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Tag: African American history

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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Sharpe Community Scholar’s Reflections on Working with the Lemon Project

By Alexis Beck, William & Mary Sharpe Scholar, with Caroline Watson, Lemon Project Graduate Assistant

Reflecting on my time at The Lemon Project, I can’t help but be amazed at how fun and interesting it has been. The project itself is dedicated to uncovering and preserving lesser-known pieces of history, particularly those concerning the African American communities at William & Mary and in Williamsburg broadly. However, a singular photo captivated my attention and enhanced my experience as a first-year Sharpe Scholar.

During my involvement with The Lemon Project, I worked with Ph.D. student Caroline Watson to learn more about William & Mary’s archaeology documentary archive. During this work, Caroline found an intriguing photo in the Anthropology attic archive. When she had the time, she eagerly showed me this photo, which in physical form lacked proper documentation. There was no description or timestamp. It appeared to be from the early 1930s, possibly even the 1940s, based on the material context clues, like the style of archeology, the tools, the wooden shed, and the Oldsmobile-style car in the background. This photo became a captivating mystery project that Caroline and I embarked on. With further research, we eventually unraveled the mystery behind the photo. We learned that the photo was already well-documented by Colonial Williamsburg. It turned out to be a snapshot of the Governor’s Palace from 1930, featuring a group of unknown Black archaeologists who had worked on the earlier restoration of Colonial Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg’s Meredith Poole provides context on the photo here.

This photo piqued my interest because it demonstrated the major contributions made by Black archaeologists at a period when their presence in the field was frequently overlooked, marginalized, or outright erased. Indeed, this snapshot expands on our understanding of the physical and social aspects of archaeological operations in early 20th-century Williamsburg. Yet, some questions haunted us during this process of learning more about the photo. Questions like, “Who are the black men archaeologists depicted here?” and “Was their labor properly compensated and documented?” Moreover, we were left questioning how the context in which we encountered this photo—a standalone image with no description nor label—reproduces silences over these Black laborers, their identities, and their contributions to Williamsburg’s history. Given the blog post referenced above, Colonial Williamsburg has already been asking these questions. Perhaps The Lemon Project can help here, too.

Initially, when I signed up for the internship opportunity provided by Sharpe Scholars, I had anticipated mostly engaging in busy work. However, to my pleasant surprise, my time working alongside Caroline turned out to be thoroughly insightful and an exciting introduction to the roller-coaster that archival work often is. Little did I envision that we would embark on a short but thrilling adventure regarding the mystery photo.

Ultimately, my time at The Lemon Project has been immensely enriching. The identification of the photograph of Black archaeologists at the Governor’s Palace cellar excavation reignited my interest in history and reinforced my willingness to get further involved with the project. I’m delighted to go on new adventures during my next 3 years at W&M and continue to make a difference by researching and sharing long-ignored or forgotten narratives.

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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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How does archaeology (re)define place at William & Mary?

by Caroline Watson, Anthropology Graduate Assistant

Archaeology is intimately tied to the concept of place. Many think that archaeology is about discovering “new” places. Yet most often what archaeologists do is reveal places that already exist —places that have been ignored, reburied, or shifted around over time by natural or deliberate forces. A current of discovery does exist in the undertow of archaeological investigation, however, especially as we think of how social forces become entangled with the material world in ways that continuously create or reimagine meaningful places.

In thinking of how meaningful material places are constructed at William & Mary, it helps to keep an open mind. Let’s start with the brick walkways around campus—have they ever looked the same one day to the next? Really think about it! Every day, these bricks transport people to their campus destinations, and they are shifted around ever so slightly by the people who walk (or trip!) over them, steal them, or remove them to create space for new construction. Yet, despite these everyday delicate changes, many still perceive the bricks as a singular entity. Through this process, they have become a material index to William & Mary’s image, identity, and history. We can therefore imagine how these very human actions and experiences become embedded into William & Mary’s bricks. This is what makes them an inherently archaeological place imbued with cultural meaning.

