Thank you for visiting this website, the online companion to the permanent exhibition that celebrates the life of pioneering African-American educator, Lucy F. Simms, and the school named in her honor. Many people in the community have been working tirelessly for years to tell the story of the Lucy F. Simms School. This exhibition, the result of a year-long collaboration between community members and James Madison University students, builds on their work.
Born enslaved in 1856, Lucy F. Simms went on to receive her degree from Virginia’s Hampton Institute, and eventually settled in Harrisonburg to teach over 1,800 students from three generations of families. The Lucy F. Simms School was built soon after her death and served African-American students from all over Rockingham County and beyond between 1938 and 1965. This exhibit, spanning 150 years of history, tells the story of the school in terms of its place at the heart of local community life.
In addition to the exhibit, this website also contains a variety of additional materials for you enjoy: an interactive timeline that situates the development of African-American education in Harrisonburg in the context of national events; an interactive map that situates key locations that are important to this story; and educational resources that can be used by K-12 teachers to incorporate this exhibit into classroom activities. Also included in the website are video clips of interviews with teachers and students who attended the school, courtesy of Billo Harper’s documentary,The Legacy of Lucy F. Simms School: Education During Segregated Times in Virginia. The permanent exhibit can be viewed at the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center in Harrisonburg, VA, Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm.
To find out more about this project, please visit the About Page. We are also proud to announce the recent expansion of the "Celebrating Simms" project with a permanent installation at Harrisonburg High School, thanks to the generous support of Virginia Humanities. Learn more here, and stay tuned for more updates:
The "Celebrating Simms" exhibit on permanent display at the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center. Photo by Mike Miriello, JMU Photography.