FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Staff Contact:

Bobby Allen Roach
bobby.roach@dcc.vccs.edu

Public Relations

photo of Paula Smith speaking to gathered crowd in DCC's Oliver Hall 

Danville Community College hosted Paula Martin Smith to deliver a conversational presentation of her experience as a 10-year-old civil rights activist in 1950s Danville at the culmination of the college’s observance of Black History Month on Tuesday, February 21. Martin was born and raised in Pittsylvania County. She attended Danville Public Schools, where her mother was a teacher.

 

Pittsylvania County Native Paula Smith Speaks on Acts of Civil Rights Heroism in 1950s Danville

 

(February 21, 2017)  – As the capstone of Danville Community College’s observance of Black History Month, Paula Martin Smith was invited to speak to her experiences growing up in Danville and Pittsylvania County and her family’s role in enforcing desegregation laws in southern Virginia.
 
The presentation, delivered in the form of a casual chat between Smith and DCC English Professor Kyesha Jennings in DCC’s Oliver Hall on Tuesday, February 21, highlighted some of Smith’s experiences living in the Blairs community of Pittsylvania County as a child and attending school in Danville. At one point during the conversation, Smith shared that her family put Danville’s compliance with national desegregation laws to the test when she, a 10-year-old at the time, boarded a city bus and sat within two seats of the driver. The driver told her three times that she would have to move to the back of the bus, to which Smith responded, “No. I am comfortable where I am.” The driver called the police and Smith was escorted off of the bus, which resulted in a lawsuit against the city filed by her father, Maceo Conrad Martin, former president of First State Bank.
 
One member of the audience on Tuesday described Smith as “Danville’s own Rosa Parks.”
 
“Her father was actually the only black person on the jury intended to indict the Bloody Monday protesters,” Jennings said. “I believe it was his presence that resulted in the protestors not facing indictment.”
 
Smith went on to graduate from Bennett College in North Carolina and several members of her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, joined her for her presentation at DCC.
 
“In my eyes, Mrs. Paula is a hero,” Jennings said. “I hope the event inspired students and community members from Danville to be proud of their local heroes. Her story also teaches about resistance, perseverance, and never giving up or taking ‘no’ for an answer. These are things that all people, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation, can apply to their daily lives.”
 
In addition to Smith’s presentation, “Celebrating Local Heroes,” DCC’s Black History Month festivities concluded with Big C Chicken and Waffles food truck parked in the Temple Parking lot. The truck was busy from the time it began serving at 11 a.m. through well after lunchtime. Southside Virginia Community College and DCC students are invited to see Hidden Figures at the World of Sports theater in South Boston on February 28 at 2 p.m. The event is free to students who present their student ID.
 
Jennings is already looking forward to next year’s Black History Month events at DCC.
 
“Alice Walker and I are hoping to continue partnering with the DCC Educational Foundation to have empowering, educational, entertaining events,” Jennings said. “There are two big performance acts I am interested in bringing to DCC. One is an alternative band by the name of The Beast. They are a beautiful mixture of jazz and hip-hop. One musician’s mother is actually a Grammy-nominated jazz singer and his father designed the Smithsonian’s new African-American History and Culture Museum.”
 
Next month, DCC will observe Women’s History Month with a special focus on Latina women, Jennings added.
 For more information about DCC’s African-American Culture Club or Women’s History Month events at the college, visit www.danville.edu or contact Kyesha Jennings at 434-797-8549 or kjennings@dcc.vccs.edu.

 

Click here to listen to an oral history interview with Paula Martin Smith, which was recorded by Old Dominion University in 2012.

 

1008 South Main St., Danville, VA 24541  |  434.797.2222  |  TTY: 434.797.8542  |  FAX: 434.797.8514  |  Toll-Free: 1.800.560.4291
 Danville Community College promotes and maintains educational and employment opportunities without regard to race, color, sex, ethnicity, religion, gender, age (except when age is a bona fide occupational qualification), disability, national origin, or other non-merit factors. Danville Community College prohibits sexual harassment including sexual violence..