Hidden in Plain Site launches in Roanoke

The project unearths history from the Black experience from the past

ROANOKE, VA – A project unearthing history right here in the Star City. Hidden in Plain Site launched Sunday night, giving the people of Roanoke a look at the Black experience of the past.

It’s a process that’s taken over a year to complete.

Hidden in Plain Site strives to highlight local Black history.

Founder Dontrese Brown first began the project in Richmond.

“We can’t just go into any city and just tell that story,” Brown said. “We have to work with community leaders, influencers, historians, educators to make sure we create the right narrative for this experience.”

The full project is a documentary that can be viewed by online or by a virtual reality headset.

In addition to Henrietta Lacks’ story, the documentary highlights six spots in Roanoke that have a history of systemic racism - like the Burrell Hospital, the Old Lick Cemetery, Henry Street and the Berglund Center. All important sites to the Black community in Roanoke before urban renewal in the 1950′s and 60′s.

“From an archival photo stand point to a 360 degree capture of the current site and then overlaid it with some historical context so folks will be able to orient themselves in where they are today,” Brown said.

Council member Trish White-Boyd spearheaded the initiative in Roanoke.

“We love Roanoke, it’s a beautiful city but there’s some painful history and a part of that dismal past that we have to acknowledge,” White-Boyd said.

White-Boyd hopes Hidden in Plain Site sparks conversations on how Roanoke can continue to grow and move forward. She says they are open to exploring more historical sites to expand the project in the future.

“There are a lot of things we left. We had to stop somewhere. We chose 6 sites but sounds like we have room for more,” White-Boyd said.

If you didn’t get the opportunity to come out Sunday don’t worry, there are still two more opportunities to view the project. One showing is at Grandin Theatre and the August 16 and the other is at the Jefferson Center on September 28.

They also plan to unveil a bronze statue to Henrietta Lacks on October 4, the day declared in her honor by Governor Glenn Youngkin.

About the Author:

Abbie Coleman officially joined the WSLS 10 News team in January 2023.