at Thalhimers Department Store, led by Charles Sherrod. Throughout 1960-1961, as part of NAACP multiracial teams, we sat in and demonstrated at the segregated Trailways Bus Station and hundreds of restaurants around Richmond.

Also in 1960 after Prince Edward County, Virginia, had closed its schools (1959-1964) to punish the black community for being plaintiffs in what was to become the 1954 Supreme Court Brown decision, I organized the Richmond, Virginia, Committee of Volunteers to Prince Edward. We were a diverse group of activists involved in organizing skill-building and recreational activities for the school-less black children and attempts to bear witness against segregation there. The U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Office of Education and Virginia lawyers with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund used my 1963 University of Pennsylvania Masters thesis on the school closing in their efforts to reopen the schools.

From 1963-1964, I initiated the start-up of the Virginia College Council on Human Relations which brought hundreds of college students together to press for civil and human rights across the state.

From 1963 through the early 1970's. I worked with the American Friends Service Committee on inequities in health care, disaster relief and school desegregation issues in Prince Edward County, other Southside Virginia counties, and across the South. Connie Curry, author of Silver Rights about her work in Mississippi, and I became friends while working together with the AFSC.

In 1965, I was chosen by a group of graduate students to confront Coach Adolf Rupp and to present to the university administration our demands for desegregating the University of Kentucky basketball Wildcats.

In the summer of 1966, I directed the first interracial Encampment for Citizenship in the South at Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky, in a partnership with the Council of the Southern Mountains and the Southern Regional Council. Our students, staff and my family endured six weeks of race-related threats of violence, slashed tires, physical assaults, stoning and gun shots. Our site was chosen because it met some of the aims of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity's Community Action Program in encouraging American youth to get involved in poverty issues and volunteerism.

After earning my PhD in Medical Behavioral Science from the University of Kentucky, I spent my academic career at Virginia Commonwealth University, applying my skills and privileges as a professor to hundreds of projects where human rights were at issue.

Among some of the recent recognition of my work in civil and human rights are:
(1) a "Social Justice Leadership Award" inaugurated in my name and given biennially to a Virginia Commonwealth University alum by the Alumni Association and
(2) the "The 2015 Civil Rights Unsung Hero Award" given by the Richmond (VA) Branch of the NAACP where Reverend William Barber, the force behind the North Carolina Moral Mondays Movement, was our keynote speaker.

My papers are now at Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University. Richmond, Va.

I welcome calls and emails for interviews.


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