Colonial Williamsburg

The nice thing about having annual passes to both Jamestown/ Yorktown and Colonial Williamsburg is that we can spend time in multiple places in the same day.

We started the morning (3/27/17) at Colonial Williamsburg to check out A Difference of Opinion. This program features three perspectives (Gowan Pamphlet, Robert Carter, and George Washington on slavery.


Gowan Pamphlet

Gowan Pamphlet began the discussion with his journey from being a slave and pastoring to being set free and continuing to pastor up to 500 people.  Other than himself, 10,000 slaves were freed in Virginia (by 1791) after passing the law of manumission (ability to free slaves). That may sound like a lot, but in actuality, it represents only 5% of Virginia’s slaves. He also shared about religious freedom, his church–which continued until it had to take a hiatus due to the Nat Turner rebellion, which made many nervous about African Americans gathering in large groups.  After both tragedies and reorganization, the church continues in existence today.


Robert Carter

Robert Carter was next to speak.  I especially appreciated him because he shared about his transformation from having an intellectual faith in God to having a personal faith in Jesus Christ and how that transition changed his view of slavery.  Initially, he was a slave owner, having inherited hundreds of slaves.  But, when he converted to Christianity, he first tried to battle slavery legally, but he eventually had to do something personally.  Robert emancipated over 500 slaves–the largest single emancipation until the Civil War.  Because the manumission laws required slave owners to pay a fee and provide support for free slaves so they wouldn’t become burdens to society, this emancipation was gradual, at a rate of fifteen/year.  Freed slaves were also given the freedom to continue to live and work on the property under a variety of relationships from tenants to hired help.


George Washington

George Washington was the last to speak and shared about an incident that occurred during the end of his presidency.  Martha Washington’s maid ran away and an ad was placed in the paper to give information at the president’s house. Washington, who kept his opinions on slavery largely out of the private view, was apparently embarrassed by this.  He personally was in favor of gradual emancipation, allowing slaves to be equipped to survive as freedmen able to adequately support themselves.  Because of the cost involved in freeing slaves, most people, including Washington, set their slaves free upon their death.  Washington has often drawn criticism for not setting his wife’s slaves free, but as they were part of her entail, he could not legally do so.  He also stipulated that his slaves’ freedom would take effect after his wife died.  But, when some events gave Martha reason to suppose some slaves were trying to hasten that time, she set them free.  Her own slaves were part of inheritance property and therefore were passed down instead of freed.

Afterwards, these three men were available to take questions from the audience about the issue of slavery, etc..  With it readily apparent that we still need to make strides in race relations, I love any format where open dialogue takes place, so I especially appreciated the candor of each actor, who stepped out of character (usually unheard of at Williamsburg) to discuss a difficult issue.

We then went to the coffee house.  This is one of our favorite tours for the simple reason that they offer incredible hot chocolate!  (In fact, we’re planning to return tomorrow for the chocolate making demonstration!)   One of the interesting things I learned over chocolate is that Handel wrote The Messiah in order to combat Deism and return people to true faith in God.  Very cool!


Finding slate

When we finished our tour, we headed to Historic Jamestowne to see what has changed there.  Because Jamestowne has ongoing archaeology, there is always something new to see!  I got to see a volunteer discover a piece of slate from a 1700’s roof.

One fascinating piece  of luck was the Roads Scholars tour we happened upon.  The tour guide who has taken groups around Jamestowne for the past 18 years shared many interesting pieces of information.


Colonial Grafitti

One of the coolest things she pointed out was the graffiti carved in the original tower bricks. She also discussed the way to tell original mortar (looks like sand and shells because it is) from different eras of reconstruction.  The church was abandoned when the capital moved from Jamestowne to Williamsburg, leading to the deterioration of the building accelerated by the removal of bricks to new locations in Williamsburg (early repurposing!). The church addition to the tower in Jamestowne was added on in 1907 for the 300th anniversary. When building the addition, many time period bricks were bought from people getting rid of their big brick houses in favor of different modern styles.


Interior of the 1907 church

Additionally, the guide pointed out that the pattern of bricks used is uniquely English from the 1760’s. The pattern varies between headers (width of the brick) and stretchers (length of the brick). It also boasts a stylistic feature known as the Flemish bond (a pattern of header, stretcher, header, stretcher, etc.)


Pattern of headers and stretchers

Leaving out of Jamestowne, we decided to take the nature loop to see if Jenny (the eagle) was moving around.  While the nest is still there, we didn’t see any activity.  All in all, it was a fun day catching up with some favorites.

Mom and I at Dad’s grave in Arlington

Today (7/18/12), we went back into Washington D.C. The trip into the city confirmed our suspicions that Sunday really was the best day to go. Weekday traffic was definitely bad. We began by heading to Arlington. Arlington is still an active cemetery, and we noticed two funerals being prepared as we got there–one with the full band and caissons. Having been to my father’s memorial at Arlington, I always feel a connection with those in the same situation. We had planned to just stop by and see my dad’s marker, which I have had the opportunity to do every year since he died, but as we were at the visitor center, one of my students got a text from his mom that he may have a relative at Arlington. I had the privilege of walking to the main visitor center with him and showing him the ropes on how to search for an ancestor. For those who may have relatives there, if the person has died since 1999, you can search the computer in the lobby area and print a map to their grave. If they have died prior to 1999, the attendants can help you locate the site. It was a surreal moment when my student’s relative’s name popped up. After visiting my dad’s grave, we were able to find my student’s great-uncle, discovering that he had served in World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam and received a bronze star. It was a profound time for him to sit and connect with a relative he hadn’t known he had. An amazing experience indeed.

The Capitol Building–Not to be confused with the White House

After Arlington, we drove to the Capitol where we went to Pete Visclosky’s office (in the House of Representatives building) to pick up our tour. We opted to go with him, rather than the Speaker of the House my mom had arranged, because one of my student’s dads worked on his campaign, and he’d gotten to march in the parade with him. The tour began by meeting Pete for pictures on the steps of the Capitol building (Cool free souvenir).

Painting of Washington on the interior Dome

Then, our tour guide took us around the building. Some of the highlights included the inside view of the dome and the wishing star (stand on it and make a wish–apparently, it’s referred to in The Lost Symbol), the hall of statues, the original areas of Congress, and the current location. Being here always reminds me of National Treasure where Nicholas Cage gets profoundly moved by unrolling the Declaration of Independence in Independence Hall. There is just something about standing in the places where so much history has taken place. We got to stand on the spot where Abraham Lincoln’s desk sat when he was a young Congressman…Incredible!

Spot where Abe Lincoln’s desk stood

We had planned to stop by Manassas on the way home, as it was nearby, but once we navigated our way through the “out of the city traffic,” we had had as much as we could take. Tomorrow is our last official site seeing day before we have the long drive home…Who knows what we’ll see on the way 🙂