Virginia State Seal Virginia Department of Historic Resources

State Historical Marker “Dry Bridge School” To Be Dedicated in Martinsville

Department of Historic Resources
(www.dhr.virginia.gov)
For Immediate Release
September 30, 2021

Contact: Randy Jones, DHR
Randy.jones@dhr.virginia.gov
540-578-3031

—Dry Bridge School, a “Rosenwald,” opened in 1928 to serve Henry County’s African American students

Marker text reproduced below

RICHMOND – This weekend a state historical marker issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources will be dedicated that highlights the origins and history of Dry Bridge School, which opened in 1928 to serve African American students in Henry County during the era of segregation in public education.

The public dedication ceremony for the marker will be held Saturday, October 2, beginning at 11 a.m., at the marker’s location along East Church Street, just east of Boden Street and near the entrance to the MARC Workshop, where attendees may park.

Event speakers will include Martinsville Mayor Kathy Lawson; Donna Dillard, chair of the Martinsville City School Board; Renee Brown, principal of Albert Harris Elementary School; Bishop Joe N. Gravely Jr., a former student at East Martinsville School; the Reverends Charles R. Whitfield and Ruben H. Martin Jr.; and Karice Luck-Brimmer, a member of the Virginia Board of Historic Resources. Current Martinsville High School senior Savannah Brown will lead the unveiling of the marker.

Dry Bridge School was the result of a community campaign led by the Rev. W. F. Geter to replace the original Dry Bridge Colored School. Rev. Geter and African Americans living east of Martinsville, then part of Henry County, formed the School Improvement League to carry out their advocacy.

Funding for the new Dry Bridge School came from the Black community, the public, and the Julius Rosenwald Fund, which helped to build more than 5,000 schools for African American students in the South between 1917 and 1932. Dry Bridge School, later renamed East Martinsville School after Martinsville annexed that area of Henry County in 1948, served students in grades 1-8. It closed in 1968 as the city desegregated its schools.

The marker was approved for manufacture and installation earlier this year by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, which is authorized to designate new state historical markers. The marker’s manufacturing costs were covered by its sponsor, Imogene Hodge Draper, a retired educator and former student of East Martinsville School.

Virginia’s historical highway marker program, which began in 1927 with the installation of the first historical markers along U.S. Route 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,600 official state markers, most maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, and by local partners in jurisdictions outside of VDOT’s authority such as the City of Martinsville.

[PLEASE NOTE: DHR markers are erected not to “honor” their subjects but rather to educate and inform the public about a person, place, or event of regional, state, or national importance. In this regard, markers are not memorials.]

Text of marker:

Dry Bridge School
Henry County opened a new Dry Bridge School just south of here in 1928 after the School Improvement League, an organization of African Americans living east of Martinsville, campaigned under the leadership of the Rev. W. F. Geter to replace the original Dry Bridge Colored School. Funding came from the African American community, the public, and the Julius Rosenwald Fund, which helped build more than 5,000 schools for African Americans in the South. The school, led by teaching principals J. L. Hairston and the Rev. R. T. Anderson, served students in grades 1-8. Known as East Martinsville School after the city annexed this area in 1948, it was closed in 1968 as the city desegregated its schools.

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Originally posted: September 30, 2021
Updated: September 30, 2021