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In the College of Education, we work to disrupt, interrupt, and change systemic inequities in P-12 schools, adult education, and higher education by demanding equal and equitable rights, opportunities, and treatment for all; to produce inclusive and equitable participation, power, access, impacts, and outcomes for all groups, by embedding educational justice as part of our culture through people, places, programs, policies, and processes.

Disrupting Racism and Injustice in Education

People We intentionally and overtly cede power to underrepresented communities. We educate ourselves and our students on how to recognize and interrupt racism in ourselves and how to enact antiracist practices in our teaching.

Places We design spaces in which our BIPOC students have the safe opportunity to share, grapple, and explore. Likewise, we advocate for safe spaces for others, challenging racist structures in our partner schools and communities.

Programs We support future educators through coursework on the history of systematic racism in U.S. schools, challenging how programs and curricula uphold white supremacy and working to dismantle this system.

Policies We value and prioritize underrepresented voices in shaping new policy and in revising existing policies to mitigate implicit bias in student admissions & support, faculty & staff hiring, promotion & tenure, and student evaluation of faculty.

Processes We engage diversity and social justice in our collaborative scholarship, presentations, and engagements. We advocate for diversity when asked to write, speak, or engage. We divest from organizations that do not advocate for equity in practice.

Lucy Simms Exhibit located in Memorial Hall

The “Celebrating Lucy F. Simms” Exhibit is located in Memorial Hall. In 2016, James Madison University students collaborated with members of the Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project. Their work led to the creation of an exhibit honoring the life of this educator and community leader.

Lucy F. Simms was a knowledgeable and kind educator who also served as a surrogate parent to her students. Born into slavery in 1856, emancipated slaves like Lucy Simms, did not have access to formal education in Harrisonburg until 1870, when Simms was just 14 years old. She then went on to earn a teaching certificate from Virginia’s Hampton Institute in 1877.

Simms then returned to Rockingham County, where she would teach over 1800 African American students across three generations of families. Simms brought dedication to the three schools where she spent 56 years of her teaching career.

“When I calculate the time I have been teaching by years, it seems quite a while, but, when I calculate by dollars and cents, it seems but a short while.” -Lucy F. Simms.

The Lucy F. Simms School was built soon after her death and served African-American students throughout Rockingham County and surrounding areas.

For more information about Lucy F. Simms and her courageous work, visit the “Celebrating Lucy F. Simms” exhibit located near the ‘B’ entrance of Memorial Hall. There is also the opportunity to visit exhibits within the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center which is located at 620 Simms Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA, 22802.

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