Editors Note: This post is a modified version of an article that originally appeared in the former “Virginiana” section of Virginia Memory.
The Watkins Family Papers (Accession 42063) include certificates, newspaper clippings, photographs, postcards, programs, and yearbooks documenting a prominent African American family in New Kent County, Virginia. While much of the collection consists of Jones and Watkins family photographs from Richmond and New Kent County, the collection is also significant for its connection to the struggle for school desegregation in Virginia.
Dr. George Washington Watkins (1898-1972) was born in Pickens County, South Carolina, the son of James and Lattie Watkins. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree (and later an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity) from Virginia Union University, and a Master of Arts degree from Hampton Institute.
Watkins is perhaps best known for his work in education, chiefly as principal of the New Kent Training School (renamed the George W. Watkins School in 1950). This school played an important role in the education of African Americans in the area and was at the center of one of the most significant school integration rulings to follow Brown v. Board of Education (1954). He was also a pastor, heading congregations at Second Liberty Baptist Church of Quinton, and Elam Baptist Church of Ruthville.
In 1930, there were 15 elementary schools in New Kent County, … read more »