Viola Green Porter (1898-1985) commissioned this portrait to commemorate her graduation from the 8th grade at Charlottesville's segregated Jefferson Graded School. The white dress and diploma make this photo similar to other Holsinger Studio graduation portraits of young women, both Black and white.
These portraits create a mystery that we have not been able to solve. The Holsinger Studio's records tell us that both were commissioned by Daniel Brown. He may be the person pictured in one or both of the portraits.
Eliza Minor (b. circa 1896) worked as a housemaid, in Charlottesville, in the 1910s and early 1920s, and was married to Henry Minor (b. circa 1892), a wagon driver.
James Conway Lewis (1889-1962) was born near Preddie's Creek, in northern Albemarle County, and served in uniform, during World War I. Like many young African Americans from Central Virginia, he left the area in search of greater opportunities.
Census records and city directories show that there were two African American women named Nellie Jones, living in Albemarle County and Charlottesville, who were of the right age to be the woman in this portrait.
When Anthony T. Buckner (1845-1923) died, the Daily Progress, Charlottesville's white newspaper, published his obituary on the front page, a rare distinction for a Black man. He had been born into slavery in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.
Susie Smith (1891-1961) was born in Albemarle County to Ferrell Smith and Annie Lee Smith. She started work as a chambermaid for a Charlottesville family and later became a housekeeper and cook for other families throughout the Charlottesville area. In 1912, Smith married Maryland Brown.
By the time that he registered for the World War I draft, Frank W. Robertson (b. 1893) had relocated from North Garden, in Albemarle County, to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. There he worked as an attendant in a resort hotel, as did many young Black men from Central Virginia.
It is likely that James Golden Coles (1897-1975) wanted those who saw his portrait that he had fully embraced the sprit of the New Negro era and the Jazz Age. The slang of the day would have described him as "sporty" and his clothes as "spruce."
The seated woman is Nelly Kennedy, born in 1895, to Wallace and Judy Kennedy, who owned a farm in northern Albemarle County.
John Thomas Cosby (c. 1875-1930) was a waiter in a Charlottesville hotel for almost all of his working life.
Reuben Gordon (1884-1949), who was born and died in the Greenwood district of western Albemarle County, was a life-long horseman.
Florence and David probably met as students at Shaw University, a historically Black school in Raleigh, North Carolina. They married in 1878 in Albemarle County and eventually had 11 children.
Linwood Stepp (1892-1990) was one of at least six children born in the Free Union district of Albemarle County to Lindsay Stepp, a blacksmith, and Jemima Stepp, a homemaker.
Marie S. Gordon was possibly the daughter of Dudley and Harriet Gordon of Charlottesville.
Alice Coles Carter (1879-1936) was born in the Keswick district of Albemarle County to Isaac and Mary Coles and was the widow of Newton Carter.
Dorothy Zenobia Lias (1895-1923), or her family, probably commissioned this portrait to commemorate her graduation from Charlottesville's Jefferson Graded School.
Jessie White (circa 1896-1975) was a teacher in the segregated Albemarle County schools when she commissioned this portrait from the Holsinger Studio. Her father, Samuel H. White, was also a teacher.
Talmadge Washington (1890-1980) spent his early adulthood working on the family farm. After marrying Marcella Whindelton, of Albemarle County, the couple lived briefly in Montclair, New Jersey.