Hearing Hidden Voices is a three-part Hear Together series committed to amplifying voices in our community, even when the spotlight has been turned off. Each profile highlights the work of a different Lynchburg native whose tenacity made seminal strides in the fight for inclusion and equality of the Black community in our area — and beyond.

The Academy Center of the Arts in Lynchburg recently oversaw the renovation and reopening of the Historic Academy Theatre — an entertainment venue that was segregated from 1912 until its closing in 1958. Its reopening in 2018 was monumental; It marked the first time the space was integrated.

Throughout the restoration process, the Academy was mindful of the theatre’s history, and made sure to pay tribute to a community icon and theatre mainstay: Lottie Payne Stratton. Stratton ran the venue’s segregated ticket booth, and gained notoriety for her gestures of kindness and compassion.

For this Hear Together profile, we spoke with the Academy Center’s Executive Director Geoffrey Kershner. Learn more about the Academy Center’s history spotlight here.