Sunday, July 21, 2024

Jamestown Expands Programs on Law and Race with Support from Virginia Law Foundation

Mark’s history walking tours are included in regular admission and are a unique opportunity for visitors to have a deeper understanding of Jamestown history. (Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation)

JAMESTOWN — The Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation (JRF) was recently awarded a $25,000 grant from the Virginia Law Foundation (VLF) to expand educational programming on the Rule of Law at Jamestown.

“Legacies of 1619: Law and Race at Jamestown” will explore the transformative First Assembly and the codification of race-based slavery that took place within the walls of Jamestown’s government buildings, according to JRF.

With the support of the Virginia Law Foundation, JRF staff will enhance existing tours on the First Assembly, develop new living history programs, and offer in-person and virtual teacher training opportunities in 2024, it said.

As researchers, historians, and educators, JRF said it is committed to inspiring and fostering constructive discourse on topics relevant to the independence and self-governance of Americans today, adding the value of civic participation in ensuring the representative nature of local and national governments cannot be overstated.

Archaeologist Natalie Reid shares Jamestown’s early history with a group of students. (Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation)

As a history-focused organization, JRF said it strives to make historical research and interpretation accessible to all members of the general public.

JRF added funding from VLF will support the continuing partnership with the Bob and Marion Wilson Teacher Institute of Colonial Williamsburg (CWTI) — a relationship of more than 10 years that equips educators from across the nation with new skills and content that they can use in their classrooms.

“Legacies of 1619” teacher workshops at CWTI will support classroom learning about Jamestown’s role in the development of America’s legal system, it said.

Following the announcement of the 2022 VLF award supporting First Assembly programs, Jamestown partnered with the Legal History Society, a William & Mary Law School student organization under the leadership of faculty advisor Professor Thomas J. McSweeney.

The Legal History Society is working with Jamestown staff to help research 17th- and 18th-century primary source material, such as court cases and legislation, that will enhance living history programs and themed tours.

“As a legal historian, I am excited about the opportunity to work with the Jamestown
Rediscovery Foundation to interpret the rule of law through new educational programs and
resources. The foundation’s dedication to uncovering early America’s shared history and
engaging the public and students in a critical evaluation of our nation’s birthplace is
incomparable,” McSweeney shared.

Public historian Mark Summers recently attended a luncheon with the Virginia Law Foundation and other grant recipients where he shared more about the project and why it’s so important for historic sites to provide context for today’s legal landscape and to encourage thoughtful civic engagement, JRF said.

“The legal ramifications of events at Jamestown echo through our nation’s history
into the Revolutionary War all the way to today. I’m grateful for the support of the Virginia Law Foundation, which has allowed us to explore such a complex topic and share with our audience in a meaningful way,” Summers said.

“Legacies of 1619: Law and Race at Jamestown” will explore the great paradox of that pivotal year, in which the colony’s leaders enacted reforms that symbolized the rise of liberty and self-governance for white, male settlers and also tipped the scales that led to the enslavement of Africans, JRF said.

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