History, Social Life in 1950s Louisa County

Learning more about Louisa County can help put the oral history interviews into context. It can be helpful to understand what the social, economic, and political landscape of Louisa County was like in the 1950s when listening to the interviews.
Cultural Narrative: 

Despite the rural nature of Louisa County, the people of Louisa had many outlets for community interaction and engagement during the 1950s. Most Louisa County residents were able to interact with their neighbors, become involved in school, church, and community organizations, and lead an active social life through church activities, school events, and entertainment venues. 

Church services and events were often a major part of people’s social lives. Often, churches provided social outlets beyond just the services on Sunday morning, such as cookouts, bible studies, and “lawn parties.” Additionally, churches also provided the community with opportunities to be involved in a choir, serve as a deacon or altar-boy, or even participate in baseball games. It was common for different churches and congregations to host some events together.

School events and clubs provided an opportunity for children to socialize with each other outside of the classroom. Schools hosted sports teams, dances, and clubs in addition to having national groups such as the Future Homemakers of America club for girls and the Agricultural Club for boys. 

There were a few shops, restaurants, and movie theaters in the small town centers in Louisa County. During the 1950s, there was a movie theater in downtown Louisa that both white and black people attended to watch new movies. Like most businesses in the South, it was segregated. According to Sylvester Courtney, “…blacks had a little stall in the back and white people were sitting in a wide area.” During the 1950s it was not uncommon for black and white people to shop at the same stores or eat food from the same restaurants, but there were restrictions placed on African Americans. Often, African Americans were not permitted to eat inside restaurants that served white people. Instead, they would be required to pick up their food from a side or back door and take it home. Many of the shops, movie theaters, and restaurants that residents of Louisa County frequented during the 1950s were located in the urban centers of Charlottesville and Richmond. Younger people in Louisa remember using cars and hitching rides with friends to attend concerts or dances in Charlottesville.