May 22, 2015
Mending a Nation



Danville is known as the “Last Capital of the Confederacy,” but events after the war still shape the fabric of its community. Two new, landmark exhibits at the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History will open this Friday, May 21, 2015 from 5:30 to 7:00 pm. A new exhibition, “Mending a Nation: Civil Rights in Post-Civil War Danville, Virginia,” recognizes the 150th anniversary of the Reconstruction Amendments that secured freedom, citizenship, and voting rights. These rights, however, were not fully recognized for years. This exhibit uses four points in Danville’s history to highlight the barriers African Americans faced even after these Amendments were ratified. Many know of the Bloody Monday events fifty years ago, but are unaware of the even more violent Race Riot of 1883. Jim Crow segregation followed. While many women fought for African American rights, they could not vote until well into the 20th century. The life of Camilla Williams helps to tell this history.

 Along with the museum’s Executive Director Cara Burton, this exhibit has been researched and curated by a team of local historians, Dr. Andrew Canady, Ina Dixon, and Ronald Dean Hairston with technical consulting and production by Paris Designs. This thoughtful journey through the past 150 years of events explores local history, making us want to dig deeper into our past to help understand our community today. The exhibits are part of the museum board’s mission to have an integrated awareness of history.

The second exhibit, “To Be Sold: Virginia and the American Slave Trade,” offers a frank exploration of the commonwealth’s role in the business of the “second middle passage” -- the forced relocation of two-thirds of a million African Americans from the Upper South to the Cotton South in the decades before the Civil War. Intrigued by the abundant notices of slave auctions in Richmond newspapers in 1853, visiting British artist Eyre Crowe began attending the auctions. He turned his sketches and experience into a series of remarkable paintings and engravings that humanized the enslaved and spoke eloquently of the infamy of the trade and the despair of the individuals whose forced labor made cotton an integral part of the South’s economy and political structure before the Civil War.  

 Funding for the exhibits come from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the Community Foundation of the Dan River Region, and the Library of Virginia. Additional support comes from Andrew Canady, PhD, The Danville, Virginia Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, Danville Regional Foundation, Danville Regional Medical Center, Mrs. Carrie Ashe, Ina Dixon, Lt. Col. Ronald D. Hairston, Scott Jones, and Mrs. Daisy Simmons.

 Both exhibits will be available to view during museum hours from May 22 to August 2, 2015. Church and civic groups are invited to visit the exhibits and schedule Sutherlin mansion or cemetery guided tours. The Danville Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. Museum members receive free admission all year. The first full weekend of each month there is no charge to residents of Danville, Pittsylvania County or Caswell County. Visit the museum website for admission fees and directions at or call (434) 793-5644.