A Personal Journey: Using the Daily Progress Digitized Microfilm to Track Desegregation of Charlottesville Schools

Mitch Farish, content editor for the University of Virginia Library, is a Charlottesville native and lover of history.

When Phase II of the project to digitize back issues of the Daily Progress (from 1924 through 1964) went live on Virgo a few days ago I started playing around in the database looking for things I remembered from childhood in Charlottesville in the ‘60s. Now was my opportunity to pin down something I was always curious about: Exactly when did my grade-school, Johnson Elementary, first admit African-American students? I began by searching in the “Browse Collection” box on the left side of the screen. I clicked through digital files from September 1961—my first year in school—much faster than I could hunt through images on a microform reader.

I found an article from September 6, 1961, “Third Year of Integrated Schools Gets Underway in Charlottesville,” that stated “school authorities” were “preparing to go back into court in the face of additional desegregation moves.” In 1961 the Charlottesville school system allowed “35 Negroes” to enroll in predominately white schools in what the article describes as “token integration.” None were enrolled at Johnson Elementary, which was apparently the last “all white” school remaining in the city.


The Daily Progress, Sept. 6, 1961, page 13–click to enlarge

I scrolled forward in the Browsing box to September 1962 and started clicking through files again. I got my answer in less than an hour. A headline on the front page of the Daily Progress, Friday, October 19, 1962, announced “City Fails to Win School Order Stay.” Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, refused to stay an appeals court order that ruled against Charlottesville’s “pupil assignment plan” allowing “pupils to transfer from schools where their race was in the minority.” Warren’s decision meant that the Charlottesville school system couldn’t stall any longer. Two African-American students would be enrolled that year in Johnson Elementary. Charlottesville was finally complying with the high court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka—handed down before we students had been born—that schools divided by race were inherently unequal.


The Daily Progress, Oct. 19, 1962, page 1–click to enlarge

While researching this piece I have also indulged my curiosity about Charlottesville’s past and how the city has changed. I’ve gone back in time as far as 1912, when the Jefferson theater opened on Main Street (now the Downtown Mall) as a venue for live performance. By the spring of 1914 the theater had evolved into a movie house showing programs of silent film shorts, and an occasional feature, with the catch phrase, “Always 5 reels, always 5 cents.” I’ve explored the massive 136 page “Charlottesville Bicentennial” issue that came out on April 13, 1962 to commemorate the founding of the city. In each of these excursions, using the database was a pleasure.

Besides not having to change reels, and being able to access information from wherever I was, whenever I wanted, I no longer had to suffer from images whose clarity might be compromised not only by the poor quality of the film, but the poor quality of the reader display. All the images that I expanded from thumbnails were as clean as I could want them.

Phase II of the the Library’s Digitized Daily Progress Microfilm Archive Now Complete

Image from the database–click to enlarge

The University Library has just announced it has completed Phase II in its project to digitize Charlottesville’s Daily Progress newspaper and make all issues through 1964 viewable online in Virgo, the Library’s catalog.

Phase I came about when Bradley Daigle—at the time the Library’s director of digital curation services—found an enthusiastic ally in Jefferson-Madison Regional Library (JMRL) director John Halliday. Both were interested digitizing microfilm copies of the heavily used resource. JMRL provided most of the funding for the project, and UVA provided the microfilm and staff, sending 60,000 images to a vendor for digitizing. Daily Progress Issues from 1892–1923 went online in January of 2013.

Phase II began when Daigle discovered through research at the Library of Congress that the Progress’ output from 1924 through 1964 was in the public domain, and therefore free of copyright restrictions. He brought Emerging Technologies librarian Jenn Huck into the project, and she had the material prepped and sent to be digitized by the Crowley digital production company. When the images came back, UVA’s Digital Collections Librarian Jocelyn Triplett and her team took on the task of mounting them and making them viewable online. Mike Durbin and Lou Foster made a final push, and researchers may now access a valuable source of Charlottesville history without endlessly scrolling through reels of microfilm.

Researchers can now navigate the database from the main screen in Virgo, clicking individual years, months and issues. You click the issue’s thumbnail to show all the pages, which you can then enlarge to read; set a “Default Zoom” and use keyboard arrows to go to the next or previous page. You may also navigate the site using the “Browse Collection” box on the left side of the screen.

According to Bradley Daigle, “it’s been a living project, which is the fun part about it.” Over the years, many library personnel—some now retired, or who have moved on to other opportunities—worked to bring the project to a successful conclusion. In addition to Daigle, Huck, and Triplett, significant contributions came from Ivey Glendon, Elizabeth Margutti, Anne Benham, Irene Norvelle, Barbie Selby, Andrew Curley, Mike Durbin, Lou Foster, and Rob Cordaro.

