Local Historian Coy Barefoot Leads New U.Va. Course

December 17, 2009

December 17, 2009 — Coy Barefoot spent 15 years researching University of Virginia history and seven years collecting oral histories for his award-winning book, "The Corner: A History of Student Life at the University of Virginia." His daily radio talk show, "Charlottesville – Right Now!," hosts newsmakers behind local issues. For more than a decade, he's shared his encyclopedic local knowledge in dozens of lectures to community groups.

This spring, for the first time, Barefoot will draw on his experience to teach a seven-week course on the history of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia. Open to anyone through U.Va.'s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, "Local History" classes will be held Mondays from 7 to 9 p.m. beginning Jan. 25 at the Darden School of Business. U.Va. employees can pay for tuition with their annual $2,000 educational benefit.

Listen to Coy Barefoot describe his Local History class:

The lectures will feature PowerPoint presentations packed with historic photos, including a number of then-and-now shots from various area vantage points, said Barefoot, the director of communications and alumni relations at U.Va.'s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership.

Suitable both for natives and newcomers, he noted, the course will focus on the area's events, issues, transformations and personalities, from the Monacan Indians and building of Three Notch'd Road in the 18th century to the architecture and vision of Mr. Jefferson's Academical Village, to the historical context behind several of today's front-page issues – the water supply plan, the Meadowcreek Parkway and the redevelopment of Vinegar Hill, a once-thriving African-American neighborhood that was demolished in the 1960s in the name of urban renewal.

Students will learn how the area's idea of growth and development has evolved over two centuries, beginning with an initial hub of activity in Court Square, followed by expansion to Main Street in the 1830s – led partly by business-owning free African Americans, Barefoot explained. Starting in the 1940s, retailers colonized the "remote" West Main Street corridor (U.Va.'s Stacy Hall was originally a Sears store). The 1959 opening of Barracks Road Shopping Center redefined retailing in the area and spurred the build-out of U.S. Route 29 North from the 1960s and '70s up to the present.

Barefoot, a U.Va. graduate with a master's degree in anthropology, has written three cover stories for the University of Virginia Magazine, on the history of student traditions and the honor code, along with the history of The Corner area.

While Barefoot has been tweaking and refining much of his lecture material for years, he noted, the course will also include some new photos and stories from the "Barefoot archives," including vignettes on the history of U.Va. athletics.

It all adds up to "a substantive introduction to this community," he said. "History is not the past; it's a story we tell about the past. I've discovered it's not just one story, it's many. The joy is weaving all those voices together into one song."


"Local History" | NCSS 116
Open to anyone through U.Va.'s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
Jan. 25 to March 1, Mondays, 7 to 9 p.m., Room 160 at the Darden School of Business. Weather permitting, class will include a walking tour of U.Va. and the Corner on Saturday, Feb. 27, 1-3 p.m.
Cost is $170.
Advance registration open as space allows. 40-student limit.