The White Spot
Segregation wasn't that long ago folks.
When my adoptive father attended UVA’s medical school from 1957-1961, Charlottesville was segregated. He wasn’t allowed to eat in restaurants or go to movie theaters. He wasn’t allowed to visit Monticello, US President (and UVA founder) Thomas Jefferson’s home.
According to my dad in a book chapter about his time there, “There were only two places close to the University I could eat – the University Cafeteria and the sandwich shop next door.”
I’m pretty sure that the sandwich shop he was referring to was “The White Spot.” (Wow – the name). It still sits across from the UVA hospital in the middle of “The Corner”, a thriving and historic business area that serves the university population.
When I interviewed Teresa Walker Price and her son Frank (see previous post), Frank remembered that at the White Spot in 1961, “you could go in and sit on the radiator, but you couldn’t sit at the counter.” The rest of Corner’s shops and restaurants wouldn’t let Blacks in at all.
We were leaving campus when I spotted it. We stopped to take photos of one of the few sanctuaries for my dad during his medical school career. This place, the cafeteria, the Jackson and Walker homes, and one nightclub outside the city limits were the sum total of his social venues. It wasn’t much, but at least it was something.
I stood in front of the restaurant, trying to imagine him here. Being here physically brought the story much more to life. As people of every ethnicity went in and out of the businesses on the block, I was glad that students no longer have to suffer the type of isolating racism my dad and other Black students had to face during the early days of integration.
Racism is not gone – the latest devastating news out of Buffalo drives that painfully home. And the fact that the White Spot is still here was a reminder that segregation wasn’t that long ago. We still have a long way to go, but at least there has been movement forward.
I felt deeply grateful to those brave enough to be “firsts” as the dark era of segregation came to a close. Heroes.