Mary Johnson

Mary Johnson

Jefferson School, Burley High School


Mary Jean Johnson, born in 1939, was the hard-working mother of four boys and one girl. As a young girl herself, Johnson was educated in segregated schools. As a student at Jefferson and Burley High School, she played intramural sports at and put together her own softball team to play other local teams. Her team did not lose a game in the five years they played. Before watching the Burley men’s basketball team on Friday nights, she and her girlfriends would spray themselves with every perfume they could find, in an effort to attract young men. “I don’t know how we was smelling,” she remembered, but “we thought we was cool.” She found community in sports and religion and spoke wistfully of Vinegar Hill. She spent most of her career at various jobs at the University of Virginia. Her interview reflects on the nature of segregated community in Charlottesville. 

Full Interview