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Category: Archival Research

Celebrating Black History Month in the Archives

Dr. Jajuan Johnson and Sierra Manga, the Lemon Project intern for Spring 2024, are starting Black History Month at William & Mary Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center. They are making major findings on African Americans who worked at William & Mary in the early twentieth century.

For example, Dr. Johnson and Ms. Manga found an invoice to the college from Samuel Harris’s Dry Goods’ Store. Harris was a wealthy African American businessman who lived in Williamsburg in the late 1800s. His store remained open after the 1902 Virginia Constitutional Convention, which disenfranchised African Americans in the commonwealth. Harris died in 1904 and is buried at Cedar Grove Cemetery. We look forward to sharing more findings at the Lemon Project Genealogy Research Roundtable on February 15th at 6 pm.

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Undiscovering the Archive

By Shawna Alston, Summer 2022-2023 Charles Center Incubator Research Student         

Archival research is a fully involved, tedious effort usually begun in an attempt to find something elusive or undiscovered. Deciding to embark on the journey of exploring university, local, or private archives requires a research question worth the effort, I asked myself, “what’s worth knowing, and more importantly, what’s so worth knowing that I should decide to tame the beast that is Special Collections under renovation and the Flat Hat digital archive?”

After discussions with Drs. Jody Allen, Sarah Thomas, and Robyn Schroder, I had first decided to reinvigorate the research I had done last summer with the Lemon Project and attempt to make new connections or discoveries. I spent seven weeks last summer connecting physical campus landmarks with their disembodied laborers, or, who built what; when, where, and why, and for how much? I focused solely on the time right before, during, and directly after the Great Depression, during which much of campus was erected. I found myself barely engaging with The Archives last summer, as most of my research existed in easily accessible, public domains. I was able to seamlessly pull a research project together with the literature provided by the Lemon Project and the financial records and campus maps I got from my one visit to Special Collections. My product, an interactive StoryMap, detailed my research and potential caveats for future research.

Before my exploration into the archive, I had settled on the research topic of Black performance culture on a campus where Black students had yet been granted permission to attend, meaning William & Mary’s campus before 1969, when the first Black undergraduate students in residence arrived. Simply put, think Chitlin Circuit meets William & Mary. I wanted to know who was asked to perform, why, and who was allowed to attend these performances. More broadly, I wanted to (see if I could) connect these performances and the culture surrounding them to the afterlife of minstrelsy and minstrel theater. On top of this, I was tasked with combing through the digital archive of William & Mary’s premier newspaper, The Flat Hat.

With this experience under my belt, I knew that my research journeys this summer would pose no real challenge. I had this idea that archival research is a lot like “book” research, or reading things, making inferences, and drawing conclusions. I was wrong, but not because I lacked work ethic or proper motivation, but because The Archive, or the collection of written record and evidence of existence, is a segregated institution.

With a goal in mind and a resource in hand, I began what I thought was going to be an easily curated research project. I set abstract time boundaries, from 1915 to 1945, and began perusing The Flat Hat for any evidence of a Black musical performer/performance group. Ask me what I found…no, go ahead…ask. Nothing. I spent about a week keyword searching The Flat Hat and combing through every released issue between the aforementioned dates. I found nothing. I scheduled an appointment with Special Collections and spent hours combing through boxes of old photographs, programs for on-campus productions, costume sketches, and student organization archived files; anything you could think of, I went through it. And yet, nothing. I spent the following weeks shifting the boundaries of my time period and repeating the process as the previous week. And still, I found nothing.

My research teammate, Fatoumata Sissoko, was responsible for combing through The Colonial Echo archives and everything I was looking for, she found. I had shifted my time period from 1915-1945 to 1960-1975, and Fata had found a well of information in a few snapshots in The Colonial Echo. Below is the list, in chronological order, of Black performers who visited the campus between 1960-1975:

