Upper School Students Attend Talk to Commemorate Supreme Court Decision

Students in Upper School Social Studies Teacher James Moskowitz’s U.S. Government classes attended a talk titled “The Norfolk Seamstress Who Said ‘No’: The Political Legacy of Evelyn T. Butts” at Virginia Wesleyan University (VWU) earlier this month.

The talk was hosted by Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander who also is a Ph.D. student in the Leadership and Change program at Antioch University. He spoke about the local origins of the Supreme Court Case Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections which held that the poll tax violated the Equal Protection Clause.

Born in Norfolk, Evelyn T. Butts was orphaned at the age of 10, worked as a seamstress and supplemented her income by housing disabled veterans. At the same time, her sense for political citizenship inspired her to challenge the poll tax in Virginia in an unusual case that was decided by the Supreme Court.

“We’d talked about the poll tax in class, so this was a great way for students to see it in context,” said Moskowitz. “I think the students really enjoyed their time at VWU.”

The talk was a part of the American Evolution Series from Virginia Wesleyan in conjunction with AMERICAN EVOLUTION™, an organization commemorating the 400th anniversary of several key historical events that occurred in Virginia in 1619 that continue to influence America today.

Since late September, the talks have revolved around women as change agents. As the school describes it, “when women in the United States were not allowed to vote, when poll taxes were used to discriminate, (sic) and when civil wrongs needed to be righted, individual women entered public life as agents of social change.”

The Commonwealth of Virginia is inviting all Americans to commemorate the 400th anniversary of key historical events that took place in Virginia in 1619 that continue to influence America today. For more information, visit americanevolution2019.com.