Dry Bridge School State Historic Landmark Unveiled in Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, Virginia (WDBJ) – The Dry Bridge School opened in 1928 to provide education to African Americans in Henry County. The Reverend William F. Geter is one of the key figures who helped make all of this possible.

“He was a central part of this community and the education of some of us, his descendants, for generations to come. Reverend Geter, he was an education fanatic and really taught that education would be a game changer, ”said his great-granddaughter, Renee Brown.

Martinsville was desegregated in 1968, also when the school closed. On Saturday, many of Geter’s descendants, alumni, city and community leaders joined the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to dedicate a brand new historic mark near where the school was located.

“We have all been taught to be a big family of kids here at East Martinsville Elementary School,” said East Martinsville school alumnus Bishop Joe N. Gravely Jr.

Bishop Gravely Jr. shared many stories during the ceremony and was greeted with laughter and applause throughout his speech.

He concluded by saying that he had learned a lot from the East Martinsville school, one thing was how to be nice which he says the world is missing a lot right now, but he is convinced that we can find our way back. path.

For more information, you can find the VDHR press release below:

“This weekend, a state historic marker issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources will be dedicated that highlights the origins and history of the Dry Bridge School (later renamed East Martinsville School), which opened. opened in 1928 to serve the African-American students of Henry County during the era of segregation in public education.

The marker public dedication ceremony will take place on Saturday, October 2, starting at 11 a.m., at the marker location along East Church Street, just east of Boden Street and near the entrance to the ‘MARC workshop, where participants can park.

Speakers for the event will include Martinsville Mayor Kathy Lawson; Donna Dillard, President of the Town of Martinsville School Board; Renee Brown, Principal of Albert Harris Elementary School; Bishop Joe N. Gravely Jr., a former student of East Martinsville School; the Reverends Charles R. Whitfield and Ruben H. Martin Jr.; and Karice Luck-Brimmer, member of the Virginia Board of Historic Resources. Savannah Brown, currently a senior at Martinsville High School, will lead the scorer’s unveiling.

The Dry Bridge School is the result of a community campaign led by Reverend WF Geter to replace the original Dry Bridge Color School. Reverend Geter and the 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 build over 5,000 schools for African American students in the South between 1917 and 1932. Dry Bridge School , later renamed East Martinsville The school after Martinsville annexed this area of ​​Henry County in 1948, served students from grades 1 to 8. It closed in 1968 when 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 historic markers. The costs of making the marker were covered by its sponsor, Imogene Hodge Draper, a retired educator and alumnus of East Martinsville School.

The Virginia Historic Highway Beacon Program, which began in 1927 with the installation of the first historic beacons along US Highway 1, is considered the oldest such program in the country. There are currently over 2,600 official state markers, most maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation and local partners in jurisdictions outside of VDOT authority, such as the city of Martinsville.

Copyright 2021 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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