Overlapping Diasporas

A Street in the Vinegar Hill Neighborhood

The history of Vinegar Hill – like that of African American communities throughout the post-emancipation South -- is a story of migration and resettlement, place and displacement. It is, in the words of historian Earl Lewis, a history of “overlapping diasporas.”

Virtual Vinegar Hill:
Preserving An African American Memoryscape

A Collaborative Research Initiative of
The Carter G. Woodson Institute’s Center for the Study of Local Knowledge and the Virginia Center for Digital History

Co-Directed by Reginald D. Butler & Scot A. French
Associate Professors, Corcoran Department of History

In the 1960s, Charlottesville's Vinegar Hill neighborhood -- an African American residential-business district born of late-19th and early-20th century black enterprise -- was declared "blighted" by local authorities and demolished under the federally funded Urban Renewal program.

Civic leaders and project boosters hailed the demolition/redevelopment project, coupled with the opening of modern public housing complexes for those displaced, as a much-needed facelift for the downtown area. Yet, for Charlottesville's African American citizens, many with personal ties to the Vinegar Hill neighborhood, this urban renewal (or, as critics dubbed it, "Negro removal") project left a gaping hole in the landscape and produced a profound sense of loss that lingers to this day. Vinegar Hill, as a site of memory, has come to symbolize

Today, researchers from the Carter G. Woodson Institute's Center for the Study of Local Knowledge are working with local residents, the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, and the City of Charlottesville to digitize photographs, oral histories, and public records related to Vinegar Hill, with the aim of building an online archive and virtual tour of this urban "memoryscape."

Graduate Project Managers

LuAnn Williams (Anthropology), 2006-07
Schuyler Esprit (English), 2004-06

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Kristina Williams (History/African American Studies), 2007-08
Nneoma Nwamaka Amadi-Obi (History/African American Studies), 2007-08
Trevor Smith (Virginia Center for Digital History), 2007-08
Anique Downes (History/African American Studies), 2006-07
Lauren Hammond (History/African American Studies), 2004-06

Community Partners

Our Legacy
Ann W. Carter, Founding Director

Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society
Douglas Day, Director
Margaret O'Bryant, Librarian

City of Charlottesville
Rochelle Small-Toney, Assistant City Manager