On May 10, under the supervision of UVA history professor John Edwin Mason, portraits of African Americans in Charlottesville taken by Rufus Holsinger in the later 1800s and early 1900s were installed around the construction site that will become UVA’s Memorial to Enslaved Laborers.
Some of them show the men and women who were born into slavery and worked at the University – the very people being honored at that site. All of them were taken at the height of the Jim Crow era in Charlottesville and the South.
But for Mason, the portraits’ greatest power lies in showing how those men and women “refused to allow racial oppression to define them.”
“Instead of visual stereotypes, the images show each individual’s strength, resilience and purpose,” Mason said in a press release.
That’s exactly why he wanted to display them on the memorial site, where they will remain until early fall. The effort is part of the Holsinger Portrait Project, which Mason leads with computer science professor Worthy Martin, also the director of UVA’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, and others at UVA and in Charlottesville.
Read more about that project and Holsinger’s portraits here: Snapshots of Local History, Displayed Anew