Barbara Johns Essay Contest

Barbara JohnsThe Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA) will be hosting the second annual event honoring Barbara Johns on April 23, 2017. In addition to the event, there will also be a Barbara Johns essay contest for high school students. It is the hope that involvement in the contest will expose students to the history of Barbara Johns and let them know that their voices can be heard and make a difference.

Barbara Johns Event

Barbara Johns Reception with special guest Congressman Bobby Scott, hosted by DPVA Chairwoman Susan Swecker, DPVA First Vice Chair Gaylene Kanoyton, and DPVA Black Caucus Chair Evelyn Morris-Harris.

WHEN: Sunday, April 23rd, 2017, 3-5 pm
WHERE: The Attucks Theater (1010 Church St, Norfolk, VA 23510; map: click here)
TICKETS: $50/person, other contribution levels appreciated, click here
FLYER: click here

Essay Contest

Contest Flyer and Details, click here

Essay Requirements
In 500 to 750 words, answer the following three questions:
What does Barbara Johns’ legacy mean to you?
What do you feel is the most important aspect of local government?
What do you think a trailblazer is?

Eligible participants
Barbara was only 16 years old when she organized her protest. All high school students in Virginia 16 and older are eligible to participate.

All applicants can submit their essays to Danny Carroll, DPVA Finance Director, at by April 17.

About Barbara Johns

Barbara was born in Harlem, in New York City, on March 6, 1935. Her parents, Robert and Adele Johns, were natives of Prince Edward County, Virginia. They had come to New York looking for work. When World War II came, and Barbara’s father went into the army, her mother took Barbara and her siblings back to Virginia to live on her grandmother’s farm. Barbara spent most of her youth living and working on a small tobacco farm.

Barbara Rose Johns led her classmates in a strike to protest unfair conditions of her high school. The conditions in her high school were deplorable. To house the overflow of students, tar paper shacks were used as classrooms. The shacks leaked in the rain and were heated by pot-bellied stoves. The all-white high school across town was much better maintained.

Fed up with the situation, Barbara devised a plan. On April 23, 1951, Barbara led her classmates in a strike. Her strike eventually turned into a lawsuit against the county, and became part of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, the case which desegregated schools in the United States.

All About Barbara Rose Johns, click here

If you, or anyone you know, are involved in your local school district, the education community, or even have high school-aged children and family members, we ask for your help in spreading the contest flyer.

  • Barbara Johns Day: Designating April 23, in 2018 and in each succeeding year, as Barbara Johns Day in Virginia. Passed in the General Assembly of Virginia 2017, click here.