Jackson P. Burley School

Historical Significance

In 1949, the Charlottesville School Board combined Jefferson High School, Esmont High School, and Albemarle Training School, black high schools in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, into a single high school for all the black students in this area. The city purchased land from Jackson P. Burley, a teacher, church worker, and leader within the Charlottesville community and constructed the new school on a seventeen-acre tract of land located on Rose Hill Drive. Construction began on the site in 1950, and in 1951 Burley High School opened for classes with a total of 542 students enrolled in grades 8-12.

Segregation continued in Charlottesville following the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka decision, and black residents who requested transfers to white schools in 1955 were denied. Senator Harry F. Byrd led a policy of “massive resistance” to desegregation in Virginia while staunch segregationists on the Charlottesville School Board followed suit. After enacting a Pupil Placement Board that had sole authority for assigning students to Virginia public schools, the school board delegated placement to either Lane or Burley High Schools to be based on “personal desires, enrollment and academic standing, but not race.”

Despite this claim to racial equality in placing students, a black student who wished to transfer from Burley to Lane had to submit a written application and meet certain residential and academic qualifications, criteria that did not apply to white students. On September 4, 1958, the Charlottesville School Board met to consider applications for the transfer of thirty-three black pupils. The board resolved unanimously that each applicant be refused permission to transfer, offering as reasons that twenty-four lived in the Jefferson Elementary School District, sixteen were not academically qualified, and three were likely to have social adjustment problems.

When desegregation finally occurred in Charlottesville the city’s all-black schools were closed and repurposed. Burley High School graduated its final class of seniors in 1967. Afterwards the school board divested itself of any relationship to the school, renting its portion of the jointly-owned building to the County for $10,000. The County then purchased the entire building for $700,000 on April 18, 1968. By this point the high school had become the Jack Jouett Junior Annex, housing an overflow of seventh grade students from Jack Jouett Middle School in Albemarle County. In 1973 Albemarle County reopened Burley as a middle school, and today the school serves students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.

Physical Description

Jackson P. Burley Middle School, formerly Burley High School, is located at 901 Rose Hill Drive in Charlottesville. Burley School is a red brick building situated on fifteen acres in an urban setting. Renovations occurred in 1988, 1991, and 1995, and current facilities include a library, technological center, computer lab, auditorium, band room, art room, cafeteria, and gymnasium. An outdoor play area, multi-purpose field, and baseball diamond are visible from the street.

Geographical and Contact Information

901 Rose Hill Drive
Charlottesville, Virginia
22903
Phone: 434-295-5101

Cite this Page:

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, “Jackson P. Burley School,” African American Historic Sites Database, accessed October 23, 2017, http://aahistoricsitesva.org/items/show/220.

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