By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press
WAYNESBORO — Anne Spencer was born in 1882. A poet and civil rights activist, she was part of what would come to be called the Negro Renaissance in the 1920s in Lynchburg.
Spencer established one of Virginia’s first chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
John Mitchell Jr., born in 1863, championed civil rights for more than 40 years as the editor of a prominent national Black newspaper, The Richmond Planet. His journalist coverage of the struggle for Black Americans earned him the nickname “the Fighting Editor.”
Spencer and Mitchell are among several black Americans highlighted in a traveling exhibit at Waynesboro Public Library. “Determined: The 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality” is on display through July 11.
“We were really excited to be able to get it and also when we did,” said Anne Yetzer-Jones, Waynesboro Public Library’s adult services librarian. Yetzer-Jones referred to the upcoming new federal holiday Juneteenth on June 19.
On loan from Richmond’s Virginia Museum of History and Culture, the exhibit’s presence at the library serves to remind the public that the library is accessible for all, not just a few.
“We want to highlight the struggle — 400 years’ worth, and they’re still not where they want to be,” Yetzer-Jones said.
Also highlighted is Barbara Johns Powell, whose fight for equality was part of Brown v. Board of Education which led to a ruling by the United States Supreme Court that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”
Another board shares information about Zyahna Bryant, born in 2000, who began a petition in Charlottesville in 2016 to have a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee removed. The petition sparked debates and led to violence at the August 12, 2017 rally in Charlottesville.
“It feels like ancient history, but it really isn’t,” Yetzer-Jones said. “We can shine a light on some of their struggles [with this exhibit].”
And we can all work together to create change.
“The library is for everybody. And for everybody to have a voice,” she said.