UVA showcases portraits from Holsinger Collection of African-Americans in the 19th and 20th century

Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 5:31 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A single picture can tell you a thousand words. That’s what the University of Virginia is hoping to do with a new exhibit that features thousands of images of portraits of African-Americans during the time of the Jim Crow era in central Virginia.

The Holsinger Studio Collection is opening at UVA’s Small Special Collections Library Thursday, September 22.

The co-director of the exhibit says these pictures will tell many stories about the people in them.

“We can tell you that life story, and it’s important to be able to talk about people from birth, to service, to marriage, and of course, inevitably to death,” John Edwin Mason said.

Mason says the history of these portraits is local, national, and international.

“When people think of what did African-Americans look like during the Jim Crow era, they’re not going to imagine these fashionable, stylish, prideful, dignified people. They’re not going to imagine. But the other thing is that we know the life stories of almost everybody in the exhibition,” Mason said.

The people in the portraits get to tell their story.

“But this exhibition is about what Black people were doing, despite the oppression, and you come here and you look at these portraits, and you know, they were not defined by their oppression. You know, you could say that these portraits are in fact, maybe even little, little acts of resistance against that oppression where people are saying, ‘This image is who I am,’” Mason said.

The exhibit is open to the public Thursday, and you can visit it through September 2023.

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