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Our history

About the Fayette Area Historical Initiative

FAYETTE STREET runs along a two-mile stretch of road from the Courthouse Square uptown to the current Martinsville city limits at its west end. It begins just above Prillaman’s meat market, passing by the memory of what was Baldwin’s Block between Moss and Barton, crossing under the new lights at Market Street, and catching up with Mount Zion A.M.E. and Grace Presbyterian churches, oldest of the historic black churches on Fayette Street. Community Market No. 2 is thriving, but No. 1, the former H.M. Hairston’s – said to have once been “like Kroger’s” – is abandoned, as is the Paradise Inn, though neither has quite disappeared like the swimming pool and motel built at Sandy Beach where Fayette Street becomes simply Route 57 again.

THOUSANDS of men, women and children have lived and played, worked and prayed, raised families and said their goodbyes along this corridor of streets. Still home to many of Martinsville’s African American citizens as well as a place for worship, Fayette Street however is not the vibrant center of the social and business centers that it once was, or could be again.

The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH) and the Fayette Area Historical Initiative (FAHI) formed a partnership to use the humanities— literature, art, history, music, culture, but in this case, especially local history — to foster community development and redevelopment in the area. FAHI, a Martinsville grassroots organization, together with the non-profit VFH, a 30-year-old nonprofit foundation in Charlottesville, Virginia, sought and received two years of grant funding from the Martinsville-based Harvest Foundation and the Public Welfare Foundation in Washington D.C.

THE GOAL OF FAHI volunteers, working with staff members from the VFH, is to collect, preserve and interpret the Fayette Street experience through recorded oral history, public forums and workshops, lectures and other special programs.

© Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

Upcoming Events

FAHI Board of Directors


Chair - Joyce Staples

Joyce Staples is a proud member of the George Washington Carver High School Class of 1971. She earned an Associate’s degree from Patrick and Henry Community College in 1973, a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Averett University in 1975, a Master of Arts degree in Education from Virginia Tech in 1979, and a Certificate of Advanced Studies from Hollins University in 2011. She retired as an Associate Professor of English at Patrick and Henry Community College after teaching for 39 years. She brings to the board her energy and passion for community service she learned from her late mother, along with her interest in African-American culture. Joyce is married to Kenneth Staples, and they have two sons (Christopher and Nicholas) and one daughter (Abigail).


Assistant Chair - Faye Holland


Financial Secretary - Valeria Edwards


Secretary - Connie Lewis


Assistant Secretary - Lois Hairston

Lois Hairston received a Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry from Fisk University. She taught science in the Henry County Public Schools before joining DuPont as a supervisor and Occupational Health Coordinator. She has worked as a Financial Analyst/Stockbroker at Paine-Webber and Multi-Financial Securities. She enjoys spending time with her three daughters and six grandchildren.


Treasurer - Deborah Mitchell

Deborah Mitchell is a native of Martinsville. After working in the D.C. area her adult life, she returned to her hometown and joined the FAHI Board. She says, “I am happy to be a part of our FAHI family. We are preserving Martinsville and Henry County history.”


Building & Grounds Chair - Henry Foster

Henry Foster is a 1961 graduate of George Washington Carver High School. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural science and mechanics from Virginia State University and a Master’s Degree in Vocational Technical Education from Virginia Tech. He retired from Henry County Public Schools. He was married to the late America Hairston Foster, and they have three children (Todd, Jackie, and Natalie) and nine grandchildren.


Member - Artis Law

Artis Law is a veteran volunteer at FAHI, having served as board chair. She received an Associate’s Degree. She is the mother of three sons and one daughter.

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