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February 10, 2011

Colonial Williamsburg’s Black History Month Programs Explore the Question of Identity from the Perspective of 18th-century African Americans

Colonial Williamsburg celebrates Black History Month with a series of programs that explore the question of identity from the 18th-century perspective of African Americans. Programming will explore the various aspects of how these people of African descent not only struggled to become recognized as Americans, but how their assertions of personhood challenged the ethnic notions of how “American” would be defined.

Programs throughout the month explore the many identities of free and enslaved African Americans. “Freedom to Slavery” tells the compelling story of Elizabeth, a black woman who defined herself as a wife and protector of her children, but is defined as property by the government and forced back into slavery after living free for several years among the Shawnee Indians on the western frontier. The program is offered at 10, 10:30, 11, 11:30 a.m. and noon, Saturday, Feb. 5, 12 and 26, Milliner Shop. Reservations required.

What does it mean to be a slave? Bristol, the slave of Thomas Everard, discusses what it means to him to be African, to have known freedom and how slavery has impacted his identity during “Bristol’s Boundaries.” The program is available at 2, 2:30, 3 and 3:30 p.m., Saturdays, Feb. 5, 12 and 26, Mary Stith House. Reservations required.

During “Jane’s Struggle,” a woman of mixed heritage struggles with her racial identity and the nuances of a society where her complexion can be both beneficial and harmful. This is presented at 2, 2:30, 3 and 3:30 p.m., Sundays, Feb. 6, 13 and 27, Mary Stith House. Reservations required.

The program, “Daniel’s Dilemma,” examines the struggles enslaved foreman Daniel has with his identity as his responsibilities and extra privileges from his position create conflict with the enslaved community. This program is available at 10, 10:30, 11, 11:30 a.m. and noon, Sunday, Feb. 13 and 27, Mary Stith House. Reservations required.

African American Programs at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg

Families celebrate Black History Month in February through several family programs at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. During “African American Folk Tales for Families,” families hear African or African American folk tales read aloud, tour the galleries and make a craft. The program is geared toward children ages five through seven and is offered at 10:30 a.m. Fridays, Feb. 4-25.

“Discover Gee’s Bend Quilts” showcases one-of-a-kind African American quilting traditions and history of Gee’s Bend, Ala., while explore two examples in the museum’s collection. Young guests can explore their creativity with a hands-on activity at 1:30 p.m. Fridays, Feb. 4-March 11.

During “African American Folk Art,” guests explore 18th- and 19th-century folk art created by or depicting African Americans and discover what the art tells us about their lives at 3 p.m. Mondays, Jan. 31-Feb. 21.

Gowan Pamphlet, known locally as a popular preacher, offers his perspective on slavery, religion and freedom during “God Is My Rock” at 4 p.m. Saturdays, Feb. 5, 12 and 26. Reservations required.

Thousands of African captives, including members of noble families were forcefully migrated to colonial Virginia. “Princes Without a Palace: Tracing African Princes and Captives in Williamsburg” provides an overview of the 18th-century Atlantic World of Africa, Europe and North America during the slave trade. A historian narrates slides and video excerpts from Colonial Williamsburg’s Electronic Field Trip, “The Slave Trade,” to assist the audience in discovering the historic buildings, people and events in Williamsburg connected to the Atlantic slave trade experience. Discover the role that language, literacy and religion played in the African princes’ struggles to escape slavery. This program takes place at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 17 and 24.

This program is part of Colonial Williamsburg’s Equiano Forum on Early African American History and Culture which seeks to broaden the public knowledge about African and African American history and culture in Virginia and the Atlantic World during the American Revolutionary era.

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

These programs are included in all Historic Area admission passes.

Colonial Williamsburg’s African American programming is made possible through the generous support of Mr. and Mrs. Richard D. Parsons, Douglas N. Morton and Marilyn L. Brown, the Norfolk Southern Corporation, the Charles E. Culpeper Endowments in Arts and Culture of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Altria Client Services, AT&T, Philip Morris, IBM and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and presentation of the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. This town-sized living history museum tells the inspirational stories of our journey to become Americans through programs in the Historic Area and through the award-winning Revolutionary City program.

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. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121