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New U.Va. Web Archive Focuses on African-American Life in 'Jim Crow' Virginia

April 12, 1999 -- University of Virginia scholars have developed a new World Wide Web site that combines searchable databases of important primary sources with historical exhibits on African-American life in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Va., from about 1870 to 1930.

"Race and Place: An African-American Community in the Jim Crow South" is a collaboration between the University of Virginia's new Virginia Center for Digital History and U.Va.'s Carter G. Woodson Institute for Afro-American and African Studies.

The Web site invites users to explore an extensive collection of archival materials from the age of segregation, including photographs, newspaper articles, letters, and broadsides drawn from various collections at U.Va.'s Alderman Library.

Web users can 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 should be of great interest and value to the K-12 classroom, as well as to scholars of African-American history at all levels," said William G. Thomas, director of the Virginia Center for Digital History.

The "Race and Place" Web site grew out of student research into Alderman Library's Rufus W. Holsinger Studio Collection Digital Image Database, 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.

"For African-Americans in particular, this project offers the opportunity to participate in the development of a more inclusive history," said Reginald D. Butler, director of the Woodson Institute. "It will engage African-American undergraduates in major research projects while preparing them for careers in technology and the humanities. And it will help close the 'racial gap' in the use of the World Wide Web by creating more sites of interest to African-Americans."

The Virginia Center for Digital History was founded by the University of Virginia in the summer of 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. Thomas and executive director Edward L. Ayers, both historians of the U.S. South, bring extensive experience as developers of the award-winning "Valley of the Shadow" project to their work on the "Race and Place" Web site.

Associate director Alice Carter, an historian and education specialist, is supervising ongoing research projects and developing classroom teaching aids for use with the site.

The Woodson Institute was established by the University of Virginia in 1981 in response to student and faculty demands for a more coherent African-American and African Studies program and a more aggressive program of minority faculty and graduate recruitment. The institute coordinates an interdepartmental faculty and graduate seminar on "Changing Cultures of Race in the Modern World." It also offers residential research fellowships to predoctoral and postdoctoral candidates from U.Va. and other institutions. Director Reginald D. Butler and assistant director Scot A. French are developing a multimedia exhibit of photographs from the Holsinger collection, with links to the "Race and Place" Web site. "The Rufus W. Holsinger Studio Photograph Exhibit: History, Memory, Race, and Place in the Jim Crow South, 1900-1925" is on display at the Woodson Institute offices through July 4.

"Race and Place: An African-American Community in the Jim Crow South" is on the World Wide Web at

For interviews or additional information contact:

Reginald D. Butler, (804) 924-3109 or

Scot French, (804) 924-8889 or

William G. Thomas, (804) 924-7834 or

Alice Carter, (804) 924-3804 or

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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