Mirrored Communities is a program
that illustrates the troubled history of race and public housing
in twentieth century Virginia. It focuses in particular on
the Hampton Roads area, which includes the areas of Norfolk,
Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News,
Williamsburg, and James City County. Throughout the period
1918 to 1945, the Tidewater community was dynamic despite
the limitations imposed on it by segregation. The area was
home to several communities created through government funding
that symbolized unequal treatment in employment and housing.
The communities of Truxtun (Black) and Cradock (White) in
Portsmouth, Broad Creek Village (White) and Liberty Park (Black)
in Norfolk, and the Hampton and Newport News communities of
Aberdeen Gardens (Black) and Hilton Village (White), reflect
the effort by the government to create planned communities
as early as 1918.
This exhibition will be the first
of its kind to compare these pioneering communities, which
in our minds represent the best example of the evolution of
Black and White neighborhoods in the first half of the twentieth
century, and the government's integral role in creating such
models. By examining documents and visual materials, and enhancing
these with oral interviews of surviving original residents
and their relatives, we hope to expand the discussion of the
origins of federal housing and to preserve the collective
memories of an important chapter in Hampton Roads history.
These perspectives will provide a model illustrating how race
considerations affected government housing from the Progressive
Era through 1945. This program will go a step further, illustrating
the role of the federal government in deliberately maintaining
a racially polarized society by constructing separate neighborhoods
for workers in the Hampton Roads shipyards.