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July 6, 2009

Special July weekend celebrates 30th anniversary of African American programming

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. These programs are part of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of Colonial Williamsburg’s African American programs that take place throughout 2009.

Weekend programs in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area will focus on daily life for free and enslaved African Virginians in the 18th century. 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.

Special hands-on programs for young guests and their families begin at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. At 3:30 p.m. Friday, July 17 at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, guests can take the guided tour, Stitch Detectives: African American Quilts. The program explores the exhibition, “Seeing Stars,” for an African American quilt and discusses others in the museum collection. Young guests then make their own quilted keepsake to take home. Art Adventures and African American Folk Tales focuses on African American folk tales and folk art on a guided tour at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, July 18. Then young guests make their own creature from a folk tale to take home. At 4 p.m. at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, guests hear differing viewpoints on how to achieve freedom and equality in spite of slavery during the program, A Dialogue Between Negro Preachers.

During the program, Two Worlds, One Roof, One Law from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 18, 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. Discover how the events of the Revolutionary War impacted these two worlds in very different ways.

Great Hopes Plantation comes alive as an 18th-century farm during the interactive special program, Rhythms of the Day: Life in an 18th-century African American Rural Community 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 18-19. Guests can assist with the daily activities of a rural plantation, from agricultural work to domestic chores. Lend a hand to the children as they complete their daily responsibilities or see what’s cooking in the kitchen and learn about the African influences on American food. Visit the fields to unearth the story of tobacco production and talk with the craftsmen about the important role trades played in the lives of free and enslaved craftspeople.

At the end of a long work week, enslaved people might travel miles on foot to attend a gathering of area slaves. Gatherings were a time of celebrating all the milestones of life – births, weddings, funerals. But more importantly, they were a rare opportunity to see loved ones that lived on distant plantations. Join in the festivities of the music, dance, stories and reunions with old friends and family during Saturday Gathering: A Family Reunion 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon July 18.

At 6 and 7:30 p.m. July 18 at Great Hopes Plantation, guests are invited to witness an 18th-century wedding during Jumpin’ the Broom. Since slave marriages were not legally recognized, enslaved couples traditionally “jumped the broom” to convey the idea of marriage to the rest of the community. Can a young enslaved couple overcome their obstacles to become husband and wife? Not suitable for young audiences. Tickets are $12 for adults.

On Sunday, July 19, guests can learn how stories passed from generation to generation played an important role in preserving history and culture as well as the teaching of moral lessons during Storytelling and the African American Oral Tradition at 10 a.m. at the Benjamin Powell House.

During Oyer and Terminer Trial of Mary, A Slave, guests can witness the gripping trial of Mary, a slave accused of murder. Learn the shocking facts behind the case and discover the plight of a mother fighting for her family at the Courthouse at 2, 2:45 and 3:30 p.m. on July 19. The weekend concludes with Freedom to Slavery. Guests hear the compelling story of Elizabeth, an enslaved African American woman, forced back into slavery after living free with the Shawnee Indians of the western frontier. The program can be seen at 2, 2:30, 3 and 3:30 p.m. at the Millinery Shop. Reservations are required and can be made at any Colonial Williamsburg ticket outlet.

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, decisions and consequences faced by free blacks and slaves.

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. Guests may participate in the project on 1-4:20 p.m. Friday, July 16 and 10:15 a.m.-4:50 p.m. Saturday, July 17 and Sunday, July 18.

“We Are Family: From Africa to America” programs are open to ticketed guests. Evening programs require a separate ticket.

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, AT&T, Philip Morris and IBM has helped make Colonial Williamsburg’s African American History programs possible.

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