A photograph of William "Bill" Hurley in formal attire was prominently featured in the “Visions of Progress: Portraits of Dignity, Style and Racial Uplift” exhibit of Rufus W. Holsinger's photographs that was on display at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library from 2022-2023.
Hurley was born into slavery on January 20, 1863 in Albemarle County. He was able to read and write according to the 1870 Census. He married Cora Lee Kennie around 1887, with Kennie working as a laundress while Hurley worked as a laborer doing odd jobs.
By the early 1900's, Hurley was employed as a liveryman and stablehand and had served as the longtime coachman of Charlottesville mayor J. Samuel McCue. At the latter's murder trial in 1905, Hurley provided a testimony that both highlighted specific personality traits of the man and described his behavior in the days immediately following the murder of his wife.
In 1909, Hurley rented a property in the 10th and Page neighborhood from John West. He had previously lived at a home on the corner of 10th Street NW that he had rented from McCue. One of Hurley's neighbors in this new location was Margaret Lewis. During this time, he also worked at the Hotel Albemarle (then known as the Gleason Hotel).
On October 6, 1909, Hurley's portrait photograph was taken by Holsinger. Professor John Edwin Mason of the UVA Corcoran Department of History believes that the flame present on Hurley's match would have had to have been manually painted onto the glass negative by Holsinger after the photograph had been taken.
According to a 1910 issue of the Daily Progress, Hurley was part of a chain gang in Charlottesville but managed to escape, only to be captured by police officers in Orange County a short time later. He was taken to Orange and placed in the jail, after which he was brought back to Charlottesville for trial.
- Web. Hurley, Bill, Jefferson's University, 02/16/2022
- Web. Picture Me As I Am: Mirror and Memory in the Age of Black Resistance, The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center
- Web. Images of ‘Black life, Black joy,’ are immortalized in historic Charlottesville portraits, PBS NewsHour, 02/27/2023