If you notice problems or missing issues, you can use the Virgo Feedback form, or “Ask a Librarian” any reference questions, especially Barbie Selby or Jenn Huck.


Harrison/Small Schedule Changes for Finals Weekend

The Harrison/Small Building (between Alderman Library and Peabody Hall)—home to the Mary and David Harrison Institute for American History, Literature, and Culture, and the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library—will modify its hours of operation for Finals Weekend, Friday-Sunday, May 20–22:

  • The Harrison/Small Building will be open from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. on Friday, May 20, and from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, May 21–22.
  • The reference desk area and reading room of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library will close at noon on Friday, and will remain closed through the weekend, but guests will still be able to access the exhibit spaces in the Special Collections Library.
  • The auditorium of the Harrison/Small building will remain open as a remote viewing location for Final Exercises ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Alderman Library, the Brown Science & Engineering Library, and Clemons Library will be open Saturday from 1 p.m.–5 p.m., and Clemons will be open Sunday from 1 p.m.–5 p.m. as well.

The Harrison/Small Building at dusk

Library Research Archivist Ervin Jordan on “The Coy Barefoot Program.”

“As a historian I feel it is my duty to offer whatever information I can to this community to objectively deal with this issue…I feel I can contribute something to keep this to a civil conversation about civic space here in Charlottesville.”
Prof. Ervin L. Jordan Jr., Research Archivist, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

In his role as a Civil War historian, Ervin Jordan has noted in two of his books that “African-American history is not for the squeamish” and “The Past belongs to all of us or none of us.” According to Jordan, the current public debate on African-Americans and the Charlottesville Confederate statues controversy (particularly the Robert E. Lee statue) is a public opportunity to explore why race and other aspects of the Civil War remain controversial 151 years after the war’s end. Jordan says the public must ask whether Confederate monuments deserve a public space in civic landscapes, and if there can be coexistence of black and white heroes as public monuments.

Jordan recently discussed this subject during a television interview on “The Coy Barefoot Program” [The Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia], 1 May 2016 (WVAW ABC Channel 3, Charlottesville, Virginia) and re-broadcast 5 May 2016 (WVPT-PBS, Channel 11, Harrisonburg, Virginia).

Jordan’s segment comprises the first 20 minutes of the show, and can be viewed on “Ervin Jordan on the Coy Barefoot Program, May 1, 2016.”

Goodbye and Congratulations to the Library’s Graduating Student Workers!

The UVA Library system could not run without its wonderful student workers. The Library employs over 240 students; about 80 are graduating this year!  Whether repairing a damaged book, answering a chat question, digitizing a valuable early American imprint, helping a patron find a book in the stacks, or just checking out a book, our library students work hard to make sure patrons have resources for research and answers to questions. We congratulate the following 2016 graduates on a job well done in the classroom and the Library. We will miss your contributions and comradeship. Thank you!

Hiwot Abate

Benyam Adera

Ricky Aderlike

Tahir Ahmad

Comfort Allotey

Tyler Ansell

Zunaira Arbab

Divya Babu

Samantha Bellows

Ebob Besong

Athenais Blehaut

Rachel Boelsche

Gillian Breckenridge

Jessica Campoma

Hannah Crockett

Tevin Cummings

Christine Douglas

Vanessa Fabrizio

Allison Febrey

Amber Finlay

Jordan Fish

Richard Glass

Joshua Golub

Kaila Grenier

Caitlin Grumbling

Allison Hackel

Andy Hogue

Alex Huff-Reynolds

Nicholas Hurst

Rachelle Husband

Colleen Hybl

Micah Iverson

Jo Anna Jeon

Sydney Johnson

Micah Jones

Michael Jones

Sreya Kamineni

Michael Kang

Max Kaplan

Yohanis Kassa

Emily Keenan

Jeremy Kiernan

Muhamad Khalid

Bommae Kim

Soyun “Lindsay” Kim

Haven Lee

Franklin Liu

Nakawala Lufumpa

Nina Lukow

Dustin Marshall

Nikhil Mascarenhas

Kim Mellon

Abena Mensah

Ava Mueller

Nuhame Mulugeta

Waheeda Naimi

Darian Nichols

Obumneke “Ify” Obi

Rebecca Olbrys

Queenie Owusu

Nick Pandolfo

Amelia Peacock

Harmony Pham

Vivan Pham

Leah Retta

Ariff Roduan

Kelly Ross

Robert Rust

Stephanie Sacco

Andrew Sankowski

Henry Sarpong

Karen Shufflebarger

Tatiana Sokolova

Cole Songer

Paige Sullivan

Sara Surface

Nathan Tabelon

Gina Thompson

Barbara Trein

Lauryn Washington

Petra Wagner

Darius Weaver

Amy West

Whitney Wu

Bethel Yeshiwas

Elizabeth You

Marianna Zabkowski