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January 18, 2013

'Steadfast Spirits' Weekend Celebrates the Power of Women and African American Culture March 8-10

Colonial Williamsburg celebrates the power of women and African American culture during ‘Steadfast Spirits,’ a weekend of programming dedicated to women’s history and the arts March 8-10. The weekend explores the diverse challenges faced by African American women of the 18th century and highlights their steadfast pursuit of individual freedom, as well as their fight to achieve liberty and equality for their families and communities. These women took the first crucial steps in our continuing quest to fulfill the promises of freedom put forward by the American Revolution. Internationally-recognized actor Erica Hubbard, star of BET’s ‘Let’s Stay Together,’ headlines the weekend with two performances of ‘Liberty for Lydia,’ and Grammy winning female a cappella group, Sweet Honey in the Rock, performs a concert of powerful and inspiring music in the tradition of gospel, spiritual and protest songs.

Hubbard will portray Lydia, an enslaved woman in the household of 18th-century lawyer and scholar George Wythe, a Virginia signer of the Declaration of Independence. Following the Revolution, changes in Virginia law made it possible for Wythe to free Lydia and she ultimately became an entrepreneur in nearby Richmond. The story of Lydia is the story of a woman facing, enduring and overcoming the shifting challenges of gender, slavery and freedom in the age of the American Revolution. ‘Liberty for Lydia’ is offered in two performances at 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday, March 9 in the Kimball Theater. A question-and-answer session with Hubbard and the rest of the cast, moderated by WHRO-TV’s Barbara Hamm Lee, follows each performance and features questions submitted via social media channels. A separate $30 ticket is required

Hubbard’s participation is part of Colonial Williamsburg’s Guest Artist series, designed to engage new audiences and bring promising new talent to perform alongside Colonial Williamsburg’s own professional actor corps. The Guest Artist series launched in 2010 with appearances by Mamie Gummer (‘Emily Owens, M.D.’) and Jesse Williams (‘Grey’s Anatomy’).

An evening concert by Sweet Honey in the Rock, the Grammy-award-winning and internationally renowned, African American female a cappella group, will take guests on a musical journey that follows in the path of the struggle for freedom of these steadfast women of the 18th century. Sweet Honey in the Rock performs music imbued with the history of the African American struggle for liberty and grounded in the tradition of sacred spirituals and gospel hymns from the African American church, protest songs of the civil rights movement and refrains of peace and justice that resound around the world. Sweet Honey in the Rock performs their vocal magic at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 9 in the Virginia Room of the Williamsburg Lodge. A separate $40 ticket is required.

The ‘Steadfast Spirits’ weekend also features programs that investigate the actions of courageous women of African descent who made choices and took risks in the Revolutionary era to change their own destinies:

  • ‘Martha’s Decision, Oney’s Choice,’ presents an intimate portrayal of an owner-slave relationship. Martha Washington has shared a seemingly close relationship with her favorite slave, Oney. Seizing an opportunity to gain freedom, Oney runs away. The audience learns each woman’s perspective of their relationship to understand why things have taken such a drastic turn. ‘Martha’s Decision, Oney’s Choice’ is presented at 12:30 p.m. Friday, March 8 in the Hennage Auditorium of the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Seating is limited and a Revolutionary City admission ticket or Museum ticket is required.

  • ‘Freedom Denied: Slavery in the Time of Liberty’ relates stories of 18th-century Williamsburg residents and the struggle of African Americans to gain liberty and equality during the era of the America Revolution. Law, religion, and social custom established and maintained a system of slavery and oppression. Guests discover the variety of means by which enslaved and free African Americans navigated and resisted the system. The walking tour begins at 2:30 p.m. Friday, March 8 at the Greenhow Lumber Ticket Office, weather permitting. Space is limited. A Revolutionary City admission ticket and a free reservation are required.

  • ‘Her Enduring Spirit’ invites guests to join Edith Cumbo, a free African American woman as she conducts her daily business. She offers a unique perspective on life in the capital city and the active role that women play in Williamsburg and nearby cities. ‘Her Enduring Spirit’ begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 9 at the Greenhow Lumber Ticket Office, weather permitting. Space is limited. A Revolutionary City admission ticket and a free reservation are required.

  • ‘Freedom to Slavery’ offers the compelling story of Elizabeth, an enslaved African American woman forced back into slavery after running away and living free with the Shawnee Indians on the western frontier. ‘Freedom to Slavery’ is presented at 10, 10:30, 11 and 11:30 a.m. Saturday, March 9 at the Millinery. Space is limited. A Revolutionary City admission ticket and a free reservation are required.

  • ‘His Natural Wife’ presents a compelling and controversial account in which guests meet Aggy and hear her story of a master and slave who fell in love on the eve of the Revolution. Many years and two children later, she confronts the prospect of losing the man she calls her husband and the freedom promised in his will. Without him what can she now do to be the master of her own fate? ‘His Natural Wife’ is presented at 11 a.m. and noon Sunday, March 10 at the Raleigh Tavern. Seating is limited. A Revolutionary City admission ticket and a free reservation are required.

The Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel & Suites offers a ‘Steadfast Spirits’ weekend package that includes two night’s lodging and two sets of all required tickets starting at just $110 per room per night. Room taxes are additional. To include the free tickets, the package must be booked no later than Feb. 28. For more information, visit or telephone toll-free 1-800-HISTORY (1-800-447-8679).

Media Contact:
Jim Bradley