SUPPORT GROWS FOR NAME CHANGE
A woman leading an effort to rename the old high school building -- now Nottoway Intermediate School -- in memory of the late Dr. Luther H. Foster says her request is gaining positive momentum.
Christine Davis Easterling is a Blackstone native, retired educator, and 1958 graduate of Luther H. Foster High School. The all-black segregated school operated from 1950 until 1970, when Nottoway’s first consolidated countywide school, Nottoway Senior High, opened in that building.
Luther H. Foster High never displayed letters of the late Virginia State University President, nor did Nottoway High, and Mrs. Easterling says that’s disappointed her and others for many years.
The Nottoway School Board discussed the request briefly at an Oct. 12th worksession.
At that meeting, Board Chair Shelli Hinton said she doesn’t support changing the name of any school at the complex but is willing to consider adding curriculum to honor Dr. Foster’s memory. Mrs. Hinton also cited financial costs in stating her position.
School Board member Jimmy Fowlkes expressed strong support for Mrs. Easterling’s request, Jamie Higgins opposed it, saying it’s “bad timing,” and two members -- Bill Outlaw and Clive Pettis -- said they’ll defer public comment until a later date.
Pettis specifically asked for Chair Mrs. Hinton to contact the Luther H. Foster High School for its thoughts on the request. Mrs. Hinton reachedout to Sandra Branch, who is President of the Luther H. Foster Alumni Association.
Mrs. Branch’s response, provided to the Courier-Record by Mrs. Easterling, states, in part, “I concur with Christine’s request...If the Nottoway County Public School Board approves this request, I feel that it would have a positive impact to the community and countywide.”
Division Supt. Dr. Tameshia Grimes has informed Mrs. Easterling that the School Board will discuss the request again at its Nov. 12th meeting.
Mrs. Easterling’s Presbyterian pastor, Rev. Glen Benson of Washington, DC, has also written to the School Board, stating in part that Mrs. Easterling “is one of the many students who endured going to a nameless high school because of the racist decisions and refusal of the school board... to place the name of a Black man on the outside of the high school she attended. Deacon Christine Easterling has courageously led the fight for this egregious wrong to be made right. As black women are making their presence known around the country in this tumultuous political climate, my hat goes off to Deacon Christine for joining the ranks.
“As monuments and statues representing racist white supremacy are coming down all around our country as America comes to grips with the horrific truth of its past, they need to be replaced with true American heroes who stood against the winds of adversity and racism to forge a path for the forgotten youth to follow. Dr. Luther H. Foster is one of these American heroes of which I speak.”
Rev. Benson says that not only should Dr. Foster’s name be added to the building “but also a plaque dedicated to Deacon Christine Easterling; educator, author, freedom fighter, and graduate of Luther H. Foster High School...”
In her recent letter to the School Board, Mrs. Easterling, of Silver Spring, Maryland, said, “I believe it was a racist refusal of Nottoway Public Schools to put the name of a black man on Luther H. Foster High School...”
She also says that a Foster monument that sits outside the old school “is not enough -- just a pacifier.
“I ask that the Board of Education of Nottoway County do retribution for the disrespect it perpetuated to the black college president (Luther H. Foster) and Black students who went to that school for 20 years everyday feeling the pain of looking at and being teased about a no-name school. White students never had to endure that pain.”