Plaques to Be Dedicated in Danville, Va., for Two Historic Sites Listed in the Green Book

Published December 7, 2023

Virginia Department of Historic Resources
(dhr.virginia.gov)
For Immediate Release
December 7, 2023

Contact:
Ivy Tan
Department of Historic Resources
Marketing & Communications Manager
ivy.tan@dhr.virginia.gov
804-482-6445

—The two plaques will be attached to their respective historical highway markers highlighting the Holbrook-Ross Historic District and the Yancey House & Grasty Library—

RICHMOND – Early next week, new plaques will be unveiled in the City of Danville to commemorate two sites featured in the Green Book, a 20th-century travel guide for African Americans during the Jim Crow era of segregation. The plaques will be attached to existing historical highway markers installed by the Department of Historic Resources (DHR) that highlight the histories of the sites.

The public dedication ceremony for the plaques will be held Tuesday, December 12, starting at 2 p.m. at 320 Holbrook Street (24541), the headquarters of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s local chapter in Danville. The event is open to members of the public. Free streetside parking will be available for attendees. The 300 block of Holbrook Street will be closed off starting at 1:30 p.m.

The Holbrook-Ross Historic District historical marker as well as the Yancey House and Grasty Library historical marker will each receive a Green Book plaque attached to their posts.

The dedication on Tuesday will feature presentations from members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s Danville chapter (Alpha Phi Omega), including President Gayle H. Breakley, Interim President Bethann West James, and members Dorothy Diggs and Cynthia Polk. Danville City Councilmember Barry Mayo will deliver remarks. Karice Luck-Brimmer of Virginia Humanities will provide an overview of Danville’s history as it pertains to the Holbrook-Ross Historic District, the Yancey House, and Grasty Library.

The Holbrook-Ross Historic District was the first neighborhood in Danville for African American professionals. In the late 19th century, it was home to Black lawyers, ministers, dentists, physicians, business owners, and others. The neighborhood grew rapidly during the 1880s following the construction of the Danville School, the city's public school for Black students. By the turn of the 20th century, Holbrook Street had become the city's leading Black residential address. Several businesses in the neighborhood were listed in the Green Book.

The Yancey House, listed in the Green Book from the 1930s to the 1960s, served as a lodging place for African Americans during the segregation era. The house later became the headquarters of the Danville chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Grasty Library, a branch of the Danville public library system for Black patrons, operated next door to the Yancey House from 1950 to 1969. After African Americans were denied service at the city’s main library in April 1960, an NAACP lawsuit led to a federal court order requiring equal access. The city closed the libraries in response. Danville reopened its libraries on an integrated basis in September 1960, but without tables and chairs.

Virginia State Delegate Michael P. Mullin introduced House Bill 1968 in January 2023 to designate or approve supplementary plaques for historical highway markers identifying locations and businesses in Virginia that were featured in the Green Book. The bill also calls for additional funding to document surviving buildings listed in the Green Book. The study will help make historic properties eligible for potential sources of funding and increase public education about the Green Book and Black History in Virginia. Governor Glenn Youngkin signed the Green Book legislation into law in March 2023. For more information on the Green Book in Virginia, visit here.

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