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Not only is education the best tool for change, but it’s also one we all have at our fingertips (yup, even in quarantine!). One of the best ways to learn new things is in person, and Colonial Williamsburg is a rich and unique treasure trove of information on America’s past. BUT if you feel safer staying put for now, you still have access to many valuable resources online, so you can explore Black History Month from home!
To learn from our past and to understand how to talk about race and inequality today is not an easy thing, but we can use this time we have at home to grow, change and heal. In honor of Black History Month, we put together a helpful list of resources from Colonial Williamsburg and other respected cultural institutions.
Online with NMAAHC
The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC was founded for the purpose of telling the American story through the lens of African American experience. Explore their outstanding collection online at your own pace and read posts from their curators about stories they find particularly powerful.
The museum also recently launched an excellent online portal devoted to helping Americans talk about race, which includes a page outlining the historical foundations of race (very interesting). Whether you are an educator, a parent or caregiver, or someone who is committed to becoming more informed and garnering a greater sense of understanding, this is a wonderful place to begin your journey.
To reflect on the institution of transatlantic slavery and explore sites and museums across the globe that present the history and memory of the slavery and the slave trade, try the Slavery and Rememberance guide Colonial Williamsburg created in collaboration with UNESCO’s Slave Route Project.
To learn more about how the actor interpreters of Colonial Williamsburg bring to life the full and complex lives of free and enslaved African Americans, watch this 2019 panel discussion.
Colonial Williamsburg is committed to sharing the stories of ALL the people who lived and worked in this community in the 18th century, believing the stories that are difficult or uncomfortable may be especially important for us to hear. Aired as part of CW’s ongoing series of Facebook Live programs, you can watch these interviews with Oney Judge Staines, Gowan Pamphlet, and James Armistead Lafayette as they share their full and complex lives.
Colonial Williamsburg’s archaeology department is also working to uncover evidence that tells us more about the enslaved population in 18th-century Williamsburg. Check out their current project at Custis Square here.
Virginia Humanities’ Encyclopedia Virginia is a great way to begin learning about African American history in the commonwealth, starting with the arrival of the first Africans in 1619. And in this episode of their radio show, “With Good Reason,” journalists and public historians reflect on racism, past and present, in the aftermath of 2018’s tragic events in Charlottesville.
If you’re looking for a good reading list of contemporary books that grapple with racial inequality and injustice, this blog post from William & Mary Libraries may be helpful. You can also read these magazine articles in Trend & Tradition: Half the History, Sharing the Spotlight, Between Worlds, and Honest Friend.
For teachers, parents, and anyone looking for teaching resources about race and racism, see Learning for Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance) for more. You can also find Electronic Field Trips and accompanying guides on our Education Resource Library, available to all. Consider “Harsh World, This World,” “The Freedom Quest of Oney Judge,” and “Jim Crow.”
The Negro in Eighteenth Century Williamsburg (Note: “Negro” was a common noun between the 17th- and 20th- centuries. This report was written in 1957, when white scholars and white society used “negro” as a general term for people of African descent. This report contains important information and scholars still make use of it, despite the antiquated language.)
Aspects of the African American Experience in Eighteenth-Century Williamsburg and Norfolk This report discusses the material culture of enslaved people, including furnishings in slave quarters in Colonial Williamsburg.
A History of Black Education and Bruton Heights School, Williamsburg, Virginia This study explores the planning and development of Bruton Heights School and its subsequent history. In more than a quarter century as an all-Black institution, Bruton Heights School educated a generation of African-American children.
Albert Durant was Williamsburg’s first city-licensed Black photographer. See his work in the Albert Durant Collection, which includes photo prints, negatives, slides, and personal papers that document Durant’s photographic production.
We hope you get a chance explore Black History Month from home! For more online resources at Colonial Williamsburg, go here.