1966
The Shirelles performed (70)
1967
Chuck Berry performed for Homecoming (21, and another page)
Mention of Dionne Warwick and the Four Tops insinuating they also visited and performed (21)
1968
The Drifters performed for Homecoming (41)
Wilson Pickett performed for Homecoming (41)
1970
Martha and the Vandellas perform for Homecoming concert (33)
The Impressions perform for the Spring Finals formal (39)
1974
Taj Mahal- musical artist (56)
Black culture week (103)
Guests include James Brown and African dance group (57)
1975
 Sly Stone (188)
The Platters (208)
Jackson Five canceled because of low tickets sales (209)
George Macrae performed (209)
BSO pages (290)

            This information was the most useful information I had discovered in all of my research endeavors, so my next goal was cross-referencing this information with anything I could find in The Flat Hat digital archive. I went through each of these respective years in The Flat Hat archive and tried to find even the slightest detail, like a time or place, or a review of the show. I found nothing. I cross-referenced and cross-referenced and cross-referenced and found…nothing. Nothing for big names like Dionne Warwick or James Brown or Chuck Berry. I looked and searched and looked and searched and the only thing I found were advertisements for Roses or alumni run beer companies.

            This frustrated me to know end. If The Colonial Echo has proof that these things exist, why doesn’t The Flat Hat? Why doesn’t The Flat Hat have any proof of Black life beyond Duke Ellington coming to visit in 1959? I was faced with the discovery of undiscovery and what that says about the sociopolitical climate of campus at the time and how that was reflected in how history was recorded. I was faced with no findings as my findings. What I didn’t find says so much more than what I could’ve found.

            A larger conversation about the institution of the Archive and its anti-Blackness and segregation is a conversation that I’m willing to have. Going forward, my plan is to engage critical scholarship on the anti-Blackness of recorded history, and more specifically, whose history gets to be recorded, and who gets to be remembered.

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Researching Rev. L.W. Wales, Jr.

by Olivia Blackshire, an Independent Study student with Dr. Jody Allen

When I started an independent study with Dr. Allen, I was not quite sure what to expect. I was familiar with research papers and searching databases; however, being on assignment for the serious inquiries of a family was a big deal. For the next 15 weeks, I spent time ̶ at the request of Ms. Wilhelmina White ̶ researching the life and times of the Wales family, specifically L.W. Wales, Jr. Both Rev. Wales, Sr., and Rev. Wales, Jr., were activists and leaders in this community, and surrounding their lives was an eagerness to know how they impacted the world around them. Filled with excitement and a responsibility to piece together the family’s story in Williamsburg, I began my research.

I found the story of Rev. Wales, Jr., by first reading about the man who set the foundation for his life, his father. L.W. Wales, Sr. (1860 – 1927) was not only a pastor at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church for 42 years, but was also a pillar of the community. As principal of Williamsburg Public School Number Two and a teacher in various counties, he was active in the educational realm and perhaps planted the seed for Bruton Heights School, an all-Black high school, since he talked about that and about plans for funding in his Brief Autobiographical Sketch.[1] He also published a leaflet called The Peninsula Churchman, which detailed his church work and school-building efforts. He rubbed elbows with lots of people, including Benjamin S. Ewell, a former Confederate general and former president of William & Mary.[2] Furthermore, L.W. Wales, Sr. was financially well off; tax records showed that he was one of the highest earners in his area[3], and he “succeeded in buying a considerable amount of real estate, holding and owning some in almost every section of the city of Williamsburg and some in Newport News.”[4]

Considering such a track record, L. W. Wales, Jr., (1895-19654) had big shoes to fill. Although his legacy was not like his father’s, he made an impact. Picking up the mantle as pastor after his father’s death in 1927, Rev. Wales, Jr. worked for Mt. Ararat for 36 years, doing much for the relocation and beautification of the church during his tenure.[5] According to the 1982 Mt. Ararat Baptist Church Centennial Anniversary Souvenir, Rev. Wales Jr., worked within schools alongside his wife, Evelyn Wales. A report by historian Linda H. Rowe describes him as an advocate for the construction of James City Training School, a predecessor of Bruton Heights School.[6] He too even made his mark in real estate, having enough property to create the Wales subdivision housing for low- and moderate-income families in the 1940s.[7]

There were a lot of memorable moments from this search. Anytime I’d find new information, especially an image, I always felt like I was discovering more pieces to the puzzle. I’m also grateful for the people I met along the way, like Sidney (a graduate student working with the Lemon Project), Earl T. Granger III (Colonial Williamsburg’s Chief Developmental Officer), and Clifford B. Fleet III (Colonial Williamsburg President and CEO) during a trip to the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library.

