Harrisonburg's Lucy Simms Is Honored
Massanutten Regional Library Main Branch announces the arrival of the 2011 African American Trailblazers in Virginia History display, on loan from the Library of Virginia. The display honors local Harrisonburg educator Lucy F. Simms and seven other Virginia citizens and will be at Main Branch for public viewing beginning next week. The library display will coincide with the annual Deyerle Series of Lectures which begins on Thursday, October 6, with local historian/past president of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society Dale MacAllister presenting a lecture on Lucy Simms in the series’ opening night. Those in attendance will be provided a sneak preview of the African American display during the Deyerle lecture.
"What great timing this is for Massanutten Regional Library Main Branch to have this informative and pictorial display of Lucy Simms, her life, and career. I am so proud that we have this visual to coincide with Mr. MacAllister’s presentation,” said Lois Jones, Director of Massanutten Regional Library.
Born into slavery in the 19th Century, Simms became one of the area’s most prominent educators, working tirelessly to increase support for universal education and better schooling for blacks. She began her teaching career as a teen-ager in Zenda, just north of Harrisonburg. She taught an estimated 1800 students during her career, and legend has it she only missed half a day in her 56-year career. Simms died in 1934.
Skyline Middle School teacher Deniece Frye nominated Simms for the Library of Virginia’s honor.
“As part of our educational program with African-American trailblazers each year we seek out nominations from classrooms to encourage teachers to have their students become historians and do research in their communities who may be significant or role models,” says Sara Bearss, editor of the Library of Virginia’s Dictionary Biography.
The nominating process also involves a committee from the library perusing nominations state-wide.
Harrisonburg opened the Lucy F. Simms School in 1939, named in her honor, and both Harrisonburg and Rockingham County recognize teachers with the Lucy F. Simms Educator of the Year Award.
The library display also features Henry Box Brown, an abolitionist and performer from Richmond, and John Rollison, an entrepreneur and landowner who negotiated the legal and social restrictions of men of color in colonial Virginia. Robert Walter Johnson from Lynchburg, a physician and tennis coach who was a driving force behind the integration of the sport of tennis, is also recognized.
Also included in the Library of Virginia display are Henrietta Lacks of Clover, whose human cells were used to be grown outside the body for significant medical breakthroughs and ongoing medical research, and Wendell Scott of Danville, first noted African American to drive in a major NASCAR race.
The last two Virginians to be recognized in the display include Annie Belle Daniels of Newport News, founder of the Madam Daniels School of Beauty Culture and an influential civil rights and political activitist, and John Arthur Stokes, from Prince Edward County, a man who as a youth helped lead a strike by pupils to gain better education facilities, an act of defiance that contributed to the integration of public schools in the United States.
The display can be viewed during Massanutten Regional Library Main Branch’s operating hours Monday through Saturday until mid-November. Please check the library’s website www.mrlib.org
for operating times, or attend MacAllister’s first presentation of the Deyerle Lecture Series at Main tomorrow night.