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May 28, 2009

Special July weekend features "We Are Family: From Africa to America"

Colonial Williamsburg presents a weekend of special programs July 17-19 inviting guests to explore the family experience for both free and enslaved 18th-century African Americans.

“We Are Family: From Africa to America” portrays the impact of the system of slavery on families and the role that family played in surviving enslavement and maintaining kinship ties despite forcible separation from relatives. The programs also will encourage guests to look at their own family histories and begin to record and preserve them. “We Are Family” is presented as part of the 30th anniversary celebration of African American programming in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area.

Special programs begin Friday, July 17 in The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. Guided tours of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum explore folk art created by or depicting African Americans while guests discover what the art says about their lives. Guests look for an African American quilt in the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, learn about similar quilts in the museum collection and make their own quilted keepsake to take home.

Weekend programs will focus on daily life for free and enslaved African Virginians in the 18th century and illustrate the role family played in resisting the system of racial oppression. Great Hopes Plantation teems with life as the lives of free blacks and the enslaved — both young and old — are portrayed on a typical small family farm. In contrast, visitors to the Peyton Randolph House can explore the paradox of American freedom and slavery by comparing the perspectives and lifestyles of Peyton and Elizabeth Randolph and the 27 enslaved people in their urban household. Daily life, work and family relationships develop in two separate worlds under the same roof.

“In Their Own Words: African Americans in the American Revolutionary Era” — a new interactive walking tour recounting the struggle by both the free and the enslaved against the laws, religion and social customs that denied them citizenship — is offered twice daily through the weekend and enables guests to discover the choices, decision and consequences faced by free blacks and slaves.

Other programs will explore how storytelling and the African American oral tradition played crucial roles in preserving family history. Guests may savor the strength of storytelling to pass along powerful moral lessons and safeguarding cultural values.

Guests interested in preserving their own family history have the opportunity to record it for posterity. The Story Keepers Project will offer visitors the opportunity to conduct interviews with family members about favorite memories and family lore. Interviews will be recorded on CD for participants to preserve and share with family.

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:
Jim Bradley
(757) 220-7281