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Civil Rights Movement Exhibit on Display at Averett

October 21, 2013

The Coffee Talk series in Blount Library kicked off the fall 2013 semester with an exhibit and a presentation titled “Mapping Local Knowledge: Danville, Va., 1963.” Emma Edmunds, a researcher with the University of Virginia, organized the exhibit and hosted the presentation on September 26.

Edmunds opened the presentation by discussing events relating to the Civil Rights Movement in Danville in 1963. During the months of June and July of that year, more than 300 demonstrators were arrested by the police. The struggle for equal rights in Danville drew the attention of civil rights leaders from across the country. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sent representatives to Danville to assist the protestors. Just as the SCLC was preparing to launch a major campaign in the fall of 1963, other events — including the bombing of a Baptist Church in Birmingham in September and the assassination of President Kennedy in November — compelled King and other civil rights leaders to focus their efforts elsewhere.

Edmunds was followed by Robert Hairston, who related how King stayed at his mother Beatrice’s house during his two visits to Danville. He presented a letter from his daughter, who was four years old at the time of King’s visit, to Edmunds to read. Hairston was followed by Reverend Thurman Echols, Jr., who was one of the first protestors to be arrested on the morning of June 10, 1963. When Thurman’s mother and father went to the police station to pick up the 16-year-old protestor, they were also arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The final speaker was Herbert V. Coulton, who was a field secretary for the SCLC at the time of the Danville protests. Coulton, who drove from Petersburg to attend the presentation, described his efforts to help register voters in Virginia and other southern states. During the course of his activities with the SCLC, Coulton was arrested several times and threatened with violence by members of the Ku Klux Klan and others. He recorded his experiences as a community organizer during the Civil Rights Movement in a book he co-authored with James Daniely, “In the Shadow of Giants.”

“Mapping Local Knowledge” will be on exhibit in Blount Library through November 15. The exhibit is free and open to the public.