But what happens when those bricks are associated with just one social history? The university, like many others, has intentionally maintained its brick aesthetic to uphold the image of William & Mary as a place for academic elites. Yet, this image is inherently constructed by whitewashing the university’s history and stripping away other social identities from the campus landscape. This becomes clear when we remember the free Black and enslaved workers who produced the bricks and buildings of Historic Campus themselves, but whose connection to the campus image has been historically and forcibly erased. In this way, bricks are a material entryway into understanding William & Mary’s construction of place.

Setting aside bricks for now (thank goodness, right?), my goal with the Lemon Project is to investigate other overlooked material places. By extension, this means I am also looking into the activities, behaviors, and people who are associated with campus places and who have long been overshadowed by colonial power. Materially speaking, the social lives and identities of enslaved peoples at William & Mary have been buried. For example, outbuildings, possibly associated with enslaved people, were destroyed during the construction of the Sunken Garden. Campus renovation projects have torn down buildings and drastically altered the campus landscape and its archaeological record. What’s more, all these physical changes are coated with layers of intentional forgetting. To reimagine William & Mary in more inclusive ways, then, we must first understand the processes through which non-white identities were disassociated from campus places and then work to re-associate this landscape with their experiences, activities, and presence.

There are several places we can start. As I have mentioned in previous Lemon Project presentations, one place where archaeology has helped materialize enslaved history is through the identification of a subfloor pit in the President’s House parking lot. This feature dates to around the mid-19th century based on the artifacts that came from it.[1] Archaeologists working in the mid-Atlantic region have long associated these dug-out features with enslaved living quarters.[2] I argue that such a finding on Historic Campus represents a possible place where the lives and labors of enslaved people emerge from the buried surface. In this perspective, the Wren Yard ceases to exist as a place of stagnant and permanent white history. Instead, it becomes an area of active archaeological inquiry.

William & Mary faculty, staff, and students are also constructing other material “ruptures” in new ways that create space for Black histories. Hearth: Memorial to the Enslaved and the Sankofa Seed sculpture, for example, are two places where silenced memories at William & Mary erupt and exist on the campus landscape. Hearth (pronounced /härTH/) is a place that grounds multiple temporalities. It simultaneously rematerializes the presence of enslaved people at William & Mary while also fostering a new sense of belonging for students of color, past, present, and future. Recent excavations in the Wren South yard, close to where Hearth is now, also bring forth the memory of enslaved labor through material findings. Archaeologists identified a large saw pit in this area of Historic Campus, a feature that directly associates this space with labor activities, like brickmaking, food preparation, and butchering.[3] Enslaved people did this work. Thus, a strong link is forged between Hearth, which sits on the visible surface, and other material evidence of enslaved history that persists on campus below the ground. In this case, an archaeological perspective has helped to create a more meaningful and inclusive narrative about a place of Black history on campus. I hope that my work can continue to blend the past, present, and future in ways that help us reimagine places at William & Mary.


[1] Moore, W.H. (2006). Archaeological Survey and Evaluation of the Proposed Manhole Structure Project Area, President’s House Parking Lot, College of William and Mary, City of Williamsburg, Virginia. WMCAR Project No. 06-16. William and Mary Center for Archaeological Research, 40. Interested in seeing these reports? I’ve been digitizing them! Email lemon@wm.edu for a scan.

[2] Samford, Patricia (2007). Subfloor pits and the archaeology of slavery in Colonial Virginia. University of Alabama Press.

[3] Edwards, Andrew C. (2016). Archaeology of the South Wren Yard. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 79-107.

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The Lemon Project and Clemson University Exchange 

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

The Lemon Project is a model for other universities studying slavery and its legacies. The team recently participated in an opportunity to exchange lessons with Clemson University’s Woodland Cemetery and African American Burial Ground Historic Preservation Project and the Call My Name Project, both led by Professor Rhondda Robinson Thomas.  

The opening reception in the Department of History’s library.  

The three-day visit convened students, faculty, staff, and community partners who traded ideas and best practices on archaeology, participatory research, and community collaboration. “The opportunity to exchange ideas with our Clemson University colleagues was a gift. We highlighted the work of our outstanding students and on and off-campus partners,” Jody Allen, the Francis Engs Director of the Lemon Project, said.  

