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February 17, 2009

CW's Black History Month Historic Area and museums programs reflect quest for freedom and liberty during the Revolutionary War

Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area and Art Museums celebrate Black History Month in February with programming that seeks to broaden the understanding of the African American experience during the American Revolution. The contributions of African Americans to the nation’s founding principles challenged our forefathers to examine the idea of democracy.

Black History Month Weekend is Feb. 21-22. Each program will allow guests to develop a more in-depth understanding of how the American Revolution impacted the African American struggle for freedom and quest for liberty and equality.

Saturday, Feb. 21

  • God Save the King, 10 a.m. to noon, Public Gaol. Encounter enslaved men Joe and Dick who recently sought freedom with the British. Discover how their quest for freedom landed them in the Williamsburg Gaol.
    A Long Cold Walk, 1:30 p.m., Gaol to Courthouse. Witness the march of enslaved men Joe and Dick from the Gaol to the Courthouse, where they are questioned by the local authorities about their efforts to join the British army.
  • The Examination of Joe & Dick, Black Loyalists, 2, 2:45 and 3:30 p.m., Courthouse. Members of the Williamsburg Committee of Safety listen to the testimonies of Joe and Dick, two enslaved loyalists, and render their judgment.
  • God is My Rock, 4 p.m., DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Gowan Pamphlet, a slave known locally as a popular preacher, offers his perspective on slavery, religion and freedom.
  • From Ear to Ear, 7 p.m., DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Explore the roots of 18th-century African American music during this exciting musical concert. Travel on a musical journey from Africa to the Caribbean and on to America. Enjoy the intricate rhythms of Africa and discover how African music was reshaped and transformed into a distinctly “soulful” African American musical sound.

    Sunday, Feb. 22

  • Slavery and the Law, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Capitol. From very early in the 18th century, legislation that controlled the institution of slavery was discussed, debated and enacted here in the Capitol. Today, explore the impact these laws had on those who were not free. Discover the role that this building played in the lives of slaves and free blacks.
  • Freedom to Slavery, 10 a.m. to noon, every 20 minutes, Millinery Shop. Hear the compelling story of Elizabeth, an enslaved African American woman forced back into slavery after living free with the Shawnee Indians on the western frontier. Reservations required.
  • The Price of Freedom, 12:30 p.m., DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. A simultaneous look at how freedom is viewed from the perspective of two communities: one white, one black, one free and one enslaved. Reservations required.

    The African American Religion Exhibit located in the reconstructed Taliaferro-Cole Stable, stands near the site where the African American First Baptist Church met in the early 1800s in a carriage house. Today the stable houses an exhibit that traces the religious heritage of transported Africans and their descendants in Virginia and the development of an African American Baptist congregation in Williamsburg in the late 18th century.

    Black History Month is part of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of Colonial Williamsburg’s African American programs that take place throughout 2009.

    The generous support of Mr. and Mrs. Richard D. Parsons, Douglas N. Morton and Marilyn L. Brown, the Norfolk Southern Corporation and the Charles E. Culpeper Endowments in Arts and Culture of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund has helped make Colonial Williamsburg’s Black History Month programs possible.

    A Colonial Williamsburg admissions ticket, Good Neighbor Card or museums ticket provides access to enjoy these family programs.

    Programs and exhibitions at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum are supported by the DeWitt Wallace Endowment Fund.

    Entrance to Colonial Williamsburg Art Museums is through the Public Hospital of 1773 at 326 W. Francis St. For information and reservations call (757) 220-7724.

    In addition to these programs, the Electronic Field Trip, Freedom Bound, will premiere on Feb. 19. Examine the options for slaves willing to risk their lives for freedom. Where could they run? Whom could they trust? Students learn how the answers to those questions changed as times changed – from a 17th-century enslaved woman petitioning the court for her freedom to a 19th-century enslaved man repeatedly risking his life to help others reach freedom in the North.

    Produced by Colonial Williamsburg’s division of productions, publications and learning ventures and underwritten by the William and Gretchen Kimball Young Patriots Fund, the program takes place at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern time in the Bruton Heights School Lane Auditorium and is free and open to the public. The award-winning live, interactive television series also is available nationally on many PBS stations. For information, call toll-free 1-800-761-8331 or visit

    Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution guests interact with history through “Revolutionary City®” – a dramatic live street theater presentation.

    Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

    Media Contact:
    Penna Rogers
    (757) 220-7121

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