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Tag: Historic Triangle

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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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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The Local Black Histories Project Unveils New Research on a Free Black Community in York County 

by Dr. Jajuan Johnson, Lemon Project Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

The Lemon Project congratulates the Village Initiative for Equity in Education, William & Mary faculty and students, and the area Black descendant communities on revealing the online exhibition “Life in the Reservation Community.” The website tells the story of an autonomous African American community in York County established before the Civil War and upended in the 1920s by eminent domain to build what is now the Naval Weapons Station. 

The unveiling on Saturday, February 4, drew a crowd of over 250 Reservation descendants at William & Mary’s School of Education. The project’s first phase provides a comprehensive rendering of the people who lived on the Reservation, the complexity of freedom pre-and post-Civil War, entrepreneurship tied to the York River, and a range of primary sources on local Black church history. The project’s next phase will cover the topics: Dispossession and Protest, Resilience: Rebuilding a Legacy, and Intergenerational Trauma and Activism Today. 

The Reservation history is not singular but contains numerous narratives of families in York County and connections beyond the Commonwealth of Virginia. During the Lemon Project’s 13th Annual Spring Symposium, there will be two panels on the Reservation history and its legacies: Where Do We Go From Here?: A generational discussion of The Reservation Experience; Life in the Reservation Community: Community-University Partnerships for Public Research. 

The symposium themed, At the Root: Exploring Black life, History, and Culture, has three objectives: 

  • Reflect on what is happening in African American communities and consider how these communities transform 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. 

Join us at the 2023 Lemon Project Spring Symposium to learn more about the Reservation and other public humanities projects. Participants will also discuss current topics related to Black life and culture.  

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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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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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What We Do and Why

By Dr. Sarah Thomas, Lemon Project Associate Director

The Lemon Project: A Journey of Reconciliation has its origins in the work of William & Mary students. Students can make substantive and lasting changes. In 2007, then junior Tiseme Zegeye introduced Student Assembly legislation called The Research Into and an Apology for William and Mary’s Role in Slavery Act.

“The Student Assembly of the College of William and Mary –
(1) Recommends that the Board of Visitors establish a commission to research the full extent of the College of William and Mary’s role in slavery
(2) Recommends that the Board of Visitors express profound regret for William and Mary’s role in slavery
(3) Establish a memorial for the contributions of slaves to the College of William and Mary

Sponsored by Senator Tiseme Zegeye of the Class of 2008

After the Faculty Assembly passed a similar resolution in 2008, the William & Mary Board of Visitors passed the resolution that led to the creation of the Lemon Project: A Journey of Resolution in 2009.

The Lemon Project is not an initiative that is the product of a single person, administrator, or department. Instead, we are a unit within the Office of the Provost, and we have the weight of the Provost and the Board of Visitors behind us and our work.

The Lemon Project is the second institutionally-funded project of its kind in the country.

So what do we do? How do we rectify wrongs against African Americans by William & Mary through both action and inaction?

We listen and collaborate with members of the communities that surround us, especially members of African American communities. We work to build bridges between William & Mary and these communities who for so long have not felt welcome or that they belong at the university. The brick wall that surrounds the old sections of campus separates W&M from our neighbors, including a historically Black neighborhood. The Lemon Project team is working to tear down physical and metaphorical walls.

We research and study the experiences of African and African Americans, including slavery, Jim Crow, and all the way up to the present. We make our findings public through a variety of platforms, including social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn); the website; the Report on the First Eight Years; this blog; the YouTube channel; lectures; conferences; meetings; courses, and signature programs like the annual spring symposium and Lemon’s Legacies Porch Talks.

We are also making history public through Hearth: Memorial to the Enslaved. Construction began on Hearth in the summer of 2021 and will finish in May 2022. This is a years-long project and involves the efforts of so many people. From the donors who funded this project to the Lemon Project team researchers who found the names of enslaved people in the archives, we are indebted to those who helped make this project possible.

We’ll write more about the Memorial next week but in the meantime, mark your calendars for the dedication of Hearth: Memorial to the Enslaved on May 7 at 2:00 p.m. Join us in the South Wren Yard for this important community-wide event where everyone (yes, everyone!) is welcome. This is one step of many towards reconciliation, repair, and belonging at William & Mary.

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