Sunday, February 25, 2024

Two Men Linked by Slavery to Share their Story at Journey to Racial Healing Event

(Virginia Racial Healing Institute)

WILLIAMSBURG — Two men with the same last name — one Black, one white, linked by slavery — will share their journey of racial healing in an upcoming ceremony in Williamsburg.

Darrell Hairston and Will Hairston will be the featured speakers at the second annual Journey to Racial Healing on Saturday, June 24, 1-4 p.m., at the Stryker Center.

The event is sponsored by the Virginia Racial Healing Institute, a nonprofit that manages the Historic Triangle chapter of Coming to the Table, a national racial reconciliation organization with more than 50 local chapters. Its name was inspired by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that one day the descendants of enslavers and the enslaved would sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

Will Hairston is a co-founder of the national organization.

The two Hairstons are linked by their ancestry. Will Hairston is descended from one of the largest slave-holding families in the antebellum South. The Hairstons owned dozens of plantations from Virginia to Mississippi, land that was worked by thousands of enslaved people — including Darrell Hairston’s ancestors. Their story is told in the award-winning book “The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White” by Henry Wiencek.

“In my journey to racial healing, the biggest turning point was my time meeting and talking with Darrell Hairston,” said Will.

Darrell concurred, “Mending wounds is only possible when people are willing to sit down and take the time to listen to and get to know each other.”

“Darrell and Will Hairston’s story shows us that America’s racial history is complex and, at times, painful,” said Laura Hill, founder and executive director of the Virginia Racial Healing Institute. “I am thankful that they sought racial healing and that their journey is bringing them to Williamsburg.”

The June 24 event will include refreshments and an opportunity to view an exhibit of Juneteenth artwork on display at the Stryker Center. Admission is free, but registration is required. To register, go to this link.

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