He Was Who He Needed to Be

Published:April 26, 2019 by Brendan Wolfe

In Season 3, Episode 4, of Not Even Past, host Brendan Wolfe considers the life of Henry Martin, a formerly enslaved man who for years worked as a janitor at the University of Virginia. Something of a mascot, something of a joke—that’s how the community treated him but underneath that was a black man just attempting to survive. Wolfe and producer Miranda Bennett interview Edwina St. Rose and Bernadette Whitsett-Hammond, local historians working to maintain the cemetery where Martin is buried and tease out the stories of Charlottesville’s black community.

RESOURCES
Read Martin’s life story, as told to the yearbook Corks and Curls.
Read a faculty member’s memories of Martin.
Read Martin’s obituary in the university’s Alumni Bulletin.
Read Martin’s obituary in the Charlottesville Daily Progress.
Read a newspaper report on Martin’s funeral.
Look at a slideshow of images of Martin at the university.

Click below to read a transcript of the show.

IMAGE: Henry Martin poses on the Lawn of the University of Virginia in April 1896. (University of Virginia Special Collections)

Discussion

2 Comments on “He Was Who He Needed to Be”

  1. Sharon D. Bussey

    it’s so unfortunate that he spent all those years on a college campus only to not have anyone interested enough in him to teach him to read. Sad!

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