Four of the 34 Virginia Union students who were arrested for protesting segregated lunch counters at Thalhimer’s Department Store in 1960 were on hand for the unveiling of a historical marker honoring their bravery. The marker, located on Broad Street between Sixth and Seventh Streets in downtown Richmond, was unveiled on June 28, 2016. Virginia Union Professor Dr. Raymond Pierre Hylton officiated the ceremony and is pictured in the center of the featured photograph with “Richmond 34” members (left to right) Wendell T. Foster, Jr.; Raymond B. Randolph, Jr.; Elizabeth Johnson Rice; and Ford T. Tucker, Jr.
More than 200 Virginia Union students marched from Martin E. Gray Hall on the Virginia Union campus to downtown Richmond on that historic day in 1960. “The time had come to make a statement,” Elizabeth Johnson Rice explained. “If we had not gotten arrested, things may not have changed.” Dr. Raymond Hylton chronicled the significance of the student protests in his book Virginia Union University: The Campus History Series.
“Upon their release, the ‘VUU 34’ were driven in a motorcade to the Eggleston Hotel at Second and Clay Streets and feted as heroes,” wrote Dr. Hylton. “This immediately launched the Richmond Campaign for Human Dignity, in which VUU and the surrounding Community combined to protest, boycott, and otherwise (nonviolently) assail the entire Jim Crow apparatus in Richmond. Students picketing, carrying signs, and marching up and down Broad Street became a daily occurrence. By early 1961, the campaign had brought many establishments to their knees.”
The convictions of the 34 students who were arrested for trespassing were eventually overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1963 case of Raymond B. Randolph et al. v. Virginia.