Two significant thoughts come to mind as I reflect on my studies with Dr. Allen. For one, history is a form of detective work. Sometimes the whole thing feels like you’re trying to crack a cold case. You’re digging through information that’s been mistreated (physically in the archive or historically through erasure), and the clues you need are not always readily available. Interpreting or making connections with limited time or facts is a tall order. Yet those who take on the challenge may be the only ones preventing someone’s story from fading into obscurity.

I also found that if one works in this field, one must be flexible to change; sometimes the search doesn’t end the way you expect, and that’s okay. Although I didn’t find or get through as much as I wanted, I still managed to learn about the church’s history and the Wales’ place in it and the surrounding communities. You may not find what you’re looking for, but the process you take to get there, and the things you find along the way, are just as rewarding. Those quotes about the journey being better than the destination may have some merit after all.


[1] Herbert and Doris Crump Rainey Papers, 1945-2013, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William and Mary.

[2] Brief Autobiographical Sketch of the Life and Labors of Rev. L. W. Wales, D.D (1910) from Herbert and Doris Crump Rainey Papers, 1945-2013, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William and Mary.

[3] James City County and Williamsburg City Personal Property Books, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, College of William and Mary.

[4] Brief Autobiographical Sketch of the Life and Labors of Rev. L. W. Wales, D.D (1910) from Herbert and Doris Crump Rainey Papers, 1945-2013, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William and Mary.

[5] Herbert and Doris Crump Rainey Papers, 1945-2013, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William and Mary.

[6] “A History of Black Education and Bruton Heights School, Williamsburg, Virginia” by Linda Rowe (1997). https://research.colonialwilliamsburg.org/DigitalLibrary/view/index.cfm?doc=ResearchReports%5CRR0373.xml&highlight=negro

[7] Williamsburg Reunion Booklet (2012) from Herbert and Doris Crump Rainey Papers, 1945-2013, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William and Mary.

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My Semester with Dr. Allen: The Intrinsic Benefits of In-Depth Historical Research

by Nicholas Prather, Lemon Project Spring 2023 intern

Booker T. Washington. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2016857180/
Front Page Clipping of The Flat Hat, November 17, 1914 (Vol. IV, No. 7)

Over this past semester, I spent two to three hours each week working as a research intern with Lemon Project Director Dr. Jody Allen. During my experience, I learned about the inevitable bumps in the road that come with careful historical research. However, over the four months we spent together, I feel I also came to appreciate those roadblocks and understand their purpose when it comes to discovering something meaningful ̶ something that can change the scope of what we know. When we started working together in the first few weeks of the semester, we initially focused our research on the exploits of nineteenth-century Wiliam & Mary Chemistry Professor Dr. John Millington, specifically his alleged experimentation on Black children in the Williamsburg area through some sort of shock therapy. But, as we sifted through dozens of pages of old correspondence in the Special Collections Reading Room, not to mention pages of nearly incomprehensible cursive that needed deciphering, we learned that it may not be as feasible as we thought to come to any conclusions about Millington, given how much careful close reading it would require. But failure to get immediate results in research, albeit a regularity, is never really a failure – it’s an inherent and important part of the process. After spending a few non-fruitful weeks on Millington, we decided to start looking at the history of illustrious Black educator and speaker Booker T. Washington’s history and relationship with William & Mary. Using Special Collections’ digital archives, I uncovered two separate Flat Hat articles (it’s amazing when your school newspaper is so historic to where it can be a reliable primary source!) that described two separate visits Washington made to the College in 1913 and 1914, just before his death in 1915. Under the presidency of Lyon Gardiner Tyler, both students and faculty were let off from classes to witness Washington’s awesome speeches in the Williamsburg Chapel and Courthouse. After weeks spent devoid of results, it was quite fulfilling to learn that a figure so pivotal to race relations in Gilded Age America had a relationship with the William & Mary administration.

