James Bryant headshot

James Bryant

Jefferson Elementary School, McGuffey Elementary School, Walker Elementary School, Lane High School


An activist from a very early age, James Bryant found his voice and passion through music. He attended Jefferson Elementary, McGuffey, Walker, and Lane High School. Of Jefferson Elementary, he said: “Failure was not an option. Teachers expected you to excel and teachers were part of the community.” Once he left Jefferson for 6th grade, “we lost our community. We lost our surroundings.” One of seven children, his family lived for many years on Hardy Drive in Westhaven. As a result, he believes that he, along with many other Black children, were tracked in schools and “there was no equity in education.” At Lane from 1969, he joined with students who fought for curricular change, racial understanding, and opportunity. Because of strong mentors, he went to college at Virginia Union University, completed graduate studies at the University of Virginia, and fulfilled his ambition to be an educator. He was the only person in his immediate family to graduate from UVA. Bryant has been an activist on behalf of children in the Charlottesville schools and is on the Charlottesville School Board. Music continues to be an avenue for connecting with people across racial lines, because like sports, music is an activity in which “you don’t see color,” he claims. 

Full Interview