Charlottesville, VA

Charlottesville was a small, southern, university town in the 1950s and 60s whose white residents liked to think of themselves as more progressive than their peers elsewhere in the state. Black residents saw matters very differently and had endured decades of paternalistic discrimination from the University of Virginia, the University of Virginia Hospital, and local white businesses. The University was a national leader in eugenics research, the field of biology in the early twentieth century that ascribed racial genetic links to inferior and superior intellectual capabilities. Prominent eugenicists at UVa. included Paul Barringer and Ivey Foreman Lewis. While eugenics went out of academic fashion in the twenties, its effects persisted at UVa. in undergraduate courses Lewis taught into the fifties and in the miscegenation and racial integrity laws enacted in the twenties. In 1950 the University was required to admit Gregory Swanson to its School of Law, the first black graduate student at the University. In the midst of that controversy, Charlottesville author Sarah Patton Boyle wrote "The Desegregated Heart: A Virginian's Stand in a Time of Transition." Boyle's book and her national magazine articles drew attention to desegregation and to the University and Charlottesville. In 1958 Charlottesville was one of three communities where schools were closed by order of the governor under the massive resistance laws.