As a New York Times bestselling author of The Humanity Archive, a book that highlights the untold stories of Black history, I have always been passionate about discovering and sharing the resilience and achievements of Black people throughout time. Recently, I embarked on a journey to Williamsburg, Virginia, and I am thrilled to share more about the exciting stops I made along the way – which you, too, can explore while visiting Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown.
Freedom's Paradox Group Walking Tour in Colonial Williamsburg: Stories of Struggle and Hope
If you, like me, are fascinated by the hidden stories of Black life and achievement, I urge you to book a trip to Williamsburg, and begin your journey with a tour of the Peyton Randolph House. Connecting with the poignant stories of enslaved people like Eve and Johnny, I felt a deep sense of empathy for their plight as they weighed the risks of fleeing to the British lines or remaining in bondage. The Peyton Randolph House provides an authentic look into the daily lives and struggles of these individuals, allowing visitors to grasp the harsh realities of slavery and the incredible courage it took to seek freedom. During the tour, you'll be transported back in time as you explore the site and hear the personal narratives of those who once lived there.
The Historic First Baptist Church: A Testament to Resilience
When you visit Williamsburg, don't miss the opportunity to meet Connie Matthews Harshaw, Minister Kenneth Bailey, and Johnette Gordon Weaver at the Historic First Baptist Church, which was first established in 1776 by a group of enslaved and free Black people who built it from nothing. Their inspiring dedication to preserving the powerful history of the free and enslaved Black people who built this sacred space is truly a testament to resilience. As you tour the church, you'll learn about the ingenious ways the congregation managed to maintain their faith and community despite oppressive laws and societal constraints. The First Baptist Church stands as a symbol of hope and strength in the face of adversity, a message that resonates deeply with all who visit.
Williamsburg Walking Tours: A Stroll Through History
Walking with Trish Thomas of Williamsburg Walking Tours was an eye-opening experience, and I highly recommend it. Trish captivated me with her encyclopedic knowledge of the large, enslaved population that lived in Colonial Williamsburg between 1699 and 1780, their struggles, and their relentless efforts to gain freedom. The tour takes you through the historic streets, allowing you to envision the lives of those who toiled in the shadows of opulent mansions, as well as those who managed to find a way to live as free individuals. Through their stories, you'll gain a newfound appreciation for the complexity and resilience of the Black community in Williamsburg. As you stroll past the beautifully restored buildings, Trish will expertly weave together the tales of these unsung heroes, bringing their experiences to life and leaving you with a profound understanding of their indomitable spirit.
American Revolution Museum at Yorktown: Uncovering Black Contributions
At the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, you’ll learn about the crucial role Black people played in the birth of our nation. Delve into the untold stories of Black contributions to the American Revolution, from the courageous men and women who fought for freedom on the battlefield to the skilled artisans and laborers who supported the war effort from behind the scenes. The exhibits offer an immersive experience that brings these often-overlooked stories to life, deepening your understanding of Black history and the integral role it played in shaping our nation. Witness the inspiring tales of sacrifice, determination, and triumph through interactive displays, compelling narratives, and captivating artifacts that honor the transformative impact of Black Americans on our history.
Jamestown Settlement: Origins of a Nation
Jamestown Settlement offers a unique glimpse into the first permanent English colony in the Americas. As you explore the living history exhibits, you'll learn about the intricate relationships between English settlers, Native Americans, and the first enslaved Africans brought to Virginia. The settlement provides a rare opportunity to examine the early days of slavery in the United States, as well as the evolving attitudes towards race and servitude that would come to define the nation for centuries to come. As you walk through the reconstructed fort, ships, and Powhatan Indian village, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the origins of American society and the complex web of connections that shaped it.
Freedom Park: A Legacy of Courage and Determination
Freedom Park is more than just a place for hiking and biking; it tells the remarkable story of a free Black settlement that once existed in the 19th century. Discover the courage and determination of those who sought freedom and built thriving communities despite the odds. The park houses the reconstructed homes of several free Black families, providing a tangible connection to their lives and struggles. As you wander through the peaceful woods and learn about the persistence of these early settlers, you'll be inspired by their unwavering pursuit of a better life for themselves and their descendants.
Jolly's Mill Pond: Restoring History
Finally, don't miss the chance to meet Bill and Angie of Jolly's Mill Pond, who are dedicated to restoring the property and sharing the history of the free and enslaved people who built a dam and worked at the grist mill. Their work is a testament to the importance of preserving the stories of those who came before us. The millpond is not only a fascinating historical site, but also serves as a reminder of the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the people who built it. Bill and Angie's efforts to restore and preserve this hidden gem allow us to better understand and appreciate the contributions of the Black community to the development and prosperity of the region.
As you walk through the streets of this historic area, I have no doubt that you, too, will feel a deep connection to the lives and stories of those who came before us. My visit to Williamsburg was an unforgettable experience that deepened my understanding of Black life and achievement in Colonial America. I wholeheartedly recommend booking a trip to this fascinating destination. Uncover the inspiring stories of those who fought for their freedom and built a legacy for future generations and feel the same sense of wonder and connection that I did.