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“Slavery’s Legacy, Freedom’s Promise”

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Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest

Poplar Forest

Randolph College and Poplar Forest, sharing resources, have developed a two-day symposium entitled “Facing the Past, Freeing the Future: Slavery’s Legacy, Freedom’s Promise”.  The event took place April 3-5, 2014, primarily at Randolph College in Lynchburg, VA.

Randolph College, formerly Randolph Macon Woman's College

Randolph College

Open to the community, the symposium  included archaeologists, historians, performance artists and scholars who  facilitated and encouraged discussions about the society left in the aftermath of slavery and how the elimination of Jim Crow laws were designed to hinder the progress of blacks.

Scholars included: Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family”; Christy Coleman, president of the American Civil War Center in Richmond; and Spencer Crew, former director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

One event combined scholarship with people’s lives and heritage when Annette Gordon-Reed moderated a discussion highlighting the importance of oral history.  This discussion  included two people from Bedford, one of whom is a direct descendant of Thomas Jefferson.

A special tour of Poplar Forest focused on the plantation landscapes and stories normally not shared on the general tour.  Entire families lived at Poplar Forest, year-round, even though Jefferson only visited several times a year.  Stories were shared about what happened to slaves who became too old to work in the fields, what happened when slaves fell in love with another person living at a different plantation, what life was like as a slave at Poplar Forest.

During the course of two days, Lynchburg author and playwright, Dee Brown  presented his monologue featuring several generations of African Americans, beginning with a man newly freed from bondage, following a young man who is the first to receive an education, continuing with a member of the Black Panthers and finally an African American Republican judge.

This event was free and open to the public, about 165 people attended.  Please visit www.RandolphCollege.edu/SlaverySymposium to review the schedule of events.  For guests who stayed at The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast we provided an early breakfast and “bag lunch”.  We are two miles from Randolph College!