In the end, even though there is still far more that can be wrung out of the research into both Millington and Washington, my semester with Dr. Allen was still a uniquely enriching experience. The growth mindset necessary for productive research can be stunted when we expect to see immediate results. Careful and critical historical research requires patience, precision, and pathos, none of which can be expected mere days or weeks into the process. And when we start thinking of research as steps in an inherently beneficial process that tempers our character and critical thinking alike, regardless of “success” or “failure” (whatever that means), that is when we truly start to see the fruits of our labor manifest themselves in personal and intellectual growth.

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New Lemon Project Research Findings on Slavery at William & Mary

by Dr. Jajuan Johnson

Lemon Project team members work daily to fulfill the mission of expanding the narrative of African Americans with historical ties to William & Mary. In the area of slavery research, we are accomplishing our goals of learning more about people enslaved by the university through genealogical research, community engagement, and rigorous archival research. Despite challenges ranging from scant information to destroyed records, persistence often leads to re-discoveries in centuries-old records warranting careful analysis.

Over the past two years, the Lemon Project Genealogy Initiative has built alliances with researchers in Williamsburg, the greater Tidewater area, and globally. Through training, our student interns help mine digital platforms and special collections to find extant sources providing more data about the lives of people once enslaved by the university. In fall 2022, Margaret Perry, a W&M alumnus and researcher at Colonial Williamsburg’s’ Apothecary Shop, met with Dr. Jody Allen, Lemon Project intern Alex Montano, and me to share medical account records that list names of people enslaved by William & Mary in the Galt Papers (Galt-Barraud Partnership, 1782-1799; John M. Galt I & Alexander D. Galt Operating as Galt & Son,1800-1808; and Alexander Galt, 1809 – 1841) located in the Special Collections Research Center at Swem Library.   

The Galt Family Medical Practice

The Galt family medical practice lasted in the Williamsburg and Yorktown area from the late eighteenth century through the nineteenth centuries. Dr. John Minson Galt, I was educated at William & Mary and received medical in Edinburgh and Paris. In addition to his extensive independent medical practice, whereby he treated people enslaved by William & Mary and others, Galt I was also an attending physician of the Public Hospital of Williamsburg (currently Eastern State Hospital), the first psychiatric hospital in the United States. His son, Dr. Alexander D. Galt, and grandson of Dr. John M. Galt, carried on his practice; both served as superintendents of the hospital.[i]

The Findings

The Galt-Barraud Papers are the professional and personal papers of the Galt family of Williamsburg in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The preliminary findings in the medical ledgers, notably the W&M account, revealed the following:

  • The names of 28 people enslaved by W&M
  • Lemon, who the Lemon Project is named after, is listed in the records 19 times from 1785 to 1814, indicating that he experienced health complications over a long period leading to his death.
  • Six people not previously on our list appear in the Galt Papers and have been added to Hearth: Memorial to the Enslaved, as of March 2023
NameDates & Records
Miame1786, 1787, 1788, 1790,1791, 1793,1794, Galt-Barraud Partnership Papers
Miame’s Child1788, 1789,1790,1795, Galt-Barraud Partnership Papers
Jamie1787, Galt Barraud Partnership Papers
1812, Alexander D. Galt Medical Records
Jim1785, Galt-Barraud Partnership Papers
Jimmy1783, Galt-Barraud Partnership Papers
Franky’s Child1787, 1796, 1799, Galt-Barraud Partnership Papers

Our team, which includes Lemon Project intern Lena Bullard, a first-year William & Mary student, is further searching the records to gain clues about enslavers and the people held in bondage. These significant records provide additional information on the physical condition of people enslaved by the university, and there are lists of individuals and families of other enslavers.

MsV 5 – Galt-Barraud Ledger A, 1782-1797, fols. 116, 204. Galt Papers (I), series 3, box 3. Swem SCRC.

