This project explores and maps the family, social, and economic relationships between a cohort of 600 African Americans and their Black and White fellow citizens, at the height of the Jim Crow era.
- African American History
- Charlottesville History
- Human Geography
"Seeing and Mapping Black Charlottesville, 1902-1930," will bring together students and faculty members to map and investigate the family, social, and economic relationships between a cohort of 600 African American Charlottesvillians and their Black and White fellow citizens, at the height of the Jim Crow era. We have identified and secured permission to use public and private data sources, for example, the census, city directories, tax and property records, birth and death certificates, newspapers, and the archives of churches and civic groups, that will allow us to map the web of relationships that defined their lives. This geo-spatial mapping of early twentieth-century Charlottesville will help us to better understand the personal, social, and economic networks that African Americans created and that sustained them and their community during a time of entrenched white supremacy. Portraits of all 600 members of the cohort are housed in the Holsinger Studio Collection, in the university's Small Special Collections Library. They lack, however, meaningful biographical information. Bringing together the historical data and the portraits will allow us to humanize the data by embedding African American life stories in the history of the city.
"Seeing and Mapping Black Charlottesville, 1902-1930," is, in many ways, a companion project to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center's on-going project, "Mapping Cville, Racial Covenants, 1903-1933." Our conversations with leaders of "Mapping Cville" have lead to a collaborative relationship. We and they believe that the two projects will extend and strengthen each other.
We envision several primary outcomes. The first is an interactive website that will present our findings to the public. Maps and portraits will be gateways to exploring Charlottesville's too-little-known African American history. Maps will show the public how members of the cohort were connected to each other through ties of kinship and friendship. Maps will show where people worked and with whom and for whom they worked. They will show where members of the cohort and those in the networks lived. Importantly, maps will connect to the Holsinger portraits, which will link to brief biographies and to online archival collections, such as the census, city directories, and newspapers, allowing the public to explore archives on their own.
We believe that "Seeing and Mapping Black Charlottesville, 1902-1930," will also help bridge the divide between the university and the city's African American community through its collaboration with the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center and the knowledge that it will share with the ancestry/genealogical work of the Descendants of Enslaved Laborers leadership team. Additionally, the project will be a valuable learning experience for the students who join our team. (See, Student Engagement section.) And, finally, this phase of the project will position us to secure additional outside funding. We will not be able to complete the project with this grant, but it will serve as a solid launching pad.
Paid graduate and undergraduate students will be essential members of the team. We cannot do the research and the coding by ourselves. Faculty members and graduate students will supervise undergraduates, giving them an hands-on introduction to research in history, human geography, and digital humanities. The skills that undergraduates develop will serve them well after graduation, no matter what professional path they choose to take. Graduate students will deepen their knowledge of their specialty and gain insight into others. The experience will strengthen them on the highly competitive job market.