Moments in time

Bonnie Newman Davis | 11/22/2023, 6 p.m.
Several articles in the Nov. 16, 2023, edition of the Richmond Free Press chronicled the discovery of more than 140 …
Photos by Sandra Sellars/Richmond Free Press

Several articles in the Nov. 16, 2023, edition of the Richmond Free Press chronicled the discovery of more than 140 badly decaying boxes containing personal documents, artifacts and archival materials that belonged to the late civil rights attorney and Virginia State Delegate Roland J. “Duke” Ealey.

The documents were found several years ago by James “Jim” Vigeant and Sasha Finch while restoring their Clay Street home in Richmond’s Historic Jackson Ward.

Award-winning Richmond Free Press photographer Sandra Sellars captured dozens of images of the documents and artifacts in August before Library of Virginia personnel placed the collection into official boxes to transfer them to a Virginia state holding facility where they were to be frozen prior to the archival process.

Scribbled on a basement wall is a list of documents found such as the Irene Morgan v. Greyhound case.

In 1944 Ms. Morgan, while on a Greyhound bus in Gloucester, Va., was arrested after she refused to give up her seat to a white couple. After the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled against Ms. Morgan in 1945, her case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Her lawyers, Spottswood W. Robinson III, Thurgood Marshall and William H. Hastie, emphasized that precedent was on their side:

More than once, the Supreme Court had ruled that states could not impose segregation on passengers traveling across state lines. On June 3, 1946, the Supreme Court ruled for Ms. Morgan, striking down the Virginia law and similar laws in other states that mandated segregation in interstate passenger travel. In 1955, Rosa Parks followed Ms. Morgan’s example, and refused to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Ala.

• Mr. Ealey’s graduation photo at Virginia Union University in 1936.

• A statement issued by NAACP Representatives from 17 southern and border states and the District of Columbia, May 23, 1954 in Atlanta. The purpose of the Atlanta Declaration: to “develop a program to meet the vital and urgent issues arising out of the historic United States Supreme Court decision of May 17 banning segregation in public schools."

• A letter addressed to U.S. Sen. Harry Flood Byrd in 1957 was among the documents found that belonged to Mr. Ealey. The letter addresses misinformation given by Sen. Byrd to the now-defunct Richmond News Leader pertaining to voter suppression and voter discrimination.

• Seldom seen documents: Constitution of Masonry and Constitution, Statutes and Council Regulation of the Supreme Council of the Order of the Knights of Pythagoras, 1979 were among items found.

• Mr. Vigeant, left, and Jackson Ward historian, Theodore Holmes look on as Trenton Hizer of the Library of Virginia rehouse Mr. Ealey’s personal documents, artifacts and other archival material.

For more information about The Ealey Project, please visit: https://tep.ngo