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September 21, 2007

CW receives $1 million challenge grant from NEH

The National Endowment for the Humanities has provided a $1 million We The People Challenge Grant to The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

The foundation must secure an additional $3 million in gifts to complete the requirements of the challenge grant and establish a $4 million endowment to support and enhance African American history interpretation. The endowment will enable the Foundation to develop new initiatives that broaden and strengthen the foundation’s central educational curriculum -- Education for Citizenship -- by further exploring the role of African Americans in the founding of the American Republic, the struggle to end slavery and racial discrimination, and the fight for all Americans to become full citizens and secure liberty, justice and opportunity.

“Colonial Williamsburg is extremely grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities and we are encouraged by this generous support,” said Colin Campbell, president and chairman of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “This challenge grant is vital to our efforts to portray the American experience during the Revolution and the struggle to attain the rights and privileges of citizenship, in particular for countrymen who were denied such opportunities for so long.”

The $4 million endowment will be used to permanently support African American history interpretation, research and programming through implementation of several initiatives:

  • Conduct original research about the African American community residing throughout Virginia during the formative years of the American Republic.
  • Establish a minority internship program and expand recruitment strategies to increase the number of African American interpreters at the foundation.
  • Disseminate new scholarship to museum professionals, the general public and independent and university scholars through the Equiano Lecture Series.
  • Update annually the African American historical content presented at Colonial Williamsburg’s Teacher Institute to provide elementary and secondary educators fresh teaching strategies that strengthen lessons in civic responsibility and the importance of the founding principles to advancing American democratic values.
  • Develop a Web-based, centralized portal for accessing information and research materials about the African American struggle for freedom and citizenship, making new research, primary and secondary collections, and archival materials more accessible to educators, independent scholars, university researchers and museum professionals.
  • Institutionalize the research and publication of new scholarship about the African American experience by creating a full-time research position at the foundation.
  • Develop residential fellowship opportunities for graduate and post graduate scholars and independent researchers to encourage new scholarship and to disseminate new research to foundation staff through training symposia, workshops, lectures and publications.
  • Develop new museum exhibition and interpretive programming that illuminates the impact of slavery upon the founding of the American Republic and the African American struggle to obtain the right of citizenship and the promise of freedom as expressed in the U.S. Constitution.

    “I am excited that the National Endowment for the Humanities has contributed in such a significant way to the future of African American history at Colonial Williamsburg,” said Rex Ellis, Colonial Williamsburg’s vice president of the Historic Area. “We have a proud legacy of telling the story of enslaved and free people of color in colonial Virginia and this grant will allow us to take that story to renewed levels of excellence using traditional and emerging technologies to assist us in telling an even more vibrant and comprehensive story.”

    Colonial Williamsburg began programmatic interpretation of slavery and the 18th-century African American experience in 1979 at a time when few mainstream history museums dared mention the subject of slavery or acknowledge that it was the engine driving much of America’s bustling colonial economy. Determining that it was neither acceptable nor intellectually honest to ignore slavery and the role of African Americans in the history of colonial Williamsburg where half of the population was enslaved, the foundation began with a small cadre of first-person portrayals of documented, enslaved residents of 18th-century Williamsburg. Since then, Colonial Williamsburg has steadily enhanced and expanded its portrayals and interpretations of the African American experience, and -- by example -- encouraged similar institutions to follow suit.

    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 tradespeople research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. Williamsburg is located 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information or reservations, call toll-free 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg on the Internet at

    Media Contact:
    Jim Bradley
    (757) 220-7281

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