The red brick school building has stood for over 125 years as a symbol of the dedication of the Charlottesville Black community to the education of children. And now the Jefferson School on Fourth Street, NW in the Star Hill neighborhood is being recognized nationally as an historic landmark. This follows a decision in December to add the former flagship school to the state Landmarks Register and qualifies the building for grant funding as the city moves ahead in restoring the Jefferson School.
The structure was built in four phases, beginning in 1926 after members of the community had petitioned the Superintendent and the City School Board for a high school for the city’s colored youth. The new school was built adjacent to the “Old Jefferson” School, which remained on site until 1959. Jefferson School served as the flagship school for bringing about integration following the Supreme Court’s 1954 landmark ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education. The courage and persistence of Charlottesville’s Black parents, students, and the NAACP led to the desegregation of the Charlottesville public schools. For the school year 1965-1966 Jefferson School housed all junior high students, both black and white, until the junior high schools were built, thus achieving for the first time city-wide integration. Jefferson School closed in 2002; however, Carver Recreation Center continues to operate as a recreation facility.
Efforts are underway to realize the community’s vision of returning the future uses of Jefferson School to its educational purposes through the establishment of an African American Heritage and Cultural Center, the restoration of Carver Recreation Center and the housing of workforce development programs of the Piedmont Virginia Community College. For a preview of some options being considered, log on to the city’s website at www.charlottesville.org.