USPS closes Virginia Post Office with historic ‘white’ and ‘colored’ signs

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For years — and long after segregation ended — the post office in Montpelier Station, Va., operated in a building where signs reading “White” and “Colorful” hung above two separate doors.

The panels are not meant to be followed by people, but rather as features of a museum exhibit about the country’s era of racial segregation.

Never mind: the US Postal Service is no longer associated with it.

Over the summer, the Postal Service closed its small, one-employee operation located in the building, telling news outlets in a statement this week that it “has determined that posting on the site is unacceptable to the postal service”.

“Postal Service management felt that some customers may associate race-based separate entries with current Postal operations and thereby draw negative associations between those operations and the painful legacy of discrimination and segregation,” it added. a spokesperson in a statement. The Associated Press.

The post office had operated in the building since 1912, opening two years after the building was constructed as a train station. It sits along the train tracks outside the Montpellier Estate, a former residence of James Madison, the fourth American president. The Montpelier Foundation, a non-profit organization that manages the estate, owns the former repository and opened the segregation exhibit in 2010 to “foster discussion about citizenship and equal justice in society. American,” according to a sign outside.

Estate officials, as well as some residents who said they rely on the post office, are opposed to removing postal service, the Culpeper Star-Exponent reported.

“We call on the USPS to reverse its decision and reopen this historic facility that has served this community for more than a century,” foundation spokeswoman Christy Moriarty told the newspaper, adding that the exhibit would remain open. .

The foundation did not immediately respond to a Washington Post request for comment early Friday. The Postal Service also did not immediately respond to inquiries.

The Postal Service distancing itself from the exhibit comes amid fierce debate over how the country should deal with its history of slavery and racist policies. Montpelier train station is just over an hour from Richmond, where many statues of Confederate figures have been removed from public spaces following a race relations reckoning sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in 2020.

Opponents of statue removals have argued that demolishing monuments is an effort to erase history, while supporters say monuments are offensive in modern society. In Richmond, some statues have been put into storage while others are on display in history museums with information boards and even graffiti from recent protests. Some statues in Richmond remain in the public sphere.

Two years after protests, some of Richmond’s Confederate statues remain

Outside the Montpelier station segregation exhibit is a sign stating that the station was restored to “document this time of legalized segregation in American history”, explaining that the segregation laws were in force in the state and other parts of the South since the end of the civil era. War in the civil rights era. The sign gives a brief history of the depot and notes that a “vibrant black community called the home of Montpelier Station”.

The exhibit features restored separate waiting areas, but the entrance to the post office was separate from the doors displaying the “white” and “colored” signs, the Star-Exponent reported.

Orange County, where Montpellier Station is located, is about 82 percent white and 13 percent black, according to census data.

Moriarty, the foundation’s spokeswoman, told the Star-Exponent that the exhibit taught an important historical lesson. “We are proud of the exhibit which presents the realities of life in Jim Crow times, showing the original separate ticketing and waiting facilities,” she said.

Residents told the Star-Exponent that they were not notified of the post office closing in June and questioned the reasons for the withdrawal of postal service. Betsy Brantley, who is white, told the newspaper that segregation is not something the country should be proud of, “but like so many unpleasant things in our history, we are doomed to repeat what we don’t identify with. not”.

The post office closure left nearly 100 residents without mail delivery, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat representing Orange County, wrote in an Aug. 4 letter to the Postal Service’s Virginia District Director. She did not address the Postal Service’s concerns in her letter, and her office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post early Friday. But she wrote that residents were not given proper warning before Montpellier station closed and now had to go to another post office to collect their mail.

“While it is understandable that there may be conditions under which the USPS decides to consolidate or close a post office,” Spanberger wrote, “it is totally unacceptable to leave entire communities in the lurch without reliable access to messaging services”.

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