Jefferson School, Charlottesville, Virginia
One of the first teachers of color at Jefferson School was Isabella Gibbons who had once been enslaved at the University of Virginia. Despite the law of the times, Gibbons had learned to read and write beautifully, and had taught her daughter Bella to do the same. Isabella's husband William Gibbons could also read and write. He became a well-respected Baptist minister after Freedom came.
Jefferson School became a public school of the City of Charlottesville in 1871. Benjamin E. Tonsler was one of the school's earliest principals. He was a beloved member of the community. Many graduates from Jefferson School attended historically Black colleges and universities like Hampton University, and obtained degrees in all types of disciplines, including those in medicine, engineering, and science, even though they had to complete their high school studies outside of Charlottesville since Jefferson School graduated students after the eighth grade.
I really enjoyed imagining Allie playing the flute in the Jefferson School band, vying for first chair.
The education and edification of the young ones growing up in the neighborhood was obviously important to the adults living in the once thriving African American community of Charlottesville during the unfair days of Jim Crow. It was my privilege to share that spirit of togetherness while writing Mama's Chicken & Dumplings.
2. Isabella Gibbons. Found in "Isabella Gibbons." Cvillepedia, accessed August 14, 2023.
3. Rebecca Fuller McGinness 1915 Hampton yearbook photo from the collection of the Hampton University Archives, Hampton, VA. Found in Elizabeth Howard Papers, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia.
4. Cora Murray Duke. Photo: Rufus W. Holsinger, 1915. Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia, Rufus W. Holsinger Studio Collection: MSS Call No. 9862, Image ID: 35479, Negative No., X02970A, accessed August 13. 2023.
5. Jefferson [High] School 1935 Undefeated Football Team Photograph. Photo: Rufus W. Holsinger, 1935. Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library Holsinger Collection, UVA Library ID: Y21177BB2, accessed March 13, 2023.
- While I have diligently sought to establish and contact the copyright owners of these images, I believe their inclusion is within the confines of fair use, and/or that they are in the public domain.
CVillepedia. “Cora Murray Duke.” Accessed August 13, 2023.
Daughters of Zion Cemetery. "Tonsler, Benjamin E." Accessed August 13, 2023.
Discovery Virginia. “In the Fullness of Time.” Elizabeth Howard Productions. Narrated by Rita Dove. Virginia Humanities Digital Archive, 2004, accessed December 25, 2022.
Douglas, Andrea, editor. Pride Overcomes Prejudice: A History of Charlottesville’s African American School. Charlottesville, VA: Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, 2013.
Douglas, Andrea and Vincent Musi. “The Jefferson School, a Modern American Story.” LOOK3 2015 Charlottesville Festival of the Photograph presentation, accessed July 31, 2023.
Finger, Jascin Leonardo. “Anna Gardner (1816-1901): Teacher, Abolitionist, Women’s Rights Advocate, Author.” Nantucket Historical Society, accessed March 14, 2023.
"Funeral of Rev. William Gibbons." National Republican, July 2, 1886, Newspapers.com, accessed August 20, 2023.
Jefferson High School Football Team Item Details. Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library Holsinger Collection, UVA, accessed August 13, 2023.
Jefferson School City Center. “Jefferson School History.” Accessed March 15, 2023.
Jefferson School Oral History Project: Interview Transcripts, Volume One. Albemarle County Historical Society, October 2004, accessed December 25, 2022.
Jefferson School Oral History Project: Interview Transcripts, Volume Two. Albemarle County Historical Society, October 2004, accessed December 25, 2022.
Jefferson School Student Handbook. Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia, Call No.: LD7501.C4J39.
Mangione, Wilma T., Editor. “Recollections of Rebecca McGinness.” From Porch Swings to Patios: An Oral History Project of Charlottesville Neighborhoods, 1914-1980. The City of Charlottesville, 1990, accessed December 25, 2022.
Munro, Julia F. “Cora Murray.” Holsinger Portrait Project, University of Virginia, February 25, 2022, accessed August 13, 2023.