[i] Galt Family of Williamsburg Source: The William & Mary Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 4 (April 1900), pp. 259-262 (also see: W&M Knowledge Base, John Minson Galt, https://scrc-kb.libraries.wm.edu/john-minson-galt-1744-1808; see Dr. Barraud Historical Report https://research.colonialwilliamsburg.org/DigitalLibrary/view/index.cfm?doc=ResearchReports%5CRR1193.xml&highlight=

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Meet William & Mary’s most recent Executive Director of Historic Campus

By Caroline Watson, Lemon Project Anthropology Graduate Assistant

Those who are well-connected with the Lemon Project likely know Dr. Susan Kern. To meet Susan is to learn of her extensive knowledge of the inner and outer workings of William & Mary’s Historic Campus. Her knowledge base of campus history is rarely surpassed! This is unsurprising given Susan’s connection to William & Mary as an alumnus (Ph.D., History) and the university’s most recent Executive Director of Historic Campus (2014-2021). Susan took over as Executive Director of Historic Campus in 2014, replacing previous director Louise Kale, who took the honorable position in 1995 (and in whose name the daffodil garden in the North Wren Yard is dedicated).

As a key figure who has shaped the narrative surrounding Historic Campus, especially the Wren Building, I sought to learn more about Susan’s role as Executive Director. On a warm afternoon last October, we gathered for a coffee and a brief interview. My initial curiosities surrounded Susan’s job requirements, as not many universities have an institutionalized Historic Campus, much less an Executive Director of it. I was indeed surprised to learn of the breadth and diversity of roles that were required of such a position.

Susan Kern and 18th-century drain uncovered near the Wren Building, 2019. Stephen Salpukas/William and Mary

During her time at William & Mary, Susan facilitated and upheld working relationships with many local and state-wide institutions, including the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the William & Mary Center for Archaeological Resources, the Muscarelle Museum, and facilities management. When she wasn’t occupied by the bureaucratic responsibilities that came with maintaining these relationships, Susan was tasked with managing Historic Campus’s resources. This management required not just a little bit of work and creativity from Susan; this was a colossal commitment on her part to care for the documents, artworks, and archaeological materials that belong to Historic Campus. A significant part of this care, we discussed, was focused on the archaeological resources. Susan herself was and is adequately prepared for such a task, given her experience working and directing Monticello’s archaeology department for 8 years. For those who may not know, W&M’s archaeological resources materialize in diverse forms. They range from technical reports, excavation descriptions and planning documents, publications, artifacts, and even the sites themselves. One of Susan’s most recent projects on Historic Campus oversaw the excavation of an 18th-century vaulted brick drain behind the Wren Building.

Historic Campus has been continuously occupied and used since the chartering of W&M in 1693—and long before that too. As such, Susan had her hands full writing, re-writing, and expanding the archaeological narrative of this landscape. In particular, Susan helped reframe thinking about campus as a site of slavery, including understanding the College (Wren) Building as William & Mary’s original slave quarter. Through her diligent work on Historic Campus and as a partner with the Lemon Project, Susan was committed to a more inclusive history at William & Mary.

Moreover, before leaving office, Susan composed a formal recommendation to Colonial Williamsburg and William & Mary regarding the best practices for the management of the University’s archaeological resources. As part of her plan, I continue to use the documents and resources that she gathered as part of my Lemon Project fellowship investigating the history of archaeology and slavery at W&M. Thank you again, Susan, for all your work!

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At the Root: Exploring Black Life, History, and Culture Symposium Call for Proposals

The Lemon Project team invites you to submit proposals for the 13th Annual Lemon Project Spring Symposium, an in-person and virtual event, that will be held on March 24-25, 2023. View the Call for Proposals below.

About The Lemon Project: A Journey of Reconciliation

Founded in 2009 by the William & Mary Board of Visitors, the Lemon Project is the second institutionally funded project of its kind in the United States. The Lemon Project is a multifaceted and dynamic attempt to rectify wrongs perpetrated against African Americans by William & Mary through action or inaction. An ongoing endeavor, The Lemon Project explores and encourages scholarship on the 330-year relationship between African Americans and William & Mary. The Lemon Project builds bridges between William & Mary and African American communities through research, programming, and supporting students, faculty, and staff.

Call for Proposals

Individual papers or panels of 3 or 4 are welcome

The first Lemon Project Spring Symposium, held in Williamsburg, Virginia in 2011, “brought together students, faculty, and community members to discuss ongoing research into our past, as well as the ways that history continues to define relationships between African Americans and the university in the present.” In that vein, we return to our roots, centering local Black histories and their vast influences.  

