Getting personal with Lorenzo Dickerson

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Lorenzo Dickerson has been making films about local African-Americans for four years. Photo by Eze Amos Lorenzo Dickerson has been making films about local African-Americans for four years. Photo by Eze Amos

Local filmmaker, age 35

Though he only began teaching himself the art of filmmaking four years ago while researching his ancestry, Lorenzo Dickerson’s calling has always been storytelling.

“I enjoy bringing awareness to stories that either have been forgotten or that people have never known about,” says Dickerson about his films. “That’s really where my passion is and what I like to do for the local area—make people aware of the rich history of what’s happened here.”

A member of Western Albemarle High School’s class of 1999, Dickerson pursued a master’s degree in marketing at Strayer University in Herndon. By day, he is currently the web content and social media manager for the Albemarle County Public Schools system. His background lies in figuring out the right story to tell, whether in his day job or in his documentary films, which explore local African-American history.

Dickerson’s fourth film, Albemarle’s Black Classrooms, which premieres this weekend at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, details the history of education for African-Americans in Albemarle County from 1910 to the present, including massive resistance to desegregation in local schools. He speaks with alumni from Burley High School, which combined Jefferson and Esmont high schools and Albemarle Training School into a single high school for black students in the area in 1951. Jackson P. Burley Middle School now stands on the school’s site on Rose Hill Drive.

“The film talks a bit about how schools can sometimes become resegregated due to [white] students leaving public schools to go to private schools,” he says. “The purpose of the film is to bring awareness to the history behind these schools, the people who went there and what they endured during that time.”

His 2016 documentary, Anywhere But Here, a compilation of interviews with African-American male inmates at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, was shown at last year’s Virginia Film Festival. And The Color Line of Scrimmage tells the story of the undefeated 1956 football team at segregated Burley High School.

“I’m changing because I’m learning a lot more about the local area and the people who are here,” he says. “It wasn’t taught in schools.”

SHOW TIME: The February 25 premiere of Albemarle’s Black Schools is sold out, but a second showing will take place February 26. Go to maupintown.com for ticket information.

Lorenzo Dickerson’s top five films:

  • Driving Miss Daisy
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • The Help
  • Hidden Figures
  • Slavery and the Making of America

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