Explore Local History

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    About Our History Center</h3 >

    Learn about the research going on at our Isabella Gibbons Local History Center.

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    Center Offerings</h3 >

    Learn about the digital humanities programs that the center is pursuing and how you can take part.

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    Research Projects</h3 >

    Learn about the current research conducted through our Digital Humanities program.

Local History & The Study Of Genealogy

The Isabella Gibbons Local History and Digital Humanities Center (IGLHDHC) is named after Isabella Gibbons the Jefferson School’s first black teacher. Once Emancipated, the formerly enslaved Gibbons opened her own school. After four months of operation she closed the school to join the Jefferson normal school taught by Anna Gardner. By 1866 Gibbons was hired by the Freedmen’s Aid Society and began her own classroom which she named the Major Savage School. Through an emphasis on digital humanities, the Center works to expand public knowledge of the region’s African American communities.

Offerings At The Center

Access: Our Research Areas

The IGLHDHC promotes the study of local history in Charlottesville and Albemarle County and fosters a deeper understanding of our community’s lived environment. Through its various collections, the Heritage Center provides access to and disseminates narratives that are relevant locally and add to the larger history of African Americans in Virginia and the nation.

The Center will provide intergenerational programs that expose new audiences to African American and local history research. Additionally, the Center will present lectures and symposia that consider new trends in genealogical research. It will also offer meeting space for local genealogy groups.

New research uncovered by the Heritage Center’s affiliated scholars will facilitate the expansion of our permanent installations and subsequent exhibitions. Additionally, local and nationally known artists will be commissioned to use the collected oral histories and other materials as fodder for new theater, films, and musical scores. Through E-publishing, the Heritage Center provides a cost-effective way for lay scholars to disseminate their research.

To facilitate their research, visitors to the Heritage Center can utilize Ancestory.com, Heritage Quest and African American Newspapers. We are available by appointment.

Access: Search the Collection


Cville Mapping Project

Mapping Cville is the first project in the area to comprehensively map inequities through Charlottesville and Albemarle County’s past and present. The project’s first map is logging and plotting all of the properties that contained racist covenants between 1888-1968, which prohibitied the sale of property to African Americans. Explore the project (this should be a hot link to mappingcville.com)

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The Yearbook Project

The Jefferson High School for Colored students (1926-1951) published its Crimson and Black yearbook each year between 1940 and 1951. Within the pages of these books the many accomplishments of Jefferson’s students were chronicled. The books are not just documents of the school’s culture, but also articulate the aspirations of the larger Black community that supported their children and activities. Our Yearbook Project proposes to make these important, yet now fragile, documents available to a wider audience through a searchable database. The Jefferson School Yearbook project is made possible through a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation (CACF) and Ting, Inc.

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The 1966 Project

In 1964 the Charlottesville School Board began the process of closing the Jefferson School as the city’s all-black elementary school. By the fall of 1966 the school reopened as the city’s integrated 6th grade, effectively ushering in the true end of desegregation of the city’s schools. The 1966 Project presents the voices of those students and teachers who participated in this moment. If 1958 represented the alpha period for school integration in Charlottesville, 1966 would be the omega.

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Alumni Oral History

Patrons can access the more than 60 oral histories conducted with students who attended the Jefferson School from 1930-1960, as well as the ephemera collected while preparing our permanent exhibitions.

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