March 1, 2014
As the chill disappears, new events and programs appear around Colonial Williamsburg. Here are some of the top activities in the Revolutionary City this spring. For more information, check our Spring Break page. (more…)
February 27, 2014
This Throwback Thursday, we take a look at the Palmer House on Duke Of Gloucester Street in the Historic Area. Earliest records for the Palmer House lot begin in 1718. When the building was restored in 1952, a large addition that had been constructed in 1857 was destroyed so that the house could be returned to its original 1700s character.
Today, many people know the structure for its unique holiday decorations: Apples are placed in the “putlog holes” — recessed spaces in the home’s facade.
February 22, 2014
By Bill Sullivan
Harvard historian David Armitage kicked off a weekend forum on citizenship in a talk that borrowed its title from none other than Russian Communist leader V.I. Lenin.
Armitage’s talk, “Every Great Revolution Is a Civil War,” explored the complicated terminology of violent upheavals. What is the difference between a “revolution” and a “civil war?” How has that understanding changed over time?
Armitage examined those questions at last night’s opening session of “Turning Worlds Upside Down: Liberty and Democracy in Revolutionary Times,” co-sponsored by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and the Chautauqua Institution.
Noting that civil war is a topic that is “big business for academics,” Armitage traced the lineage of the term’s usage from Appian’s second-century Roman histories to reporting on the current violence in Ukraine. Histories of revolutions emerged as a whole genre of literature early in the 17th century.
Over the next century, “civil war” and “revolution” started to take on distinct meanings that still resonate today. Armitage used examples to show that civil wars are commonly defined by “base motives and civil violence… misery and disaster.” In contrast, revolutions are characterized by high ideals, and celebrated for their “innovation and transformative possibilities.”
In other words, civil wars are difficult to separate from revolutions. The American Revolution, for example, is increasingly understood as both revolution and civil war.
Armitage’s talk set the stage for the forum’s focus on making sense of the great upheavals around the world and their connections to self-government.
Foundation president Colin Campbell welcomed the crowd at Hennage Auditorium, observing the timeliness of a forum on revolution and citizenship as people around the world are struggling to have a say in the direction of their governments. “Informed citizen participation,” he said, “is critical to sustaining our democratic republic.”
“Turning Worlds Upside Down: Liberty and Democracy in Revolutionary Times” continues Feb. 22 with lectures, dramatic presentations and roundtable discussions on the theme of revolution and citizenship. Check back for updates, and follow @WAS3 and #colonialwmsburg on Twitter.
February 20, 2014
By Áine Cain
For all his wealth and familial prominence, Carter wasn’t your average Virginia gentleman. He flunked the bar, even after being educated at William & Mary grammar school and studying law in London. His contemporaries occasionally criticized his lack of social graces.
Despite his close friendships with notables including governors and professors, Carter wasn’t terribly popular with most of the Virginia gentry. He failed to be elected to the House of Burgesses and only received an invitation to serve on the governor’s Council in 1758 through the intervention of his wife’s uncle.
In 1777, Carter made a particularly scandalous announcement: He had become a Baptist. Neighbors were horrified when he began attending mixed-race church services and lodging Baptist abolitionists in his plantation, Nomony Hall. A religious nomad, Carter eventually rejected the Baptist church in favor of the teachings of Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg and joined the Church of the New Jerusalem.
Carter’s ongoing spiritual journey alienated him from his class, and led to his growing discomfort with the institution of slavery. In post-Revolution Virginia, the emancipation of slaves was a heavily restricted and discouraged enterprise. However, in the summer of 1791, Carter opted for gradual emancipation for his plantation’s 500 slaves. For Carter’s slaves, the process of obtaining freedom would be slow, but guaranteed.
While his executors managed this extensive emancipation process, Carter moved to Baltimore in 1793 to be closer to a Swedenborgian center of worship. He died there in 1804.
Carter’s greatest legacy wasn’t established through politics or won on battlefields. His greatest achievement, forged through his newfound spirituality, proved to be the largest single emancipation event before the American Civil War—a conflict which may have been avoided had more elite Southern planters followed Carter’s lead.
Áine Cain, a Colonial Williamsburg Foundation intern, is a student at The College of William & Mary.
