Without African American civic and social groups, Central Virginia would have been a very different place. Without the Masons, True Reformers, Odd Fellows, Elks, and Eastern Stars, men and women would not have cultivated organized connections with others living outside the Virginia Piedmont who also worked to improve the quality of black life and bring about social change.
Without African American civic and social groups, the Depression years in Central Virginia would have seen few outlets for black creativity and self-designed entertainment. Blacks would not have pooled economic resources as they did through the Altavista Businessmen’s Club, founded in 1933 to increase members’ buying power. There would have been no Voter’s League, formed in 1937, to educate and register voters and to gather funds to pay poll taxes. Without Negro Garden Clubs and Beauticians’ Clubs, black women’s artistic gifts would not have been celebrated in the gardens they planted and the hair they coiled. Without black alumni groups bringing together graduates from Virginia’s historically black colleges-Hampton, Virginia State, and Virginia Union-football stadiums would have been less crowded and their cheers quieter, thousands of dollars would not have been raised, and school spirit and pride might have waned.
Without African American civic and social groups, countless people would not have been fed, nursed back to health, or buried. Hundreds of nursing homes would not have been visited, Christmas baskets given, and college scholarships awarded. African American speakers would not have been brought to the area to address national issues. And there would be few, if any, thick and yellowing scrapbooks filled with ticket stubs, napkins, programs, and photographs of people having the times of their lives.