The African American Experience: Local History Resources

The African American Experience blog photoPresident Theodore Roosevelt, who often retreated to his Albemarle County getaway, Pine Knot, said, “I believe that the more you know about the past, the better you are prepared for the future.” History is not about learning names and dates; it is learning from and understanding others. Our past lays a foundation for the present, and therefore, causes the future. By studying the past, we can understand change and how our society came to be. We can find heroes in our past, women and men who provide lessons in courage and determination, who saw wrongs in our society and overcame obstacles to change them. Explore the following resources, suggested by Historical Collections Librarian Miranda Burnett, to learn more about African-American history in Charlottesville and Virginia.

Old Pictures, New Visions: Rufus Holsinger’s African-American Portraits 

Holsinger’s portraits of Charlottesville African-Americans capture the spirit and fortitude of African-Americans living in the area in the early twentieth century. Many of the portraits’ sitters are still unidentified.

African-American Trailblazers in Virginia History

Learn more about Virginian trailblazers and their contributions to the state.

Mapping C’ville – Examining Equity through History: Mapping Racial Covenants, Infrastructure and More

Mapping C’ville documents the racist covenants that exist in deeds, preventing the sale of property to African-Americans and others not considered caucasian. This project is ongoing.

The Esmont Community – The Scottsville Museum

Learn more about the African-American community of Esmont in southern Albemarle County. While at the Scottsville Museum’s website, read more about the Rush family of Chestnut Grove and Regina Rush’s journey to find her family.

The Benjamin F. Yancey Collection – The Virginia Center for Digital History and Carter G. Woodson Institute

Benjamin F. Yancey was an African-American educator in Albemarle County. Explore this curated collection of documents and photographs about him. The University of Virginia Special Collections also has a collection of Mr. Yancey’s papers.

Race and Place – An African-American Community in the Jim Crow South: Charlottesville, VA

What was it like to live, learn, and play in the segregated south? Race and Place archives the era of segregation and Jim Crow in Charlottesville, and includes links to newspapers, personal papers, photographs, and oral histories from Esmont and Ridge Street in Charlottesville.

Slavery and the University – University of Virginia

The President’s Commission on Slavery and the University reports on the history of slavery at the university, highlighting the lives of the enslaved people who built the university and involuntarily worked there. The 2018 Report is well worth the read. The website includes a student-led visitor’s guide to slavery and the university and information about the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers. 

Virginia Untold: The African American Narrative

The Library of Virginia brings together documents that tell the stories of African-Americans in pre-1865 Virginia. Some of the records include court documents, bills of sale, and manumission deeds.

The Geography of Slavery in Virginia

Search over 4000 advertisements for runaway slaves, drawn from newspapers covering the years 1736 to 1803. The website includes other resources and teaching materials.

Remaking Virginia: Transformation Through Emancipation

The Library of Virginia’s 2015-16 exhibit “Remaking Virginia” focuses on how African Americans made the change from property to citizens and explores the societal transformation experienced by all Virginians through labor, church, education, families, political rights, military service, and violence.

African American newspapers at Virginia Chronicle 

Explore the African American Newspapers such as the Richmond Planet (1889-1930) or the Staunton Tribune (1927-1931) featured at Virginia Chronicle.


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