Luncheon, panel discussion honors Jefferson School teachers from 1964-1966

Updated: Dec. 17, 2019 at 6:09 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, V.A. (WVIR) - The students who lived through desegregation are often the focus of that history. Now, the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center wants to bring more attention to the teachers of that time.

A luncheon on Tuesday helped people understand more of what it was like to teach in the years leading up to, and immediately after, schools in Charlottesville were integrated.

“I started teaching here in 1958. I taught here at Jefferson School for approximately eight years,” John Gaines, a retired teacher, said.

Gaines, along with some of his other former co-workers, made their way back to the Jefferson School on Tuesday.

“These are the teachers that some of the teachers that were on staff in 1964 65, the Jefferson school is officially closed in July of 1965,” Andrea Douglas, executive director of the Jefferson School African-American Heritage Center, said.

Douglas hosted the luncheon in an effort to learn more about what teachers were going through during integration. She says looking at that history can shape the future of education. “As we think about how we educate our students today. We need to take a look at 40 years ago in order to understand what are the changes, what are the things that we need to work on, how do we really assess this time, and you’ve got to do it with these people who were there."

People got a chance to hear what was going through Gaines’ mind when the schools integrated and how it felt to come back.

“The community did not rally around those teachers alone, because the focus at that time was on desegregation or integration, but there were a lot of strong and very able teachers were here at Jefferson during that period of time,” Gaines said.

People there on Tuesday also had a chance to see part of a film, The 1966 Project, which the Jefferson School African-American Heritage Center is working on with filmmaker Ty Cooper. Douglas says she hopes to include conversations with teachers in the film as well.

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