Historical Society: Jefferson School 1865
Charlottesville, Va.—In contrast to a decade of news reporting, Fred Dove set the record straight today on the Schilling Show. (Podcast of First Hour Aug 17, 2010) Dove is a board member of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society and seventh generation native of Charlottesville.
Jefferson School began in 1865 on West Main Street. Since 2000, politicians and media had reported 1926 for Jefferson School because that’s the date of the current location. In 2007, after an archaeological dig at the site, the date was pushed back to 1894, when Jefferson School moved to Vinegar Hill.
In 2006 the Historical Society’s annual magazine published a thirty-page article on the first Jefferson School, which also talks about the lost history of Charlottesville’s first public school 1870 where J.W. Lane (of Lane High School) was the town’s first public school principal on Garrett Street.
Last week, The Hook weekly newsmagazine made history by printing 1865 in the first few paragraphs of the story.
A week before, The Daily Progress refused to print a letter to the editor from Historical Society board member Fred Dove.
Dove had spoken with reporter Rachana Dixit the day before at the Historical Society. Dove says he specifically pointed out 1865 as the earliest date for Jefferson School.
The next day, the Progress story repeated 1894. So Dove wrote a letter to the editor.
The editorial page editor Anita Shelburne responded that she had sent the letter to the news department. In July 2007, Shelburne refused to print a letter from Blair Hawkins on the same topic. Shelburne rejected the letter as “fact-based.” Hawkins read the letter at a City Council meeting and posted the letter to the internet.
Hawkins was criticizing a small part of a story by Seth Rosen. Dixit has been plagiarizing those two paragraphs in at least three articles so far.
Back to Dove’s letter: Dixit responded that what she had written is factually correct and she added one sentence to the plagiarized passage:
“The history of the Jefferson School goes back to the late 1800s…”
Late 1800s = 1865? Dixit explained she never said 1894 is the earliest date. But the earliest date in her story was 1894. Late 1800s = 1894?
In her email response, Dixit quotes the plagiarized passage, confident nobody will notice the plagiarism but irked that attention is being brought to bear.
She added the “late 1800s” opening line and, this time, flipped the 2007 article’s next sentence from 1926…1894 to 1894…1926. This time she split the two paragraphs into three.
So Dove took his message to WINA’s Rob Schilling. Now that WINA and The Hook have allowed the 1865 date, what harm has it caused? What’s the real reason the Progress is excluding readers and customers?
The letter too radical to print:
As a seventh-generation Charlottesvillean and board member of the Albemarle-Charlottesville Historical Society, I am flummoxed to still see 1894 as the earliest date associated with the Jefferson School in the latest newspaper article (“Organizations eye site,” Aug. 4, 2010, The Daily Progress). I spoke with the reporter the day before the story appeared and specifically pointed out an earlier date. But it must have fallen on deaf ears.
So I invite your readers and reporters to visit the Historical Society at 200 Second Street N.E., behind the downtown library. Please get a copy of our 2006 magazine, which details the 1865 birth-year of Jefferson School, now at its fifth location. Our research is a fascinating read and one of those times when an esoteric journal actually answers questions raised by the community.
[ The online version of the Progress article is called "Jefferson School tenants lined up", Aug. 3. ]
Reporter’s recalcitrant response:
Subject: RE: Letter to the Editor
Cc: CMcCance@dailyprogress.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Thursday, August 5, 2010, 10:45 AM
Thank you for your letter. If you re-read the story that was in Wednesday's Progress, here are the paragraphs detailing the beginnings of the Jefferson School:
"The history of the Jefferson School goes back to the late 1800s, when a small school for black elementary students was built in Charlottesville. The old Jefferson Graded School was built in 1894, and the Jefferson School was constructed in 1926 on land adjacent to the old graded school.
Starting as a high school, the newer Jefferson School became an all-black elementary school in 1951. The school was closed 13 years later, and then was primarily used as classroom and office space, as well as for preschool and PVCC programs.
The school closed for good in 2002."
