The Historic First Step: Desegregating the Danville Public Library
During the summer of 1963, Danville, Virginia, was the site of some of the most violent episodes of the Civil Rights Movement. The conflict actually began in 1960 with a sit-in at the Danville Public Library, housed in a mansion that had hosted remnants of the Confederate government as its leaders fled Richmond at the end of the Civil War. The sit-in became particularly historic because Danville officials chose to close the library rather than allow Black visitors. Other demonstrations for racial equality and job opportunities followed and were met with strong resistance.
The library is now the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History, where an exhibit titled “The Movement” depicts the local struggle for equality. It features testimonies of the protest participants (including incidents of police brutality), as well as testimonies of civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who visited Danville.
Known as “the last capital of the Confederacy” in the 1960s, Danville never met the demands of Black residents. They were forced to wait for action to be taken at the national level.