New Town Project
New Town was an African American neighborhood in Blacksburg, Virginia from the late 19th century until the mid- 1960’s. It consisted of Gilbert Street and a small lane that were home to about 20 families. The lone remaining structure today is the St. Luke and Odd Fellows Hall, which was the social center for area African-Americans from 1905 until the end of segregation. In the 1970’s road construction and other development resulted in the decline and disappearance of the neighborhood. Nonetheless, New Town and its history can be an important reminder of the resilience, pride, self-reliance, and community spirit of the people who lived in this neighborhood as well as the injustice that segregation imposed.
New Town, today, has been redeveloped as a shopping and office complex. To memorialize New Town and its people, we have developed a prototype technology-based re-creation of New Town as it was about 1950. The New Town Remembered program includes virtual and augmented reality representations of homes and people and educational programs and materials designed for school age children. The New Town Remembered program integrates physical and topographical elements with the emotional and community experiences that made New Town a living neighborhood during the era of Jim Crow laws.
As an on-line resource and on-site Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality experience, New Town Remembered shows participants the joys and struggles of those who lived in this neighborhood during segregation. Of particular importance, participants will discover how problem solving, persistence, pride, and community cohesion were key elements in a successful neighborhood despite the exclusionary restrictions. These important lessons from the past have universal applications today.