In the middle of the University of Virginia sits a portrait of a man with piercing eyes and a serious countenance, and a story that has long survived its main character. That man is Henry Martin.
The story goes on to tell of Martin’s impeccable reputation, even as descriptions of him were presented in a patronizing manner — as a mere faithful servant to the University.
The “Visions of Progress” exhibition features Henry Martin, larger than life, and many others who were photographed in the Holsinger studio in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
John Edwin Mason, chief curator of the exhibition, says:
“The university has not always been a good neighbor to the African American community. … We’ve learned a lot about Charlottesville, its history and the hard side of history. We’ve learned about oppression. We have not learned about Black life, Black joy, Black family, Black churches, Black schools, Black politics, Black style. All of those things have been in the background. And through these portraits, we’re bringing them into the foreground.”
The “Visions of Progress” exhibition remains on view in Harrison/Small during regular hours of operation until June.