The Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History has received designation as a site on the historic U.S. Civil Rights Trail
The sites are places where activists challenged segregation and inequality in the 1950s and 1960s to advance social justice. Danville is one of three locations in Virginia. The other sites are in Richmond and Farmville. The U.S. Civil Rights Trail encompasses more than 120 sites, primarily in the South.
“Danville played a critical role in the civil rights movement, so we are extremely proud to be added to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail,” said Elsabe’ Dixon, the museum’s executive director. “Inclusion and diversity are cornerstones of the Danville museum’s experience. We invite everyone to visit the Museum and discover the many remarkable stories.”
In August 2019, the museum installed the first long-term civil rights timeline available to the public. The Movement: Danville’s Civil Rights is an exhibition that details the events that took place in Danville during the 1960s, the work done by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1958 to establish support for Martin Luther King’s visits to Danville. It also outlines the role of Sutherlin Mansion and then the Danville Public Library, a “whites only” library in 1960 and where the main part of the museum is located, today.
The museum also features the Camilia Williams exhibition, which highlights the relationship this New York City Opera diva had with her hometown, Danville. The exhibition explores the difficult path to fame in a racially divided South during the civil rights protests.
‘Danville has made great strides’
Mayor Alonzo Jones in a letter of support for the application stated, “Danville has made great strides and I am excited about our future, but we must not forget that our city’s heritage is also rich with struggle – a struggle that I believe is significant to the civil rights movement.”
U.S. Civil Rights Trail sites must: Be associated with events that made a significant contribution to the civil rights movement during its height; 1950s and 1960s. Or, has been associated with the life of a person(s) who was significant in the civil rights movement. Or, embody the distinctive characteristics of a tourism site, including but not limited to being open to the public, or public view as a tourist attraction, providing guided or self-guided experiential activities, or displaying a series of commemorative markers that communicate context for the history of the civil rights movement. The museum applied summer of 2021 for inclusion as a site on the trail.
For more information about the museum and its exhibits visit online at DanvilleMuseum.org.
By Dave Bodle
Photo of the Danville Museum of Fine Arts courtesy of the Virginia Tourism Corporation