The meeting started with a dinner and a dynamic conversation with the Friends of the Reservation, Coming to the Table Historic Triangle, Divine Concept Group, Inc., the Bray School Lab, All Together, and the Village Initiative. Each representative discussed their organization’s or project’s mission and goals and outlined how they are spurring change in the public history landscape and through civic engagement. The group was officially welcomed to William & Mary by Dr. Chon Glover, the Chief Diversity Officer who recognized the work of the Lemon Project. She further discussed the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.  

Dr. Sarah Thomas leads Historic Campus tour

The Lemon Project interns and students who participated in the incubator grant program gave examples of their research and experiential learning opportunities. The graduate assistants led a session with the Clemson University graduate students on their archival and anthropological contributions to the study of slavery at W&M.  

W&M Special Collections granted our guests access to rare documents project researchers use to find the names and details about the people once enslaved by the university. Andre Taylor, William & Mary’s oral historian, demonstrated the uses of oral history to document African American foodways. Steve Prince, Artist and Director of Engagement at Muscarelle Art Museum, guided the group in a communal quilt-making exercise where they exchanged stories as a team-building exercise. Our visitors also had a chance to meet President Rowe and hear her thoughts about the importance of the universities studying slavery movement. 

Reverend Leslie Revilock presented the Lemon Project with the Building Connections and Bridging Differences Award.

In addition to the W&M’s Historic Campus tour, the Clemson group visited the First Baptist Archaeological Site, Bruton Heights School, and the Historic Oak Grove Baptist Church. Both university projects amplify the voices of the descendant communities, and visits to these sites provide an authentic connection to people interpreting their spaces and environments.   

After reflecting on the experience, Dr. Rhondda Thomas offered gratitude: “Thank you for organizing such a rich, informative, and enlightening visit for Clemson’s cemetery team. I’m still thinking about many things we heard from you and your community partners and viewed on and off campus. I’m so glad we were able to come.”  

The Lemon Project and Clemson University exchange is part of our ongoing efforts to share best practices and facilitate collaboration locally, regionally, and internationally on the study of slavery and its legacies. 

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Mellon Foundation Fellow Represents Lemon Project in German Professional Exchange

Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Jajuan Johnson is part of a cohort of fifteen experts dedicated to promoting an inclusive and progressive culture of remembrance in public spaces in Germany and the United States. Building a Diverse Culture of Remembrance (DAICOR) is an exchange program whereby participants explore how diversity, equity, and inclusion are implemented in memorial cultures.

Jajuan Johnson and Awet Tesfaiesus

During the Germany learning tour, Dr. Johnson introduced the Lemon Project as a model for reckoning with slavery and its legacies at higher education institutions to the cohort of artists, educators, activists, and nonprofit leaders. He also discussed service-learning as an intervention for understaffed cultural institutions doing reparative archival work and community-engaged research with citizens focused on decolonizing the public history landscape in Berlin and Hamburg.  

Jajuan Johnson and Hannimari Jokinen

The one-week visit involved conversations with political leaders such as Awet Tesfaiesus, the first Black woman elected to the German Parliament serving as Chairwoman of the Committee for Culture and Media. In addition to touring sites such as the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum and the Museum of Ethnology in Hamburg (MARKK), the fellows met with local civic actors with organizations such as Decolonial Memory Culture in the City, is a model project that aims to explore and make visible the past and present of the (anti-)colonial in Berlin, the rest of Germany and in Germany’s former colonies with the help of experts and activists worldwide.

The trip concluded with a lecture and discussion with artist and curator Hannimari Jokinen on the function of post-colonial memorials and strategies for reckoning with troubled pasts through community-engaged interpretation, as is reflected in the goals of Hearth Memorial to the Enslaved. As we collectively envisioned the uses of memorial sites, we agreed they are to be changeable, fluid, and provoking conversations that strengthen democratic societies. 

