Downstairs, museum exhibits trace Danville’s civil rights history and honor African American opera star Camilla Williams. The pole where a rebel flag once flew now stands empty. On the lawn on Saturdays, a Confederate heritage group vies for space with a yoga class.
Long billed as the Last Capital of the Confederacy, this industrial city near the North Carolina line was struggling to create a new identity even before the Black Lives Matter movement rose up over the summer. As cities across the South confronted their past, leaders in Danville weren’t sure what to expect.
What they got was far different from the sometimes violent clashes between protesters and police that gripped that more famous Confederate capital in Richmond, 150 miles to the northeast. Here, marchers demonstrated peacefully and the police supported them. A group that had planted a giant Confederate flag at the foot of Martin Luther King Jr.