Ken Woodley presents Road to Healing


Prince Edward County, Virginia, closed its public schools in 1959 in “massive resistance” to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board decision of 1954. The editorial pages of the family-owned Farmville Herald led the fight to lock classrooms rather than integrate them. The school system remained closed until the fall of 1964, when the county at last was forced by the courts to comply with Brown-mandated desegregation. Meanwhile, most white children had attended a private, whites-only academy, in part with state-funded tuition grants. But more than two thousand black and a few white students were denied a formal education during the five-year closure. Lives were forever changed. 

The Road to Healing is Ken Woodley’s first-person account of his crusade to bring healing to that wound while he was editor of the Farmville Herald, then still owned by the same family. The book’s centerpiece is the eighteen-month fight to create what the late Julian Bond described as the first civil rights-era reparations in U.S. history. If the 2003-2004 struggle to win passage of a state-funded scholarship program had been a roller coaster, it wouldn’t have passed the safety inspection—too many unsafe political twists and turns. 

The narrative unfolds in Virginia, but it is a deeply American story. Prince Edward County’s ongoing journey of racial reconciliation blazes a hopeful and redemptive trail through difficult human terrain, but the signs are clear enough for a divided nation to follow. 

Author Bio: 

Ken Woodley was the editor for twenty-four years of the Farmville Herald in Prince Edward County, Virginia. When he went to work at the family-owned newspaper twelve years earlier, he did not know its segregation-boosting history in the 1950s and 1960s. The paper was still owned by the same family, with the same publisher/editorial writer in place. Rather than leave, Woodley chose to spend his entire career there, lending his voice to racial healing and reconciliation. In 2003, he proposed and led the successful fight for a state-funded scholarship program for the casualties of county-wide local public school closings from 1959-1964. In 2006, the Virginia Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists presented Woodley with the George Mason Award “for demonstrating that a community newspaper and a principled editor are relevant and vital parts of civic leadership and that the importance of journalism is not defined by the size of the community or the circulation of the newspaper. 

Woodley is a licensed lay preacher in the Episcopal Church and has published daily spiritual meditations Forward Day By Day. He has also written half a dozen stories for elementary-aged children and is looking for the right publishing home for these. During his daily rambles over fields and through forests, Woodley finds himself “astonished by the way God reaches out to us through the smallest details.” When he’s not writing, volunteering at an after-school program for at-risk children, or reading with his dog, Pugsley, in his lap, Woodley enjoys listening to half a dozen beautiful notes played slowly on an electric guitar rather than fifty played too fast to appreciate them. And he loves his wife, Kim.  



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Event date: 
Sunday, September 22, 2019 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm
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