Benjamin Tonsler

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Benjamin E. Tonsler (April 2, 1854 - March 6, 1917) was one of Charlottesville's most prominent African American citizens and local educator between 1895 and his death in 1917. Tonsler Park, located in the Fifeville neighborhood, was named in his honor.

Benjamin E. Tonsler


Benjamin E. Tonsler was born in Albemarle County on April 2, 1854. He attended the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute located in Hampton, Virginia, a school established to educate freedmen and their descendants. Tonsler returned to Charlottesville in the 1880's. He was an educator at the Jefferson Graded School from its opening in 1895 until his death on March 6, 1917. While at the Jefferson Graded School (later named the Jefferson School), Tonsler worked his way up to becoming the school's principal, a position he held for nearly 30 years.

Charlottesville city directory for 1889 list the following under SCHOOLS: The City Public School for colored children is located on 4th St. n.w. B.E. Tonsler, Principal, with a corps of six teachers. The school has about six hundred children in attendance.

Tonsler's approach to education was influenced by his friendship with Booker T. Washington (b. 1856, d. 1915). Both Tonsler and Washington were students at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. This Institution eventually became simply Hampton Institute in 1930 and then Hampton University.

According the March 7, 1917 front-page tribute of The Daily Progress: [1] “Benjamin E. Tonsler, for nearly 30 years the earnest and efficient principal of the Jefferson Graded School for colored children, died of pneumonia yesterday afternoon at his home, 327 Sixth Street, S.W., after an illness of less than a week. The funeral will be held at...the First Colored Baptist Church, the services to be conducted by pastor, Rev. C.M. Long...”

The interment was in Oakwood Cemetery[2].

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, pneumonia was the leading cause of death due to infectious disease and the third leading cause of death overall.

The Benjamin Tonsler House located at 327 Sixth Street, SW, which he once owned, is one of Charlottesville's Individually Protected Properties[3].

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  1. <>.
  2. "Charlottesville : Benjamin Tonsler." Charlottesville : Home. Web. 28 May 2010. <>.
  3. "Charlottesville : Architectural Design Control District and Individually Protected Property Information." Charlottesville : Home. Web. 16 Aug. 2010. <>.

[[Category:Charlottesville public schools personnel]