Race and Place in Charlottesville Episodes

Motivated by Jesus’ command in Scripture to love our neighbors, “Race and Place in Charlottesville” is a video series that follows Louis Nelson, Professor of Architectural History at UVA, on a guided tour of the history of race and racism in Charlottesville.

 

The Second Slave Trade

Standing at the foot of UVA's Rotunda, Louis Nelson (Board Chair at the Center for Christian Study and Architectural History Professor at UVA) brings to light the ways in which the slave trade—first from West Africa and then within the American South—impacted the landscape of a small university town in Albemarle County.

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Building the University

Thomas Jefferson has long been lauded as the architect of the University of Virginia's distinctive Academical Village. But what—or better, who—did it take to actually build it? See the Lawn with new eyes as we meet Sam the Carpenter, an enslaved black man, in episode 2 of "Race and Place in Charlottesville."

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Hidden Stories at UVA

At surface level, the University of Virginia's Academical Village has always represented a landscape of opportunity, community, and academic possibility. Take a short flight of stairs from the Lawn, however, and you'll find a different story—the story of Lucy Cotrell—unveiled in the basements of UVA's famous Pavilions. 

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Secret Gardens

Viewer discretion is advised.

The University of Virginia's serpentine walls bordering its Gardens originally rose to an impressive eight feet tall. Learn more about the hard work that took place behind these walls during the university's early years... and the hard stories of the men and women who walked the alleys between them every day. 

We welcome archaeologist Benjamin Ford of Rivanna Archaeological Services to this episode.  

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Archaeology at UVA

Take a break from the walking tour to sit down with archaeologist Benjamin Ford of Rivanna Archaeological Services, LLC, as he and Professor Nelson discuss what the University of Virginia's archaeological record has to tell us about the lives—and deaths—of its enslaved laborers.

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Digging Up Graves

Professor Nelson returns for the next stop of the "Race and Place in Charlottesville" tour: the site of the University of Virginia's Anatomical Theater. Once located near present-day Alderman Library, the Theater served as the stage for a 19th-century innovation in medical research—dissecting human cadavers for anatomical study. The demand for corpses lead to an increase in bodysnatchers, who pilfered the graves of enslaved laborers.

With archaeologist Benjamin Ford of Rivanna Archaeological Services, LLC.

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Futility of Resistance

The "Race and Place in Charlottesville" tour leaves UVA Grounds to head toward the Downtown Mall. On the way there, stop at the base of the George R. Clark Monument, now standing at the intersection of West Main and Jefferson Park Ave. Discover the history of this statue, its unveiling, and the implications it continues to have for Charlottesville's African-American community.

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Eugenics at UVA

Still standing at the base of the George R. Clark monument, Professor Nelson explores how the University of Virginia medical school in the 20th century embraced the scientific movement of the day: the race-based science which was later known as eugenics. With its emphasis on the inferiority of “the American negro,” eugenics served as the justification for laws that supported race-based segregation and sterilization of African-Americans.

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Building Bridges

The Drewary Brown Bridge, which divides the city in half, is named for one of Charlottesville’s most important African-American Civil Rights leaders. On this stop of the tour, Professor Nelson introduces us to Charlottesville’s heroic “Bridge Builders” and their commitment to rising above the oppression of segregation for the sake of the well-being of the entire city.

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Property and Power

Journalist Jordy Yager joins Professor Nelson in the Study Center library to share his findings from research concerning Charlottesvillle's black citizens' access to property (and the power that comes with it) from the plantation era to today. 

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Just After Reconstruction

Following the Civil War, Reconstruction promised newly freed black citizens the opportunity for freedom and agency in a new, integrated society. The Compromise of 1877 lead to the shattering of these promises. The effect of the making—and breaking—of these promises to black Americans can be seen in the location of structures close to heart of their communities: their churches.

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An Oral History of Starr Hill

Hidden between West Main Street and Preston Avenue, Charlottesville’s Starr Hill neighborhood has long been home to a thriving black middle class. In this episode, longtime resident Pat Edwards reminisces on the history of her beloved neighborhood and her church, First Baptist on Main Street. 

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A City Inside a City

Welcome to Starr Hill, Charlottesville's city inside a city. In response to the conditions of segregation, residents of this historically black neighborhood developed an economy of their own, complete with medical care, a daycare, and its own bank system.

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Separate and Unequal

The landmark Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson led to the state-sanctioned racial segregation of public facilities, as long as said facilities were "separate but equal." Today's stop on the tour explores the impact that segregation had on the schooling system in Charlottesville, revealing just how unequal conditions were between the city's black and white schools.

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Remembering Integration

In this episode we take a tour of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center with its director, Andrea Douglas, as she traces the process of integration in the Charlottesville schooling system. Then, we rejoin Pat Edwards on her porch as she reminisces on what the integration experience meant to her.

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Vinegar Hill: Eminent Domain

In this first episode of a two-part series, Professor Nelson explores the Vinegar Hill neighborhood: a once-vibrant African-American neighborhood located near Preston Avenue and Ridge/McIntire Road. Claimed by the Charlottesville government under eminent domain, the neighborhood was razed and left as a vacant scar in the city's landscape for 20 years before being rebuilt.

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Vinegar Hill: Enfranchisement of Place

Professor Nelson continues to meditate on the history surrounding Charlottesville's Vinegar Hill neighborhood. As he stands in the parking lot that has come to replace the black-owned and -occupied homes and businesses, he expounds on the disenfranchising impact that loss of place has had on the city's black communities. 

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Acting Out the Lost Cause

Standing in front of the Downtown Mall's Jefferson Theater, Professor Nelson explores the ways in which the white citizens of Charlottesville looked back with great fondness on the way of life of the antebellum South—slavery included—through social gatherings, re-enactments, and minstrelsy shows.

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Three Histories of the KKK

Professor Nelson expounds on three historical iterations of the Ku Klux Klan's presence in Charlottesville—including the August 11 and 12 rallies in 2017—and the impact the white supremacist group has had on the city's minority communities, including its African-American and Jewish citizens.  

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A Monumental Legacy

Professor Nelson concludes his walking tour with a powerful reflection on the monument of Stonewall Jackson, located in what is now called Court Square. 

"Adopting a framework of celebrating the peaceable city of Charlottesville and not recognizing the legacy of white supremacy and marginalization that have been inscribed in this landscape for centuries is simply not hearing our neighbor."

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Where Are We Today?

At the end of his walking tour, Professor Nelson sits down with Dayna Mathew, William L. Matheson and Robert M. Morgenthau Distinguished Professor of Law at UVA, to discuss Charlottesville's current landscape of racial inequity. The episode ends with a set of statistics of where we are today.

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Calling the Church

Still sitting in the Study Center library, Professor Nelson and Dayna Matthew's conversation moves from discussing the current state of racial inequity in Charlottesville to examining what the church can do next.

"Instead of just giving ear to the problem, the church can roll up its sleeves and give love to the problem." - Dayna Matthew. 

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