Its great to run on the soft surface of the High Bridge Trail State Park.
Its fun taking in the quaint Longview University campus on a quiet Saturday afternoon, complete with a picturesque softball game.
And who can resist ducking into a few of the more than a dozen furniture stores on Main Street?
Farmville, about 70 miles southwest of Richmond, is a surprising vibrant college town. Its rich history dates back to the mid 1700s and includes playing an important role in the final days of the civil war.
But all of this is overshadowed by its place in the civil rights movement.
In 1951, Robert Russa High School students staged a walkout to protest overcrowded conditions. While the school was originally built in 1939 for up to 180 students, the student body had grown to 450. The “tar-paper shacks” erected to accommodate the increase were so flimsy that students had to use umbrellas inside when it rained. The walkout led to a court case that was combined into Brown vs. Board of Education. The 1954 Supreme Court ruling in the case called for the end to segregation in public schools.
But rather than desegregate, the county decided to end all public education funding. The result was that all public schools were closed from 1959 to 1964. It would take a national effort by civil right leaders and another Supreme Court ruling to force the schools to reopen.
During my Farmville run, in addition to jogging on the trail and through the campus, I went by Robert Russa High School, now a museum, and a church where Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in 1962.
On the following foggy morning, I crossed the border into Cumberland County and ran on another section High Bridge State Park. The park consists of a flat 31-mile trail with a surface made up of finely crushed limestone, making it the most foot-friendly path I’ve ever been on.
With maybe 25 feet of visibility, I crossed High Bridge, a 2,400-foot long, 160-foot tall structure. The former railroad bridge over the Appomattox River reopened in spring 2012. The original wooden bridge, built in 1853, carried freight and passengers from the Petersburg area to Lynchburg and had a second lower bridge for wagons.
In April 7, 1865, Confederates attempted to burn down the bridge as they were retreating from the last major battle of the Civil War in nearby Saylor’s Creek. Ultimately, Union troops were able to put out the fire before the damage got too extensive and force the Confederates to continue their retreat. The war ended two days later.
41 runs down, 93 to go.
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