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Smithsonian official praises FAHI for preserving past
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Margaret Dodson Turner (right), a development officer of the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, spoke at FAHI’s An Evening of Elegance fundraiser Saturday. Turner is a native of Henry County and Martinsville. She is shown above with Curtis Millner, board chairman of FAHI. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
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Monday, September 16, 2013

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The importance of the work by volunteers and supporters of the Fayette Area Historical Initiative (FAHI) cannot be understated, according to a speaker at a FAHI fundraiser Saturday.

“African American history is American history, and African American history in Martinsville is a part of Martinsville,” said Margaret Dodson Turner, the keynote speaker for FAHI’s “An Evening of Elegance” at the Dutch Inn in Collinsville.

Turner is a development officer of the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. She also is a native of Henry County-Martinsville, and is pleased that FAHI is preserving the past for future generations.

In June, FAHI celebrated the opening of its new African American Museum and Multi-Cultural Center on Fayette Street. It has a variety of exhibits and historic items spotlighting black individuals, schools and businesses. It also includes permanent and rotating exhibits, as well as a a meeting room for groups of 20, a library of books on black history and space for adults to tutor children.

FAHI and its new museum and cultural center are important assets “to African Americans and to the community” because the organization works to preserve the history and make sure it is passed down to future generations, Turner said.

It becomes even more important given the fact that “often, the African-American community is not always included in the state” and national museums, she said.

If the founders, volunteers and supporters who make up FAHI “had not gotten together and came up with the idea that we need to preserve our history, it would have been lost,” Turner said.

The history of Henry County and Martinsville is rich, and “it tells the story of how African Americans thrived, even during segregation, and how they made the way,” she said. “Not only do our children need to know that, I think everybody needs to know that.”

Turner grew up in Martinsville and attended Albert Harris Elementary School. Her family then moved to Henry County, and she graduated from G.W. Carver High School.

“This is my home. When I grew up, our community had a big influence on us,” Turner said. “Our teachers knew us” and knew students’ parents, and “our churches were right on Main Street,” she said.

She recalled that the Baldwin Block, with its medical offices and other businesses, “was a significant part of the black community and also a significant part of the community as a whole.

“Now, there is really is no identifiable black business community because everything is integrated — and that’s as it should be. But that part” of history must be shared and that story told and retold, Turner said.

Turner earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and a master’s degree in education from Harvard University. She has 30 years of fundraising experience and a background in organizational management and strategic planning, and she is a member of the New College Institute Foundation Board,.

FAHI was formed to celebrate the past, current and future history of the Fayette Street corridor and the surrounding community.

For more information on the organization, its programs and facilities, or to donate, call 732-3496.


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