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Holsinger photo
Courtesy of Alderman Library's Special Collections Department

NEH grant supports web-based "Race and Place" history projects

By Robert Brickhouse




1867 J.T.S. Taylor, a Charlottesville citizen and African-American, was elected to Virginia's Constitutional Convention, held in Richmond Dec. 3. Twenty-five of the 105 members were African Americans.
1869 Twenty-seven of the 180 newly elected General Assembly members were African Americans. 1870 The 15th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. It gave all citizens the right to vote and gave Congress the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


Virginia legislature passed several laws designed to restrict African-American political participation.


Not one African-American remained in either house of the state legislature.


Three Charlottesville African-American women successfully registered to vote: Mrs. Maggie P. Burley, Mamie J. Farwell and Mrs. Alice Grady.


African-American family
This image, of a local African-American family, is from Alderman Library's Rufus W. Holsinger Studio Collection Digital Image Database, as is the above photo.

This abbreviated timeline is but a sampling of information from a University web project that is building an archive of local African-American history. The project recently received a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to expand its offerings and help establish similar electronic archives with historically black colleges and universities around the state.

"Race and Place," a history archive of the Charlottesville-Albemarle County area during the Jim Crow era, is a joint project of the University's Center for Digital History and the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies. It combines searchable databases of important primary sources, including photographs, newspaper records and census data, with historical exhibits on local African-American life from about 1870 to 1930 from various collections at Alderman Library.

The two-year grant will enable U.Va. to continue to add census and court records and other important historical resources to the archive. With the local model and technological tools being developed as part of it, U.Va. will also help historically black colleges and universities around the state build similar community projects, said Reginald D. Butler, director of the Woodson Institute, and William G. Thomas, director of the Center for Digital History. U.Va. is already collaborating with researchers at Norfolk State University in developing a Tidewater African-American history digital archive.

In the Charlottesville project, users can now search the site's databases of African-American businesses and households, as recorded in U.S. Census returns and Charlottesville city directories of the early 20th century. They can read local club and school announcements as well as commentary on national events in an African-American-owned and -operated newspaper, The Reflector. They can also explore the political correspondence of African-Americans who struggled to retain their voting rights in the face of statewide disenfranchisement campaigns.

The material is intended to be of use for African-American history learning and research at all levels from the K-12 classroom to universities and the general public, Thomas said. The Jim Crow era is especially important with K-12 history projects, because it's a period that's often overlooked, he said.

The "Race and Place" site grew out of student research into Alderman Library's digital image database of the Rufus W. Holsinger Studio Collection, which includes more than 550 photographs of African-Americans taken between 1908 and 1927. Students enrolled in the Woodson Institute's Emerging Scholars Program and related African-American Studies courses have been researching the Holsinger collection for the past two years, Butler said.

Both at U.Va. and other institutions, the projects offer African-American and other students opportunities to work on significant research and to prepare themselves for careers in technology and the humanities, he said.

The Virginia Center for Digital History was founded by U.Va. in 1998. Its mission is to develop high-quality, well-researched, and reliable history materials for the World Wide Web and deliver them to schools, colleges, libraries, historical societies, and the general public.

The Woodson Institute coordinates African and African-American studies at the graduate and undergraduate level, as well as interdepartmental seminars, and offers residential research fellowships for predoctoral and postdoctoral work in these areas.


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