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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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The First Annual Descendant’s Day at Highland

Guest Post by Jennifer Stacy, Highland Council of Descendant Advisors, and Maria DiBenigno, Highland Postdoctoral Research Fellow

William & Mary’s Highland is a 535-acre historic site located in Charlottesville, Virginia and operated by the university. It is notable as the former plantation of the fifth U.S. President and W&M alumnus, James Monroe, as well as 53 women, men, and children who were enslaved by him. We know the names of some of these individuals; others we still seek to know.

IIC Students, Credit Grace Helmick

Highland conducts ongoing research about its extant buildings and natural resources as well as ongoing community engagement. In 2016, Highland announced its discovery that Monroe’s house has been completely destroyed by fire, and the standing building was a separate Guesthouse built in 1818. This major site re-interpretation allowed us to have conversations about what historic sites get wrong and how we work to tell more truthful stories about the past. This discovery also helped connect Highland’s staff with members of the local descendant community whose ancestors were enslaved at Highland. In 2018, ten of these individuals formed the Highland Council of Descendant Advisors. The Council advises Highland staff on exhibit content, program planning, and community engagement through the concept of shared authority. Members present at regional conferences, including the Lemon Project’s Symposium, work with regional school systems, and interact with W&M students on a variety of topics, including food histories and on-campus concerns.

Ada’s Kitchen on Wheels, Credit Grace Helmick

On Saturday, June 11, the Council hosted their first Descendants Day at Highland. It was an event long in the making. Attendees enjoyed a delicious lunch buffet from Ada’s Kitchen on Wheels, a local food truck owned by Highland descendant, Gloria Saylor, and named for her mother and Council member, Ada Monroe Saylor. The Council welcomed descendant groups and community members from all parts of Virginia, including our W&M partners at the Institute for Integrative Conservation, the Bray School Initiative, the Lemon Project, and Special Collections. Friends from the Historic Brattonsville Descendants Group traveled from their homes in Rock Hill, South Carolina to attend — the Council was so honored by their presence!

Locally, the Council welcomed the Descendants of Enslaved Communities at the University of Virginia, the Preservers of the Daughters of Zion Cemetery, the Descendants of the Pen Park plantations, and the B.F. Yancey School Community Center. The event included many regional collaborators, including the White House Historical Association, Virginia Humanities, the Ivy Creek Foundation, plus colleagues from the Louisa County Historical Society and the Fluvanna County Historical Society. Perhaps most importantly, the Council met two previously unknown individuals who descend from Highland’s enslaved families.
An important source of information for Highland’s Florida descendants is Take Them In Families, an ongoing research project centered on the families sold by James Monroe to Florida in 1828.

It was a full afternoon of fellowship, food, conversation, and remembrance that closed with a Calling of Names.

The next Descendants Day is already scheduled for Saturday, June 10, 2023.

To learn more about the Descendant Council’s work as well as Highland’s ongoing reinterpretation, visit https://highland.org/.

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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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Donning of the Kente 2022

By Dr. Sarah Thomas, Associate Director, The Lemon Project

On May 20, 2022, the Lemon Project and the Hulon Willis Association hosted the Donning of the Kente ceremony during the Class of 2022 Commencement weekend. William & Mary’s Donning of the Kente ceremony began in 2012 as a rites of passage graduation celebration open to all graduating students. We are thankful and excited to celebrate the excellence, both personal and academic, of students of color. All graduating students are welcome to participate in this ceremony.

Many students have remarked that one of the aspects of the DOK that made it very special was the opportunity to choose their donner. The donning itself gives students the chance to not only celebrate their accomplishments, but also to recognize someone special in their lives. Students have chosen parents, siblings, friends, faculty, administrators, high school principals, and others to serve as their donners.

We want our graduates (undergraduates, graduate, and professional) to know that their relationship with the university does not end at graduation. A new chapter begins when you become an alumnus and we encourage you all to join the Hulon Willis Alumni Association. The Donning of the Kente Ceremony is the first step in this relationship.

Hearth: Memorial to the Enslaved played an important role in this year’s ceremony. The Class of 2022 was the first class that began its procession to the DOK at Hearth. The graduates also gathered at Hearth for a group photo.

For those who will be graduating William & Mary in 2023, registration is now open! Check out the details and register now to receive a stole and participate in the 2023 DOK today.

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