The 2023 Spring Symposium will explore the following questions: In what ways are African American communities taking charge and telling their stories? How are colleges and universities working with local African American communities to foster belonging? What methods are communities and scholars using to tell fuller narratives of African American life, history, and culture? In what ways are researchers contributing to the emancipatory aims of Black Studies through research collaboration with Black communities?

Our symposium is multi-disciplinary and open to all. We seek proposals from people who focus on Black life, history, and culture, including but not limited to academic and descendant researchers, educators, activists, and members of Greater Williamsburg communities and beyond. We invite a broad range of topics from the fields of American Studies, Black Studies, Anthropology, History, Public Humanities, Preservation, and STEM. We also invite community organizers and activists to submit proposals in areas such as cultural production (art, poetry, music), wellness, and spirituality. We welcome submissions from people of all genders, including trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals.

Please submit your proposals by November 18, 2022.

The symposium has three main objectives, focusing on the past, present, and future:
  • Reflect on what is happening in African American communities and consider the ways these communities are transforming narratives
  • Explore the ways that colleges and universities work with African American communities
  • Contribute to strategies and best practices for institutions dealing with their involvement in slavery and its legacies
 Possible topics include but are not limited to:
  • African American memory and heritage studies
  • Community engagement and best practices
  • Descendant communities and their histories
  • Environmental history, land conservation, and displacement
  • Family histories, local histories, and genealogical studies
  • Reparations and reparative efforts
  • Shared Authority and transforming narratives
  • Universities and colleges studying slavery and its afterlives
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Lemon Project Partner Receive State Historic Site Designation

By Jajuan Johnson, Ph.D., Mellon Postdoctoral Research Associate

The Oak Grove Baptist Church Historic District in northwest York County, Virginia was granted historic designation by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources leading up to the Juneteenth, a national holiday commemorating the ending of slavery, specifically in Texas on June 19, 1865. Placement on the state register of historic places and eligibility for national recognition is monumental in the church’s history dating back to the early 19th century. The following sites are associated with the Oak Grove Baptist Church Historic District: Oak Grove Baptist Church site on Rochambeau Drive, Oak Grove School site, Oak Grove Cemetery on Rochambeau Drive, and the current Oak Grove Baptist Church on Waller Mill Road.

The Lemon Project collaboration with Oak Grove Baptist Church emerged from the research of Ellie Renshaw, a recent graduate of the anthropology department. Her senior thesis, “Cultivation Through Excavation: Performing Community and Partnership in the Historic First Baptist Project” led to further revelations about “daughter churches” of the Historic First Baptist Church such as Oak Grove Baptist Church, St. John Baptist Church, New Quarter Baptist Church and Zion Baptist Church, all in the Williamsburg/York County area. She connected our team with Mrs. Collette Roots, a leader of the Friends of Oak Grove Baptist Church, a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring the church building, the two cemeteries tied to the church, and the history of the once Cooktown community where the church is currently located.

The church building and some members were once part of Magruder, a community of African Americans forcibly displaced during World War II to create Camp Peary, a military training ground. The series of forcible removals due to eminent domain resulted in the loss of place and community identity. Last fall, the church members invited Lemon Project researchers to assist with documenting its story through oral history. Generations of parishioners living and deceased were employed by William & Mary and are a critical part of the university’s history. A series of oral histories on the travesty of land loss, the disbanding of communities, and the dynamics of labor and class are unearthing stories tethered to the afterlives of slavery not only specific to Williamsburg but across the nation. Also, Derek Vouri-Richard, a Lemon Project American Studies Graduate Assistant, mined land records to trace the history of land ownership tied to Oak Grove Baptist Church during the turn of the twentieth century.

Recently, the Friends of Oak Grove Baptist Church provided a tour of the church and the historic cemetery, highlighting veteran burial sites dating back to the Civil War, for the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Community Curation team partnering with the Lemon Project to assist African American communities in curating their own stories. In keeping with the Lemon Project’s goal to be a national model of transformative community engagement and collaborative research, we continue to listen to the stories and assess the ways we can contribute to materializing the vision of our partners. Congratulations to Oak Grove Baptist Church Historic District on cementing its enduring legacy in the York County/Williamsburg area.

