From 1918 to 1945

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.