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Burley graduates of 1960 revel, reminisce and relive youth

One of the all-Black graduating classes of what was once Jackson P. Burley High School in Charlottesville gathered this weekend for its 63rd annual reunion.

Burley opened in September of 1951. The new school consolidated three other schools — Esmont High School, Jefferson High School and the Albemarle Training School — for the education of the Charlottesville area’s Black students.

It graduated its final class of seniors in 1967, and not long after, the city’s interest in the school was purchased by Albemarle County. In 1974, it was rechristened Burley Middle School.

Graduates of Burley High School’s 1960 class gathered in Charlottesville over the weekend to revel, reminisce and relive some of the moments of their youth.

Those in attendance said they are more than just former classmates.

“Once we got to know each other, everybody came together,” Carolyn Churchman told The Daily Progress. “We gained family, and it was just really interesting.”

The community that the school fostered for its graduates of 1960 was tight-knit, she said.

“Beautiful,” said David Churchman, Carolyn’s husband and fellow graduate. “All-Black school. There’s nothing like it, nothing ever be like it. All Black, and we came together as one and been soldered like that for over 63 years.”

The class of 1960 began holding reunions two years after their graduation.

“They started about two years after we got out of Burley, and the class of 1960 is the one that’s been carrying the reunion for Burley High School itself,” David Churchman said. “But this time we were independent this year, but the class reunion has been awesome.”

This year’s reunion was held at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center. Graduates participated in a dinner and dance on Saturday with a worship service on Sunday.

“It is not quite a large of a turnout that I thought it may be, but it’s beautiful,” David Churchman said. “It’s beautiful.”

Graduates also got to walk across the stage all over again. They were handed “diplomas” and miniature mortarboards to reenact the tassel-flipping of 1960.

“We’re going to go our separate ways until we meet again,” David Churchman said at the event’s close.


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