Friday, February 3, 2023

Colonial Williamsburg recognizes 18th-century African-American residents by name in new exhibition

Ayinde Martin, 37 of Hampton, has worked as a journeyman carpenter in Colonial Williamsburg for nearly a decade, and rarely do visitors ask him the questions he wants them to ask. (WYDaily/File photo)
Ayinde Martin, 37 of Hampton, has worked as a journeyman carpenter in Colonial Williamsburg for nearly a decade, and rarely do visitors ask him the questions he wants them to ask. (WYDaily/File photo)

Update Jan. 29: The “Revealing the Priceless” exhibit will now open Feb. 18, according to an updated news release from Colonial Williamsburg.

This February, one room at the Raleigh Tavern will name each African-American man and woman who was known to have once lived in Colonial Williamsburg.

The exhibition will be called “Revealing the Priceless: 40 Years of African-American Interpretation,” and it’s part of a series of events scheduled for February.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is celebrating Black History Month by highlighting some of its year-round African-American programming, leading tours and hosting the special exhibition at the Raleigh Tavern, according to a news release from Colonial Williamsburg.

The interpretive programming, historic sites and events are open to those who have Colonial Williamsburg admission or special program tickets.

This year is the 40th anniversary of Colonial Williamsburg’s “comprehensive” African-American interpretation.

“So often our shared American story is told with brief reference to nameless ‘slaves.’ Early African Virginians were, first and foremost, people like us with lives, loves, hopes and struggles, as nearly all lived in legal bondage while others in society demanded unalienable rights,” said actor-interpreter Stephen Seals, program manager for the 40th anniversary commemoration.

The exhibition will be in the tavern’s Daphne and Billiards rooms. It memorializes each African-American person known by name to have lived in Colonial Williamsburg. It will also highlight the “hundreds” of interpreters, administrators, historians, archaeologists, curators and community partners who have contributed to telling those stories.

The exhibition at the Raleigh Tavern is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily in February.

The Raleigh Tavern will also host new “Music was my Refuge” programming, which is presented 3 p.m. Tuesdays in the tavern’s Apollo Room. The program includes African-American music from enslavement, reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights era and the present.

More special programming will be in the Apollo Room daily in February at 1 and 3 p.m.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg will host “Finding Diversity” and “Busting Myths!” at 2:45 p.m. Tuesdays and 5 p.m. Fridays, respectively.

Since its establishment in 1926 and opening of its first public site in 1932, Colonial Williamsburg for decades avoided interpretation of African-American history in Williamsburg that “risked pain or even discomfort for employees, guests and members of the community, regardless of race,” according to the news release.

In 1979, the foundation changed its tune, collaborating with a group of students from Hampton University to work as interpreters and tell the stories real African-American men and women who lived in Williamsburg in the 18th century.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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