Remains of a black church discovered in Colonial Williamsburg

WILLIAMSBURG, Virginia (AP) – The brick foundation of one of the nation’s oldest black churches has been discovered in Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum in Virginia that still reckons to tell past stories about the country’s origins and the role of black Americans.

the first baptist church It was founded in 1776 by free and enslaved blacks. They initially met secretly in fields and under trees in defiance of laws prohibiting African Americans from gathering.

By 1818, it was a church It was his first building in the former colonial capital. The 16 ft by 20 ft (5 m by 6 m) structure was destroyed by a hurricane in 1834.

First BaptistThe second building, built in 1856, stood there for a century. But the expansion Colonial Williamsburg He bought the property in 1956 and converted it into a car park.

First Baptist Reverend Reginald F. Davis, whose church is now located elsewhere in Williamsburg, the revelation of a church a churchHis first home is “Rediscovering the Humanity of the People”.

“This helps erase the historical and social amnesia that has plagued this country for so many years,” he said.

Colonial Williamsburg It announced Thursday that it had located the bedrock after analyzing soil layers and artifacts such as a one-cent coin.

for decades, Colonial Williamsburg Ignore the stories of colonial black Americans. But in recent years, the museum has focused increasingly on African-American history, while trying to attract more black visitors.

The museum tells the story of Virginia’s 18th-century capital and features more than 400 buildings that have been restored or reconstructed. More than half of the 2,000 people who lived in Williamsburg in the late 18th century were black – many of whom were enslaved.

Sharing the stories of people of color is a relatively new phenomenon in Colonial Williamsburg. It wasn’t until 1979 when the museum started telling black stories, and it wasn’t until 2002 that the American Indian Initiative was launched.

First Baptist He was at the center of an initiative to reintroduce African Americans to the museum. for example, Colonial Williamsburg. historical preservation experts a churchSilent bell for several years.

Worshipers and museum archaeologists now plan to move forward together on how best to excavate the site and tell them First Baptista story. The relationship is very different from the one it was in the mid-20th century.

Connie Matthews Harshaw, a member of First Baptist. She is also the chair of the board of the Let Freedom Ring Foundation, which aims to preserve a churchdate.

Colonial Williamsburg Pay for property where a church He had sat until the mid-1950s, and covered the costs of First Baptist Building a new church. But the museum fails to tell its story despite its rich colonial history.

“It’s a healing process…to see it revealed,” Harshaw said. “And the community has come together on this. And I speak in black and white.”

Excavations began last year. To date, 25 graves have been located based on soil discoloration in the areas where a plot has been excavated, according to Jack Gary, Colonial WilliamsburgArcheology Director.

Gary said that some devotees have already expressed an interest in analyzing the bones to get a better idea of ​​the life of the deceased and to discover family links. He said that some of the graves appear to precede construction second church.

It is not clear when exactly First BaptistThe first church was built. Some researchers said it may have already been there when Jesse Cole, a white man who owned the drug at the time, showed it to congregants.

First Baptist Mentioned in tax records from 1818 for neighboring properties.

Gary said the original foundation was confirmed by analysis of the soil layers and artifacts found in them. It included a one-cent coin from 1817 and copper brooches that held clothes together in the early 18th century.

Colonial Williamsburg And the devotees finally want to rebuild a church.

“We want to make sure that we tell the story in an appropriate and accurate way — and that they agree with the way we tell the history,” Gary said.

Judy Lynn Allen, professor of history at nearby College of William and Mary, said the excavation is part of a larger account of race and slavery at historical sites around the world.

“It’s not that these primary sources appear suddenly and magically,” Allen said. “They were in the archives or in basements or attics. But they were not seen as valuable.”

Allen, who is on the board of the First Baptist’s Let Freedom Ring Foundation, said physical evidence like the Church Foundation can help people connect more powerfully with the past.

“fact that a church “It’s still there – it’s still thriving – that story has to be told,” Allen said. “People need to understand that there is a lot of resilience in the African American community.”

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