February 20, 2014
At the Margaret Hunter Shop at Colonial Williamsburg’s Duke of Gloucester Street, interpreters portray the millinery business, focusing on 18th-century fashions, their importance in colonial society, and the economics of importing.
The shop actually was once a garage (image: top right); in 1930, it was restored and renamed The Golden Ball. The grand opening of the Margaret Hunter Shop, also known as the millinery shop, was held in February 1954 (image: bottom right).
Read more about colonial milliners:
February 16, 2014
This week’s Black History Month events include special programs in the Historic Area and the DeWitt Wallace Museum, Feb. 16-22. And in honor of President’s Day weekend, today’s programs will celebrate the United State’s founding fathers and their legacies. Check our calendar for new and updated information.
The Daily News: Listen in on colonists as they discuss the headlines of their day this Sunday from 10 a.m. until noon at the Raleigh Tavern.
Duties of a President’s Wife: A Conversation with Martha Washington: In celebration of President’s Day weekend, Martha Washington the role of the First Lady. Mrs. Washington will speak Sunday from noon to 1 p.m. in the Visitor Center Theater.
A Public Audience with the First President, George Washington: Listen to President Washington as he reflects on his many accomplishments, from serving in the House of Burgesses to serving as the First President of the United States. Mr. Washington will share his thoughts on his career in the Courthouse this Sunday from 2-2:45 p.m. and from 3-3:45 p.m.
Salute to the Presidents: Join the Revolutionary City’s Fifes and Drums in honoring the institution of the American presidency. This event will take place this Sunday from 4-4:30 at the southern end of Market Square. The founding fathers will be in attendance!
An Evening with the Presidents: Listen to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison discuss their presidential relationship with the legislative branch this Sunday in the Kimball Theater from 7:30-8:30 p.m.
Palace Concert: from Coronation to Inauguration: Enjoy a concert by Colonial Williamsburg’s early music ensemble, The Governor’s Musick, and learn how musical tastes changed as the colony became more revolutionary. This performance will take place this Sunday at the Governor’s Palace from 7:30-8:30 p.m. and from 9:00-10:00 p.m.
African American Artist Tours: Take a guided tour of the DeWitt Wallace Museum’s collection of 18th- and 19th-century folk art created by African Americans and explore their cultural heritage. Tours will take place Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:30-11:15 a.m.
God is My Rock: Attend a worship service with slave and preacher Gowan Pamphlet and hear his abolitionist sermon this Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. at the Dewitt Wallace Museum’s Hennage Auditorium.
Secret Keepers: Literacy, Slavery, and the Law: Because Virginia Law forbade “all slaves to read and write,” literate slaves were known as “secret keepers.” Learn how these brave enslaved people used their literacy to practice their religion, communicate with family, plan escapes, or petition the government. This event will take place this Wednesday from 11:30-12:30 p.m. at the Dewitt Wallace Museum’s Hennage Auditorium.
Blesséd Be the Ties that Bind: Meet Jane Vobe, owner of the King’s Arms Tavern, and hear about how the teachings of her slave Gowan, a Baptist preacher, helped her through hard times. Hear the story this Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the DeWitt Wallace Museum’s Hennage Auditorium.
His Chosen Master: Meet Bristol, a slave whose late master’s will determined that Bristol should choose a new master for himself. Bristol will discuss his decision this Thursday at the Mary Stith House from 11:30 a.m. to noon.
Duty and Faith: Meet Robert Carter III, a wealthy planter who attempted to free his nearly 500 slaves after he converted to evangelical Christianity. Robert will speak this Thursday at the Raleigh Tavern at 1 p.m.
Daniel’s Dilemma: Meet Daniel, an enslaved foreman whose responsibilities as a plantation supervisor conflict with his allegiance to the enslaved community. Daniel will share his story this Friday at 10:30, 11 and 11:30 a.m. at the Mary Stith Shop.
Freedom to Slavery: Meet Elizabeth, an enslaved African American woman forced back into slavery after living free with the Shawnee Indians on the western frontier. Elizabeth will speak this Saturday at 11 a.m., 11:30 and noon at the Millenary Shop.
– Claire Weaver