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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Col. Lafayette Jones, Local Historian and Community Activist, Will be Remembered at Memorial

Col. Lafayette Jones stands in the door of one of the reconstructed cabins at Freedom Park. (Matt McClain photo/Washington Post)

WILLIAMSBURG — Col. Lafayette Jones Jr., who was instrumental in preserving one of the earliest free Black settlements in the United States, will be remembered in a community memorial service on Sunday, April 28, at Freedom Park.

Jones died Feb. 16 at age 81.

In his 1803 will, William Ludwell Lee, a James City County planter, freed the enslaved people who lived on his Green Springs plantation, stipulating that they would be granted land and comfortable houses. Those free Black men and women created a self-sustaining community of farmers, tradesmen and artisans more than 60 years before American slavery was abolished by the Emancipation Proclamation.

One of the first residents of that community was James Jones, Lafayette Jones’ great-great-grandfather. Jones told the story in his 2008 book, “My Great, Great, Grandfather’s Journey to an Island of Freedom.”

Jones was a key figure in the development, design, and naming of Freedom Park on the site of that historic community. The park features an interpretive area that includes three reconstructed cabins.

Col. Lafayette Jones discusses his research into the early freedmen’s community at what is now Freedom Park. (Swan Rochford photo)

“Col. Jones will long be remembered for his crucial role in exploring and publicizing one of the most important historical sites in Virginia,” said John McGlennon, who represents Roberts District on the James City County Board of Supervisors. “James City County was indeed fortunate to benefit from his knowledge and his sense of history as a member of our county Historical Commission for many years, and his work will endure.”

The memorial ceremony is sponsored by James City County and the Historic Triangle chapter of Coming to the Table, a national racial reconciliation organization. The chapter is a program of the Virginia Racial Healing Institute.

“We are honored to organize this service to celebrate the life and legacy of Col. Lafayette Jones,” said Laura Hill, executive director of the Virginia Racial Healing Institute. “He was a trailblazer who was passionate about history and historic preservation. We are a richer community because of his efforts.”

The event will begin at 2:30 p.m. under a tent near the recreated cabins and will feature speeches, presentations and music. Refreshments will be served in the park’s interpretive center immediately following the service.

Admission is free, but registration is required.

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