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The Dedication of Hearth: Memorial to the Enslaved

By Dr. Sarah Thomas, Associate Director, The Lemon Project: A Journey of Reconciliation

William & Mary celebrated the dedication of Hearth: Memorial to the Enslaved on May 7, 2022. We are excited to share with you photos and the video from the event. Thank you to Skip Rowland, ’83 for the photos and Jeff Herrick and his team for the video.

Dr. Jody Allen at the dedication of Hearth, William & Mary’s Memorial to the Enslaved, taken Saturday afternoon May 7, 2022 (Skip Rowland, ’83)
Dr. Chon Glover at the dedication of Hearth, William & Mary’s Memorial to the Enslaved, taken Saturday afternoon May 7, 2022 (Skip Rowland, ’83)
The Legacy Three at the dedication of Hearth, William & Mary’s Memorial to the Enslaved, taken Saturday afternoon May 7, 2022 (Skip Rowland, ’83)
Images of the dedication of Hearth, William & Mary’s Memorial to the Enslaved, taken Saturday afternoon May 7, 2022 (Skip Rowland)
Images of the dedication of Hearth, William & Mary’s Memorial to the Enslaved, taken Saturday afternoon May 7, 2022 (Skip Rowland)
Dr. Hermine Pinson and Thomas Alexander at the dedication of Hearth, William & Mary’s Memorial to the Enslaved, taken Saturday afternoon May 7, 2022 (Skip Rowland, ’83)
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Uncovering Connections between Oak Grove Baptist Church and the Williamsburg Institutions during the Turn of the Twentieth Century

By Derek Vouri-Richard, Lemon Project American Studies Graduate Assistant, 2021-2022

On May 23, 1899, husband and wife Samuel Harris and Joanna B. Harris sold land in the Burton District of York County, Virginia to Charles Bartlett, a Black miller and farmer. This land would become the present-day location of Oak Grove Baptist Church. Oak Grove grew out of the First Baptist Church of Williamsburg, Virginia, which was founded by free and enslaved African Americans in the second half of the eighteenth century.

In the late nineteenth century, First Baptist members from York County began establishing their own religious meeting place in the Magruder neighborhood of York County. The Magruder neighborhood served as the home of Oak Grove from the turn of the twentieth century to the early 1940s. In the early 1940s, the Federal Government displaced the church by acquiring the land on which Oak Grove was located through eminent domain policies to develop a military complex. As a member of Oak Grove in the 1940s, Bartlett helped the church establish a new home by selling land he owned to the church. In 1949, Bartlett sold to Oak Grove the land he purchased from Samuel and Joanna Harris in 1899. The history of Oak Grove and the land on which it currently stands is part of the Black mobility and local economy of the Williamsburg area throughout the turn of the twentieth century.

Samuel and Joanna Harris were prominent Black business owners in Williamsburg. In the 1870s, they opened a retail store in Williamsburg, Harris’s Cheap Store. The store sold a variety of goods including dry goods, clothes, furniture and appliances, and clocks and jewelry. It attracted customers outside Williamsburg through the store’s proximity to the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. The Harrises purchased land in Williamsburg and the surrounding area as their business grew. In early 1896 Samuel Harris purchased the York County land that he would later sell to Charles Bartlett in 1899. Harris purchased the land in 1896 in a public auction from Richardson Leonard Henley, Bathurst Dangerfield Peachy, and William Henry Edloe Morecock.

The real estate venture between Harris and Henley, Peachy, and Morecock connects the current Oak Grove land to white Williamsburg area residents and institutions of the late nineteenth century. Henley was a lawyer and judge with a law practice in the Williamsburg area. Peachy was a lawyer, owner of the Williamsburg Millinery Company, and real estate venturer. Morecock was a court clerk, merchant, and Secretary to the Board of Visitors for William & Mary from 1877 to 1890. More research needs to be done to further uncover connections between Oak Grove and its land and Williamsburg area people and institutions.

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