Rebecca Fuller McGinness

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Rebecca Fuller McGinness (November 5, 1892[1] – March 28, 2000[2]) was born and raised in Charlottesville. She attended Hampton University and taught at the Jefferson School from 1915 until 1960.[3] She was an influential member of the First Baptist Church.[4]

The Lugo-McGinness Academy is named in her honor.[5]

Rebecca Fuller McGinness in 1986


Rebecca Fuller McGinness was born and raised in the same house on Fifth Street & Dice Street with her brother and sister. Her father, John Fuller was a carpenter and her mother, Julia, took in laundry from UVA students. She was a student at the Jefferson School until 1908, when she enrolled at Hampton University.[6] She married Melvin "Mac" McGinness in 1918, after they met at Hampton, immediately after their wedding he was sent to Europe to fight in World War I [3] Her first years of teaching were spent at the school when it only went up to the eighth grade, and she was a major part of the push for the city to open a Black high school.

After Jefferson High School was opened in 1926, McGinness remained at the elementary school. She taught every grade except for first and second at various points, though always at the Jefferson School, where she worked until her retirement in 1960, meaning that she retired before the integration of Charlottesville lower schools. McGinness dedicated her entire career to the education of Black Charlottesville children, even if it meant spending her own money. She would later say that she considered every child in her community to be one of her children, regardless of whether or not they were related or even in her classroom.[6]

Although Mac and Rebecca had no biological children, she played a central role in the lives of many. They adopted a young girl named Virginia when she was five years old, after her parents abandoned her due to her congenital heart condition. Despite doctors not expecting her to survive, Virginia lived to be 20 years old, which was attributed to the level of care the McGinness family provided.

Months before she turned 100, Hampton University reached out to McGinness about being awarded an Honorary Doctorate, as she was at that point the oldest member of the Hampton Alumni Association. That May, she was honored at Hampton's Commencement, which she described as "pinnacle of her life." In 1992, in honor of her 100th birthday, November 5th, 1992 was declared "Rebecca McGinness Day" by the mayor of Charlottesville.[6]

McGinness died in 2000 at the age of 107.[6]

Oral History

In October, 1986, McGinness was interviewed as part of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society's Oral History project. The following is her interview in which she describes her life in Charlottesville and the changes she witnessed during her life.[3]

1986 Interview with Rebecca McGinness (mp3)


  1. Web. Dr. Rebecca McGinnis' Memories of Jim Crow Charlottesville, retrieved June 12, 2012.
  2. Web. Rebecca Fuller McGinness, retrieved June 13, 2023.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 McGinness, Rebecca F. "Albemarle County Historical Society Oral History - Rebecca McGinness." Personal interview. 15 Oct. 1986.
  4. Edwards, Pat. "History Read." np. First Baptist Church, Charlottesville, VA. 29 May 2012. Lecture.
  5. Web. Local academy provides alternative for at-risk youth, Lacey Naff, Charlottesville Tomorrow, December 17, 2014, retrieved December 12, 2014.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Bryant, Florence Coleman and Doren William. "Rebecca Fuller McGinness: A Lifetime, 1892-2000". Charlottesville, VA: Van Doren, 2001. Print.

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