Charlottesville Twelve

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The Charlottesville Twelve was the group of 12 African American children who first attended previously all-white schools in Charlottesville.

The students transferred into Venable Elementary School and Lane High School. Both schools had been closed during "massive resistance" by order of Governor James Lindsey Almond, Jr. in September, 1958, but were reopened in February, 1959. The 12 students entered the schools for the first time on September 8, 1959[1].

Integration efforts in Charlottesville began after the 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education case, which ordered an end to segregated public schools. The NAACP and the students' parents sued the Charlottesville City School Board for access in 1955, but the school board was highly resistant. U.S. District Judge John Paul ruled in 1956 that the city must integrate Lane and Venable, but this was heavily appealed by the city school board. On September 5, 1959, Judge Paul ordered that the twelve students who would become known as "The Charlottesville Twelve" be transferred immediately from their previous schools, all-black Jefferson Elementary School and Jackson P. Burley High School[1].

List of Students

Venable Elementary School

  • Charles E. Alexander
  • Raymond Dixon
  • Regina Dixon
  • Maurice Henry
  • Marvin Townsend
  • William Townsend
  • Sandra Wicks
  • Roland T. Woodfolk
  • Ronald E. Woodfolk

Lane High School

  • French Jackson
  • Don Martin
  • John Martin[1]

Student Experiences

Most of the former students said that their integration experience "instilled in them the work ethic, personal skills and high-quality education that led to success in adult life."[2] Charlottesville Twelve member Charles E. Alexander said that Charlottesville's transition to integration had been noted as one of the most problem-free in Virginia by Eugene Williams of the civil rights movement[2].

Many of the students reported feeling isolated, but generally there was little open animosity. The lingering segregation in Charlottesville at the time did limit social interactions between classmates of different races, however. John Martin, the oldest member of the Twelve, said that the students who integrated into Lane High experienced more hostility, saying that "he was physically attacked by his peers, barred from playing on the football team and ignored by every teacher except for his Spanish instructor."[2]

Commemoration Efforts

On November 18, 2011, two markers recognizing the "Triumph of the Charlottesville Twelve" was unveiled at Venable Elementary School. Eight of the original twelve students were on hand for ceremonies at Venable and the former site of Lane High, now the Albemarle County Office Building. These events were followed by a panel discussion featuring six of the Charlottesville Twelve held at Venable on November 19, 2011. The events were coordinated by the city of Charlottesville, Our Legacy of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, and the Dialogue on Race[3].


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Web. Charlottesville 12 historical markers' text, Historical marker text, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, Nov 19, 2011, retrieved Nov 22, 2011. Print. Nov 20, 2011 page A6.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Web. Charlottesville 12 recall integration experiences, Graham Moomaw, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, Nov 19, 2011, retrieved Nov 22, 2011. Print. Nov 20,2011 page A1.
  3. Web. New markers honor Charlottesville 12 students, Graham Moomaw, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, Nov 18, 2011, retrieved Nov 22, 2011. Print. Nov 19, 2011 page A1.