The Cainan Townsend Interview

A few months ago 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution and I discussed doing some work together, and when I saw Mr. Townsend’s name on the shortlist of potential interviews, I knew that I wanted to connect with him.

Cainan is the Education Director at the R.R. Moton Museum in Farmville, VA, which was once a segregated school during the period before desegregation. Cainan had personal connections to the historic events that took place there in 1951 in that he is the great-grandson of John Townsend, one of the students who followed 16 year old Barbara Johns out of the school in protest.

Once Cainan began showing me around the Museum, I knew that this interview was going to be spectacular, and it certainly was. His clear and thorough understanding of the 1951 protest, as well as the events which unfolded throughout Virginia and influenced the country are captivating. I trust you, reader, will agree after listening to this interview.

Barbara Rose Johns Powell, the courageous 16 year old who sparked a movement




  1. Paterson, James T. Brown vs. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  2. Smith, Bob. They Closed Their Schools: Prince Edward County, VA 1951-1964. Farmville, VA: Robert Russa Moton Museum, 2008.
  3. Sullivan, Neil. Bound for Freedom. An Educator’s Adventures in Prince Edward County, Virginia.  Boston: Little Brown, 1965.
  4. R.R. Moton Museum – Farmville, Virginia.


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Cainan Townsend




All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The featured image is of the Robert Russa Moton Museum located in Farmville, VA. All other images are from the exhibits located within the museum.

Music used for this episode – Gnossienne No. 2 by Erik Satie performed by the Empire Brass Quintet, available on iTunes.