Walking Tour to Highlight African-American History, Controversies

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All TogetherHistory enthusiasts will have an opportunity to explore some of the area’s lesser-known historical sites Saturday on All Together’s African American history walking tour.

All Together is a local organization founded in 1994 after a group of residents felt compelled to do something to address issues of racial tension and communication after the controversial verdict in the trial of O. J. Simpson.

“There was a lack of communication,” said Jessica O’Brien, member of All Together and the primary organizer of the walking tour. “People weren’t able to talk to each other about it.”

Recognizing the need to address issues of race, ethnicity and diversity more directly and thoughtfully, several members of the community founded All Together, which since that time has hosted numerous forums, study circles and other events that promote discussion of these issues.

In particular, the group has become known for its monthly brown bag lunch discussions, which take place on the first Friday of every month at Williamsburg Baptist Church and feature different speakers tackling provocative topics that align with the organization’s mission.

In celebration of reaching its 20th anniversary, All Together is offering a few new specialty events such as the walking tour, which O’Brien first conceived during her time as a student at the College of William & Mary.

The tour, which spans about a 2-mile stretch from William & Mary’s campus down Duke of Gloucester Street, includes 10 stops that highlight some aspect of African-American history in Williamsburg from the 17th through the 20th centuries.

The possible site of the Bray School on Prince George Street is among the chronologically older stops on the tour. The building, which is believed to have opened around 1760, would have been used to as a school for both free and enslaved African American children.

Sites of more recent history include the flag pole given to William & Mary by the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s and the area outside of Wetherburn’s Tavern where Colonial Williamsburg hosted a controversial slave auction re-enactment in the 1990s.

“This is the history you don’t see or hear about,” O’Brien said. “But it’s the history of the town, and it’s a chance to learn about some of the history of our African American community.”

The free tour will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at the First Baptist Church.