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ODU-led School Desegregation History Project Earns National Award for a Key Supporter, AARP Virginia

Yaco-CSPANSonia Yaco being interviewed by CSPAN about the DOVE project

A groundbreaking Virginia school desegregation history project led by Old Dominion University archivist Sonia Yaco has earned a national award for one of its key supporters, AARP Virginia.

AARP and its immediate past president Warren Stewart, won the J. Franklin Jameson Archival Advocacy Award from the Society of American Archivists for their support of the Desegregation of Virginia Education (DOVE) project.

"I'm honored and humbled by this recognition," said Stewart, who served as the AARP Virginia president from 2006 to 2012. "Through DOVE, we want to help Virginians learn about the history of school desegregation, preserve this history by telling their stories and empower Virginians to continue the quest for educational diversity."

Yaco, Special Collections librarian and university archivist for ODU's Patricia W. and J. Douglas Perry Library, nominated Stewart and AARP for the award. Yaco is the founder and co-chair of DOVE.

"A retired educator with a wide network of contacts, Stewart provided DOVE with ongoing guidance on how to recruit partners, work through roadblocks and expand the project," Yaco said. "With a lifelong belief in the importance of diversity in society, he has shown tremendous dedication to preserving what he calls 'the sad and glad stories' of how schools became integrated."

DOVE, hosted by Old Dominion University Libraries, involves a collaboration among archives and libraries that find, locate and encourage the preservation of material related to modern school desegregation in Virginia. AARP Virginia and Stewart, a retired educator and ODU alumnus who serves on the Norfolk Board of Education, provided support for the DOVE project.

Stewart believes AARP founder and educator Ethel Percy Andrus would be proud of the organization's involvement in this project. "Fighting social injustice, protecting the rights of others and making improvements in the lives of people who need change the most is part of what AARP's mission is all about," Stewart said.

AARP formed a partnership with DOVE and civil rights groups in 2012 to promote public awareness of the importance of preserving the history of school desegregation in Virginia. The partners held "School Desegregation: Learn, Preserve and Empower" events in cities throughout Virginia, consisting of an exhibit on the history of modern school desegregation, oral history gathering, documentaries and workshops.

The display includes photographs and documentaries chronicling Virginia's massive resistance to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1957 ruling Brown v. Board of Education. The ruling desegregated public schools and other public facilities nationwide.

AARP provided financial and logistical support as well as staff and volunteers for events at schools, archives, museums and community centers. In February 2013, AARP staffed the exhibit while it was on display at the General Assembly Building in Richmond. More than 5,000 people have seen the exhibit since it debuted in April 2012, and nearly 100 oral histories have been collected.

"As necessary as this funding was to the project, none of it would have been possible without Stewart," Yaco said.

The DOVE project and exhibit have generated significant publicity in regional and national media. People from around the country have contacted DOVE to discuss their experiences and ask how their voices could be included in the project.

The Virginia State Conference NAACP and the Urban League of Hampton Roads also participated in the program.

The DOVE project materials are housed in the ODU Archives and Special Collections.