I never said 1894 was the earliest date of the Jefferson School - rather, the story points out that a small school was first built in the late 1800s, and then the old Jefferson Graded Elementary was built in 1894. If you need further clarification, please let me know. I maintain that my story is accurate - one of my sources was a report that the Jefferson School Partnership itself put together.
Seth Rosen’s plagiarized passage:
“The Jefferson School was built in 1926, adjacent to the old Jefferson Graded Elementary School, constructed in 1894. The newer building functioned as an all-black high school until 1951, when it was converted into an elementary.
Thirteen years later it was closed, and then was primarily used as classroom and office space, as well as housing preschool and Piedmont Virginia Community College programs. The building was shuttered for good in 2002.” (“City mindful of preserving Jefferson School legacy” by Seth Rosen, July 5, 2007, The Daily Progress.)
(Excerpted from Fed Dove’s emailed talking points preparation for the radio show.)
(5) What’s the big deal whether Jefferson started in 1894 or 1865?
- 1894 is when Jefferson School moved to Vinegar Hill.
- 1865 is when the school opened.
- Jefferson was one of the Freedmen’s schools after the Civil War, funded by the New England Freedmen’s Aid Society.
- It was the largest of the dozens of Freedmen Schools in Albemarle County that appeared after the Civil War.
- Jefferson was designed to train teachers and mentor students to become future teachers such as Benjamin Tonsler.
- The school was highly visible on West Main connecting UVA with downtown.
- The school gained some fame when student writing samples were sent back to New England. There was incredible insight into living conditions pre-Civil War.
- Virginia’s public schools opened in 1870.
- Jefferson became a public school in 1875.
- Jefferson moved to Vinegar Hill in 1894, and the starting date for most newspapers. The white public school moved 1893 a few blocks to the top of Vinegar Hill into the Midway House, a failed hotel venture by Alexander Garrett. Midway School was the Charlottesville High School until Lane High at the foot of Vinegar Hill.
(6) Is there a connection between Jefferson School and Virginia’s public schools?
- Jefferson School was the inspiration and used the same graded system. The model was adopted by Jefferson School in 1869, when a proper schoolhouse was built and most of the adult and older former slaves stopped attending. Previously in 1865 classes were in part of the Delavan Hotel, built by a leader in the temperance movement. Since 1866 classes had been next door in the Union Barracks left behind when federal troops returned north.
- The model was adopted by the state's public schools when they first opened 1870.
- State Superintendent W.H. Ruffner (Ruffner Hall, UVA School of Education) and Professor John B. Minor drafted the original bill that established the state’s public school system
- They visited Jefferson School many times, which had high visibility.
- They met at Pavilion X on the Lawn at UVA in April 1870 and “spent four days pouring over legal and technical details.”
- Jefferson School supplied many of the black teachers in the early segregated school system
(7) Other famous people
- Benjamin Tonsler—student, becomes teacher 1871, 4th principal 1883, continued as principal when Jefferson School moved to Vinegar Hill 1894
- Anna Gardner—1st principal 1865-1870 from Massachusetts, tireless and outspoken
- Philena Carkin—2nd principal of Jefferson 1870-1875, and another Freedmen school called Lincoln School 1865-1870. Received letters from former students for decades after her time in Charlottesville.
- Thomas Cayton—3rd principal 1878-1883. (Apparently no principal 1875-1878.)
- J.W. Lane—1st principal of the Charlottesville public school on Garrett Street, then a brand new section of town. Lane High 1940-1974. The city names its new schools after previous principals. Buford is named after the first principal of Clark, for example.
More Background and Resources
“Origins of Jefferson School and Public Education in Virginia” by Blair Hawkins, Dec. 4, 2006. Excerpts pages 230 to 234 in Albemarle: Jefferson’s County, 1727-1976. John Hammond Moore, 1976. The Albemarle County Historical Society.
“Jefferson School: The Original Model for Public Education in Virginia” by Blair Hawkins, July 16, 2007. Letter to the editor delivered as speech before City Council and copies handed out at meeting.
"Newspaper suppresses Jefferson School history" by Blair Hawkins, Apr.12, 2010. Includes photos of 1926 and 1894 school building and modern location of 1865, 1866, and 1869 school building.