Virginia Union University Commemorates Richmond 34 at “Faith, Identity and Social Justice” Chapel Service

February 21, 2019

Contact:  Pamela Cox

AVP, Brand Marketing

 & Strategic Communications

Virginia Union University

 Office: (804) 257-5856

Cell:  (804) 937-7936


Click here to see photos of the chapel service and on here to see a video recap.

(RICHMOND, Virginia) _ Virginia Union University began its two-day commemoration of the Richmond 34 during a “Faith, Identity, and Social Justice” chapel service. Rev. Dwight C. Jones, Sr., former mayor of the City of Richmond, was the keynote speaker on Thursday, February 21, 2019, with remarks given by Richmond 34 member Elizabeth Johnson Rice and VUU Student Government Association (SGA) President Jamon Phenix ’19.

“Virginia Union over the past week has been caught in what has been the crucible of this very context,” said VUU President and CEO Dr. Hakim Lucas. “Today’s conversation is about what we do after reconciliation and how we continue with the identity of a collective people in the spirit of our ancestors to ensure that we are making progress.”

On February 22, 1960, 34 VUU students courageously staged a sit-in at the lunch counter of Thalhimers department store in downtown Richmond to protest segregation and to support a similar sit-in staged in Greensboro, North Carolina. They were arrested for “trespassing” in what became among the first mass arrests of the Civil Rights Movement. This was a crucial event that set off the “Campaign for Human Dignity.”  

“We are celebrating our 59th anniversary this week after years of being denied our proper respectable place in history,” Rice said. “In 1960, more than 200 students marched after months of preparation on passive resistance from the personal instruction of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We made a difference that day in desegregating restaurants and other facilities that served the public.”

SGA President Phenix spoke on behalf of VUU students who dressed in all black to honor the Richmond 34.

“We are delighted to stand on a message that has been our message for over 400 years, we will not succumb to silence,” Phenix said. “We know there will be a greater tomorrow because off our actions today.”

Rev. Jones told students and guests that we all agree that our leadership should be morally grounded.

“The situation we find ourselves in today is a wake-up call,” Jones said. “A blaring siren reminding this community of our need to renew our commitment to advocacy and social justice.”

The commemoration of the Richmond 34 will continue at VUU on Friday, February 22, 2019, with a program featuring a documentary about their arrest. Afterwards, five members of the 34 will go before a Richmond judge to request their trespassing arrest records be expunged.

The group will begin the day with breakfast at Virginia’s Executive Mansion with Gov. Ralph Northam, then they will be honored by the Virginia General Assembly on the chamber floor.

Media intent on covering the events on Friday, February 22, please contact Pam Cox at (804) 937-7936 or phcox@vuu.edu.

About VUU: Virginia Union University is a premier liberal arts urban institution of higher education and center of excellence for the preparation of students and the development of leaders for tomorrow’s world. It was founded in 1865 to give newly emancipated slaves an opportunity for education and advancement. Virginia Union University offers a broad range of educational opportunities that advances liberal arts education, teaching, research, science, technology, continuing education, civic engagement, and international experiences. Visit https://www.vuu.edu/ for more information.