The Jefferson School was Charlottesville’s first African American high school and was built in 1926. Today, it is home to the African American Heritage Center. Here, visitors can explore exhibits that tell the story of African American history and culture in the Charlottesville community. The mission is to honor and preserve the rich heritage of the African American community in Charlottesville through education.
The African American Heritage Center offers many different exhibits, as Charlottesville has a rich history. Each exhibit teaches patrons about a different time period or story.
Pride Overcomes Prejudice
The Pride Overcomes Prejudice exhibit includes oral and handwritten histories about African Americans who experienced the struggle of racial inequality during their time at the Jefferson School. Learn about the history of the school from the perspective of teachers and students who once were in attendance in the six different sections of the exhibit.
The Migration Generation & More
The Migration Generation is another exhibit that tells of the time period between 1895 and 1926. This exhibit opened in 2015 and displays the period before Emancipation during which Charlottesville’s African American community pushed for education. Other exhibits include The Civil Rights/Massive Resistance Generation (1939-1959) and The Desegregation Generation (1959-1970).
Vinegar Hill 1963
Vinegar Hill was an African American Community located in Downtown Charlottesville. Gundars Osvalds, a 16-year-old student in 1963, wanted to photograph the urban renewal project and labeled it “Life in the Neighborhood.” This exhibit displays the many photos taken from that time period. Discover “Life in the Neighborhood” as the photos take you back in time to a day in the life.
The African American Heritage Center offers a variety of educational opportunities, such as tours and field trips, for visitors to learn about the history of African Americans in the Charlottesville community. Through tours, films, and lectures, visitors can educate themselves. Students can visit on field trips and receive a tour of the building, as well as learn about the Jefferson School’s founders. Additionally, learn how African Americans in Charlottesville established neighborhoods and businesses, and about the Civil Rights Movement in Charlottesville.
Upcoming and Current Projects
The Jefferson School Portal will give patrons access to over 60 oral histories from people who attended the school as students from 1930 to 1060. They can also use the portal to continue research through a variety of resources and learn more. Additionally, they will present lectures and more in order to expose different age groups to local history research.
The Yearbook Project
The Yearbook Project consists of the yearbooks from Jefferson High School for Colored Students published from 1926-1951. In these pages, we can see the accomplishments and community that took place during that time period. The goal of the Yearbook Project is to make this documented history available to a wider audience through an online database. It can also be viewed in the Pride Overcomes Prejudice exhibition. If you want to get involved, they are seeking interns to work on the project. Click here for more information.
The 1966 Project
The 1966 Project tells the story from the point of view of students and teachers as the Jefferson School became integrated in the fall of 1966. This movement began the desegregation of Charlottesville schools. Interviews of the students and teachers are recorded and available for listening at different stations in the Jefferson City School Center. They are also looking for interns to work on this project as well! Click here for more information.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history and heritage of the Charlottesville area, the African American Heritage Center is the perfect place to start.
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