Exhibit looks back at black life in Charlottesville

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A popup photo exhibit of Charlottesville's early African-American population is drawing visitors on University of Virginia Grounds.

It's at the site of UVA's memorial to enslaved workers. There are more than 30 portraits by photographer Rufus Holsinger of everyday African-Americans.

The powerful pictures reveal how many black Charlottesville residents looked and lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s and some who even worked at UVA.

UVA history professor John Edwin Mason, a leader of the Holsinger Portrait Project, says this is how they saw themselves during the racist Jim Crow years.

"They did not want images of oppression, they wanted portraits that showed them as they saw themselves, people of great dignity, people of respectability, people of style, people of grace, people of beauty, all of these things that in the standard telling of the history of Charlottesville, is completely left out," he said.

UVA graduate student Kennedy Castillo likes the outdoor exhibit.

"I really like how viewers can reflect on who the people of the African-American community in Charlottesville were back in the day," Castillo said.

The temporary exhibit will be up at the construction site until the fall, when the enslaved laborers memorial will be dedicated.

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