Rising & Falling Families

Reframing Race and Capitalism in Virginia's New South
September 8, 2020 to January 25, 2022
undated photo of Williamsburg VA's Triangle Block
Virginia and James C. Williams opened the Triangle Restaurant, building shown to the left above, as part of the Triangle block, Williamsburg’s Black business district in the city’s northwest region. Overtime, market pressures and urban planning and renewal developments caused the Black business district to collapse. QuoVadis Wright Family Papers (MS 00054)

The post-Civil War South created a new culture through expanding economic markets and building new forms of Black opportunity and oppression. This exhibit analyzes the ways in which changing market and race relations intersected with Virginia families throughout the burgeoning New South. The New South describes the economic and cultural developments that occurred in the southern United States after the Civil War and Reconstruction period. This involved inserting Southern markets into a national economy through creating new institutions, laws, and business relations. These changes affected families in different ways. Often, the relationship between New South families and the larger social context differed based on race. This exhibit looks at Virginia families from the Old South and the New South whose lives are documented in Swem Special Collections to interrogate this evolving culture. As Virginia modernized, Black people and organizations incorporated into a growing political economy that was largely controlled by White families who had built infrastructures of wealth and power across generations. Around the turn of the century, Black businesses, colleges, and families became the institutions through which Black citizens entered the free market and challenged the ideologies of the market’s patriarchs.

Curation: Derek Vouri-Richard, Ph.D. Candidate in American Studies and 2019-2020 Special Collections Exhibits Apprentice

Design: Abram Clear '21, SCRC Graphics Student Assistant

Fabrication and Installation: Jennie Davy, Exhibits Manager, with assistance from Susan Riggs, Special Collections Assistant, and Ute Schechter, Warren E. Burger Archivist