That World is Gone

Watch the film—"That World is Gone" is the story of Vinegar Hill, an historically African American neighborhood in Charlottesville, Virginia. Winner of the Audience Award for Short Documentary, 2010 Virginia Film Festival.

That World is Gone: 
Race and Displacement in a Southern Town

The Story

Kathy's family left on a Saturday morning in 1965. The rumble of bulldozers echoed through the neighborhood, and her block was empty. Federally-funded urban renewal had arrived in Charlottesville, scattering dozens of families like Kathy's. The once-vibrant African American community, built by formerly enslaved men and women who had secured a long-denied piece of the American dream, disappeared.

Fallow land and parking lots replaced the community that had, if not prospered, nurtured generations of residents. Families of the most modest means relocated to a new but quickly forgotten public housing development. Some struggled to find affordable homes; others left the city altogether.

Revealing the history of Charlottesville's largest African American neighborhood, Vinegar Hill, That World is Gone explores black property ownership and the area's destruction in 1965. Drawing on four years of scholarly research, original interviews, and oral history, the film finds Vinegar Hill's residents at the intersection of local and national politics and prejudice. Surviving residents describe the neighborhood they knew and loved, and consider future prospects for black residence and success in the city.

Featuring a soundtrack of local blues and jazz musicians, That World is Gone springs from the community at its heart. Veteran jazz pianist 88 Keys and local legend Corey Harris, along with area favorites Eli Cook and Nathan Moore, help bring to life the fond memories, painful past, and uncertain future familiar to African American communities throughout the South. 

The Cast

Ann Wicks Carter (Resident) was raised on Sixth Street and attended Jefferson School, where she later taught art. Since retiring, she has served Jefferson School as a leading advocate for the preservation and thoughtful use of the landmark building, stirring grassroots support in Charlottesville and testifying before the Virginia Historic Resource Board.

Holly Edwards (Elected Official) was Vice Mayor of the City of Charlottesville during the filming of That World is Gone. She is a parish nurse at public housing site Crescent Halls, co-chair of the City’s Dialogue on Race, and has previously served as Program Coordinator for the Public Housing Association of Residents.

Scot French (Producer) was Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Virginia during the filming of That World is Gone. From 2006-2010, he served as Director of the Virginia Center for Digital History, where his research into Vinegar Hill integrated archival work with oral histories and digital visualizations. Scot received the 2010 Black Community Advocate Award presented by the Black Student Alliance, Black Leadership Institute, and the UVA Chapter of the NAACP.  Scot is presently Associate Professor of History at the University of Central Florida.

Kathy Johnson Harris (Resident) was raised on Fourth Street. She attended Jefferson School and later served on the Charlottesville Planning Board, the first African American woman with that distinction. Currently, she serves as an alternative education program coordinator for Charlottesville City Schools.

Joy Johnson (Advocate) moved to Charlottesville in 1980. One of the staunchest supporters of the city’s subsidized Westhaven Apartments—where she has lived since 1983—and a leading voice of the Public Housing Association of Residents, Joy has helped to organize public housing improvement initiatives and testified before Congress about public housing concerns.

Teresa Jackson Price (Resident) was raised on Sixth Street. She was one of the first African American students to attend Lane High School, and later taught at Lane and Burley High, McGuffey Primary, and Clark Elementary Schools. From 2003-2004, Teresa served on the City Council’s Jefferson School Task Force, researching and developing strategies for the building’s future.

Production Notes

Scot French approached Lance and Hannah in the fall of 2009 with an audacious idea: Despite having little experience with film, would they be interested in making a documentary about the largely forgotten story of the Vinegar Hill? Absolutely.

Lance and Hannah sought to capture the stories of Vinegar Hill’s former residents through their personal recollections, bringing to bring to life Scot’s rich research to create an honest, revealing film that would honor the neighborhood’s history.

With a small grant from the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation and production assistance from UVA’s Virginia Center for Digital History, Lance and Hannah shot their first footage in December 2009. They wrapped post-production, completing their first documentary film, ten months later.

As producer, Scot drew on his research at VCDH and relationships with current and former residents to organize interviews and collect historic documents and images. Lance, Hannah, and Scot interviewed residents Teresa Jackson Price, Ann Wicks Carter, and Kathy Harris; Vice Mayor Holly Edwards; and Westhaven resident and public housing advocate Joy Johnson, in their homes, at Jefferson School, and on front porches, over a four-month period.

Though trial and error, Lance and Hannah taught themselves all aspects of production and post-production, from camera operation to color correction. On nights and weekends, in cafés and at the dining room table, they edited footage and integrated historical photos, newspaper headlines, and city maps. Thanks to local designer Michaux Hood, they also incorporated color footage of Charlottesville from the 1940s, shot by her grandfather while on assignment for Kodak to test a new kind of film—color. Finally, they wrapped the film in music from local blues and folk artists Corey Harris, Nathan Moore, Eli Cook, and August “88 Keys” Wilson—a former Vinegar Hill resident and local jazz legend.

Lance and Hannah were fortunate to debut the film at the 2010 Virginia Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Short. Since then, That World is Gone has been seen across the state, airing on several Virginia PBS affiliates in July 2013 and screening frequently in classrooms at the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, numerous elementary, middle, and high schools, churches, and community centers.