Published September 20, 2023

In the early twentieth century, Franklin County, Virginia, earned a reputation as the “Moonshine Capital of the World.” While this infamous reputation was admittedly well deserved, there is more to Franklin County than just moonshine.

In this talk, recorded on September 20, 2023, Public Humanities Fellows William B. Gibson and Abraham Gibson discuss their project examining the county’s impressive efforts to provide its children with an education despite challenging circumstances. Overcoming the rugged terrain, nonexistent roads, and rural poverty that made funding a school system extremely difficult, Franklin County supported hundreds of schools throughout the early twentieth century. And now, 100 years later, all these schools have closed, and most have been forgotten. 

In this talk, they describe their ongoing efforts to identify, map, and recover these schools, and we will discuss their plans for a museum exhibit and accompanying website. 


William B. Gibson

William B. Gibson, Research Fellow, Blue Ridge Institute & Museum, Ferrum College 

William B. Gibson spent more than thirty years working in Franklin County Public Schools, including fifteen years as principal of Franklin County High School. He spent another ten years working in Virginia’s ed tech sector, and he recently published his first book, A History of Franklin County High School

Abraham Gibson

Abraham Gibson, Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Texas at San Antonio 

Abraham Gibson is an Assistant Professor and Assistant Chair in the Department of History at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where he teaches courses on data and the digital humanities. He was born and raised in Franklin County, Va., and he graduated from Franklin County High School. 

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Vanessa Adkins, right, is apprenticing under her cousin Jessica Canaday Stewart learning the finer points of traditional Chickahominy dancing. Photos taken at the Fall Festival and Pow Wow in Charles City on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.

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