Memory  /  Video

That World Is Gone: Race and Displacement in a Southern Town

The story of Vinegar Hill, a historically African American neighborhood in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Kathy's family left on a Saturday morning in 1965. The rumble of bulldozers echoed through the neighborhood, and her block was empty. Federally-funded urban renewal had arrived in Charlottesville, scattering dozens of families like Kathy's. The once-vibrant African American community, built by formerly enslaved men and women who had secured a long-denied piece of the American dream, disappeared.

Fallow land and parking lots replaced the community that had, if not prospered, nurtured generations of residents. Families of the most modest means relocated to a new but quickly forgotten public housing development. Some struggled to find affordable homes; others left the city altogether.

Revealing the history of Charlottesville's largest African American neighborhood, Vinegar Hill, That World is Gone explores black property ownership and the area's destruction in 1965. Drawing on four years of scholarly research, original interviews, and oral history, the film finds Vinegar Hill's residents at the intersection of local and national politics and prejudice. Surviving residents describe the neighborhood they knew and loved, and consider future prospects for black residence and success in the city.

Featuring a soundtrack of local blues and jazz musicians, That World is Gone springs from the community at its heart. Veteran jazz pianist 88 Keys and local legend Corey Harris, along with area favorites Eli Cook and Nathan Moore, help bring to life the fond memories, painful past, and uncertain future familiar to African American communities throughout the South.