Pioneering Black Girl Scout Troop in Va. Honored

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RICHMOND, Va. — The first black Girl Scout troop in the South, which began meeting on the campus of Virginia Union University in 1932, is among five historic sites and people being recognized by the state.

Each will be honored with narrative markers approved by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. The other markers will recognize the first coeducational Presbyterian training school for lay workers, located in Richmond; the First African Baptist Church in Richmond; a pioneering agricultural educator from southwest Virginia; and a popular illustrator and artist from Salem.

They will join more than 2,500 official state markers across the state.

The marker honoring the first black Girl Scout troop states that it served as a model for other Southern localities as the Girl Scouts moved toward integration. The marker is sponsored by the Girls Scouts of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The First African Baptist Church in Richmond was purchased and organized by freedmen and slaves in 1841. The marker will rise at the site of the current church building, which was erected in 1876.

The Presbyterian school was established in 1914 as the church’s first coeducational lay workers school. Women who were barred from seminary received a theological education at what is now part of the Union Presbyterian Seminary. Female faculty taught classes in social welfare and Christian ethics in Richmond factories and parts of Appalachia.

Born in 1886 in Montgomery County, Walter Joseph Briggs illustrated magazines and novels and was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 1963. His work is at the Salem Museum and Roanoke College owns a major collection. The marker will rise in Salem, where Biggs was raised.

Finally, a marker will be erected in Lee County in recognition of William H. Starnes. He established a framework for the practice of scientific farming and traveled extensively to remote farms to give evening lectures.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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