Margaret Lewis

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Portrait of Mrs. Margaret Lewis taken by Rufus W. Holsinger on March 26, 1914. Photo from the Holsinger Collection and UVA Special Collections.[1]

Margaret Lewis (ca. 1840 – February 27, 1915) was a member of the faculty at the Jefferson School who taught alongside her husband, Paul Lewis, as well as Isabella Gibbons, Philena Carkin, and Anna Gardner.

Lewis was born around 1840 in Virginia. Her parents were also born in Virginia. Lewis was born enslaved, likely to the Rev. Richard Kidder Meade, the rector at Christ Church Episcopal in Charlottesville from 1836-1868. Meade enslaved eleven people in 1860.[1]

Following the conclusion of the Civil War, Lewis briefly worked as a domestic servant before joining the teaching staff of the Jefferson School in 1866.[2] A fellow teacher at the school described her as “quick, bright, alert and humorous."[3] She eventually married Paul Lewis, another former slave who attended the Freedmen’s School opened in the city in the aftermath of the Civil War and later became a teacher there himself. He lived in the schoolhouse along with Margaret and their children and also served as the building’s janitor. During this time, Lewis served as an important liaison between the school and the community.

Lewis taught for nine years, leaving the school in 1875. After retiring from the Jefferson School, she worked as a nurse for the John E. Shepherd family, who lived on West Main Street.[1] In 1891, Lewis and her husband bought a house at 10th 1/2 Street NW in the 10th and Page neighborhood for $750 from a white bookstore owner, with one of their neighbors in this location being William Hurley.[4]

On March 26, 1914, Lewis and an unidentified girl (likely a daughter of the Shepherd family) were photographed by Rufus W. Holsinger, with this picture later forming a part of the Holsinger Studio Collection. During this time, Lewis lived on 10th 1/2 Street NW.

Lewis died on February 27, 1915. A funeral was arranged for her at First Baptist Church (african-american) and she was buried in the Daughters of Zion Cemetery. Her obituary was featured on the front page of the Daily Progress. Lewis outlived her husband and all 13 of their children.[1][5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Web. Lewis, Margaret, Julia Munro, Website, Jefferson's University... the early Life, retrieved June 10, 2021.
  2. Web. [ Disturber of Tradition: A Portrait of Anna Gardner], White, Barbara Ann, Book, Nantucket Historical Association, 2017
  3. Web. Holsinger Photos Capture Dignity of Local African-American Community, Robert Hull, John Mason, Website, UVA Today, May 20, 2015, retrieved June 10, 2021.
  4. Web. Picture Me As I Am: Mirror and Memory in the Age of Black Resistance, The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center
  5. Web. Burial Details: Margaret Lewis, Professor Lynn Rainville, Website, African American Cemeteries in Albemarle and Amherst Counties, 2011, retrieved June 10, 2021.

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