African American Fellowship Final Presentation: Lorenzo Dickerson

Aug 3, 2024

1:00 pm — 2:00 pm

St. John School Building
Gordonsville, VA

Lorenzo Dickerson is a documentary filmmaker and a native of Albemarle County, Virginia, where his family has lived for generations. Lorenzo focuses his storytelling on African American history and culture in Virginia, and his films have played in numerous film festivals, are used as a teaching tool in K-12 and university classrooms across the county and are broadcast nationally on PBS. His film Raised/Razed won an Emmy Award in 2023 for Best Documentary-Historical and two Telly Awards. His latest film Cash Crop is now streaming on PBS. He serves on the board of directors at the Paramount Theater, Preservation Piedmont and VPM’s Community Advisory Board. 

As a filmmaker who centers stories around Virginia’s Black history, Lorenzo’s experience with preservation is preserving the first-hand memories and experiences of community elders who have lived this critical history. In addition, Lorenzo serves on the board of the St. John Family Life and Fitness Center, formerly the St. John Elementary School. He has worked to preserve its history by designing and installing a memorial wall exhibit inside the school building that tells the complete story of the history of the St. John Elementary School. In 2023, his work was recognized by Preservation Piedmont with awards for Cemetery Preservation and Engagement for work done with Pen Park and the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, as well as Disrupting Narratives of Destruction for his film “Raised/Razed.”

Lorenzo’s project as a part of the PVA African American Fellowship is an oral history and short documentary-style film that tells the story of the St. John Elementary School in Cobham, Virginia, which opened in 1922 to replace the previous school building and provide a better learning space for African American students. This school was one of seven historic Rosenwald Schools in Albemarle County, Virginia, and the only one still standing and open as a public space. It is also the school where Lorenzo’s grandparents met. The building is now being preserved and turned into a community center. This story not only centers on the sixteen St. John Elementary School alumni that are still near but also tells the story of the historic Cobham, Virginia neighborhood, where the descendants of the school alumni still live, and how these descendants additionally connect to their formerly enslaved ancestors at Castle Hill and Turkey Hill plantations steps away, the church of the same name just next door and the first twenty-six students to desegregate Albemarle County Public Schools years later. This is a story of connected people and places. This project aims to bring greater awareness to rural Black communities and highlight the buildings and people hidden in plain sight yet have much to teach us.

Final presentation will be in person and virtual, we hope you can attend! Link to attend virtually coming soon.