Rufus Holsinger (1866-1930) took this photo of “Midway” looking east on March 7, 1917. This part of town at the crest of Vinegar Hill along the historic Three Notch’d Road (later West Main Street) was known throughout the 19th and early 20th century as Midway or sometimes Midway Square (being roughly mid-way between the original downtown Charlottesville at Court Square and the University of Virginia, which opened March 7, 1825). This photo was taken two years before the Lewis, Clark, and Sacajawea statue was installed. The busy street trolley tracks are visible on the left, which covered much of Charlottesville from the 1880s to the 1930s. The 1894 Midway School is in the center (built on the site of the historic 1818 Midway Hotel). This school served the City’s white children, elementary through high school, while African-American children attended the nearby Jefferson School. A new McGuffey Graded School opened in 1916, and the Midway School thereafter became more commonly known as Lane High School, after teacher and school superintendent James Waller Lane. That school was replaced by the more modern Lane High School down the hill (today’s County Office Building), which opened in 1940 and was not replaced by today’s Charlottesville High School until 1974. The 1894 Midway School building later became municipal office space until 1966. The building was razed in 1973, and in 1977 became the site of the Midway Manor Senior Housing complex. (photo is courtesy of the Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia.


Thanks to John Edwin Mason!

Learning from the African-American Portraits of Rufus Holsinger

Posted on September 24, 2018


O ur thanks to John Edwin Mason of the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia who kicked off our first “Third Fridays” lecture series on September 21 at the Cville Coffee in Charlottesville. John delivered a powerful and thoughtful talk exploring the African-American portraits taken by photographer Rufus Holsinger around the turn of the 20th century. These images challenge us to rethink the lives of people of color in America at the time, especially in the south. While the popular culture of the day was filled with racist, demeaning and even hateful images of African Americans, these lovely portraits tell a very different story. History is not simply in words, John reminded us. It is written in art and in photography, and there is so much we can learn about the lives of these people and their families. Third Fridays is an all-new series of free public lectures offered by the Charlottesville Center for History and Culture. Click here to learn more.


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