Slavery Symposium at Randolph College
Facing the Past, Freeing the Future: Slavery's Legacy, Fredom's Promise
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Facing the Past, Freeing the Future: Slavery's Legacy, Freedom's Promise

Presented by Randolph College and Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest
April 3-5, 2014
Randolph College, Lynchburg, Virginia

VIDEO: Watch the Symposium Sessions

Schedule of Events

Thursday, April 3

7:30 p.m.
Slavery Symposium: The Founders and Slavery
Houston Memorial Chapel
Along with the blessings of independence and freedom, the Founders paradoxically left a legacy of slavery. Independent scholar Henry Wiencek, author of detailed studies of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, discusses how slavery emerged intact, and then grew stronger, after a Revolution conceived in liberty.

Friday, April 4

9-9:15 a.m.
Slavery Symposium: Welcome and Introductions
Wimberly Recital Hall, Presser Hall
President Bradley Bateman of Randolph College and President and CEO Jeffrey Nichols of Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest welcome attendees.

9:15-10 a.m.
Slavery Symposium: Facing the Past, Freeing the Future
Wimberly Recital Hall, Presser Hall
Dr. John d’Entremont, Theodore H. Jack Professor of History at Randolph College, surveys 250 years of an America built by slavery, and 150 years of an America grappling with slavery’s legacy and freedom’s promise.

10-10:15 a.m.
Slavery Symposium: Journey to the Mountaintop, Act 1
Wimberly Recital Hall, Presser Hall
Lynchburg writer Teresa Harris presents the first of four acts featuring several generations of African Americans, beginning with Silvy Turner, a woman newly freed from bondage.

Slavery Symposium: Archaeology and Slavery
Wimberly Recital Hall, Presser Hall
Dr. Theresa Singleton, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Syracuse University, leads a discussion about archaeology as a window into the world of the enslaved based on the things they left behind. Panelists include Dr. Barbara Heath, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, author of Hidden Lives: The Archaeology of Slave Life at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest; Lori Lee, Ainsworth Visiting Professor of American Culture, Randolph College; and Jack Gary, Director of Archaeology and Landscapes, Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest.

1:15-1:30 p.m.
Slavery Symposium: Journey to the Mountaintop, Act 2
Houston Memorial Chapel
Lynchburg writer Dee Brown presents the second of four acts featuring several generations of African Americans. Here he presents William Turner, a man newly freed from bondage.

1:30-3 p.m.
Slavery Symposium: Black Memory
Houston Memorial Chapel
Annette Gordon-Reed, author of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, moderates a discussion among descendants of people once enslaved at Monticello and elsewhere in Virginia. Participants will share the ways they discovered their ancestors, what that ancestry means to them, and how it is remembered, processed and talked about in their families.

  • Marion Banks, former cosmetologist, foster parent, and retiree from General Electric/Ericsson from Bedford County;

  • Ruth Long, past president of the Orange County African American Historical Society;

  • Lettie Mosley, former home help aide from Bedford County, and descendant of Thomas Jefferson;

  • Gayle Jessup White, communications consultant and realtor in Richmond, descendant of Thomas Jefferson;

  • Karen Hughes White, archivist, founder of the Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County, and descendant of Elizabeth Hemings and Wormley Hughes.

3:45 p.m.
Slavery Symposium: Tours of Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest
Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, Forest, Virginia
Symposium attendees are invited to Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, where they may tour the house, grounds, and areas of the plantation. The guided tours will concentrate on telling the stories of enslaved inhabitants from Jefferson’s time to emancipation.

7:30-9 p.m.
Slavery Symposium: The Greatest Generation and the Great Emancipator: How the Founders’ Antislavery Ambivalence Beset Those Who Came After—and Abraham Lincoln
Houston Memorial Chapel
Distinguished historian William W. Freehling, author of masterful works on America’s sectional conflict including Prelude to Civil War, The Road to Disunion, and The South vs. the South, takes the story of slavery into the Civil War era, addressing how antebellum politicians wrestled with the institution, and showing how those struggles were deeply affected by what had been bequeathed to them by the Founders.

Saturday, April 5

9-10:30 a.m.
Slavery Symposium: Slavery and Film
Wimberly Recital Hall, Presser Hall
Randolph College Associate Professor of Communication Studies Jennifer Gauthier explores slavery’s depiction in film, from The Birth of a Nation (1915) to Twelve Years a Slave (2013).

10:30-10:45 a.m.
Slavery Symposium: Journey to the Mountaintop, Act 3
Wimberly Recital Hall, Presser Hall
Teresa Harris presents the third of four acts featuring several generations of African Americans. This act features Sylvie Turner’s granddaughter, Blossom, who is attending school in Lynchburg in the early twentieth century.

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Slavery Symposium: Slavery and Men, Slavery and Women
Wimberly Recital Hall, Presser Hall
Randolph College historian John d’Entremont engages Michigan State University Assistant Professor Vanessa Holden (Randolph-Macon Woman’s College ’05, a specialist on women and slave resistance) and California State University Professor of History Bret Carroll (an authority on masculinity and history) in a discussion of slavery and gender, pondering the assault slavery made on enslaved people’s distinctiveness as men and women, together with the struggle of the enslaved to assert and maintain their sense of themselves as masculine and feminine beings.

2-4 p.m.
Slavery Symposium: Engaging Communities
Houston Memorial Chapel
George Mason University Professor Spencer Crew, former Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and former President of Cincinnati’s National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, leads a distinguished panel of scholars and community activists in discussing ways in which candid, unstilted, mutually beneficial dialogue between scholars and the public on America’s racial past and present can be energized and sustained. What do people stand to gain by paying attention to professionals at museums, historic sites and colleges? How can those professionals better reach and serve the public? What does the public have to teach the professionals, and how can all of us listen more productively to one another? Can we—and how can we-- get past all the stumbling blocks and talk openly and truthfully about slavery and its legacy?

  • Michael Blakey, National Endowment for the Humanities Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Institute for Historical Biology, College of William and Mary; key researcher and interpreter of New York City’s African Burial Ground;

  • Art Carter, representing Harrisonburg-based “Coming to the Table,” an organization of descendants of slaves and descendants of slaveholders, “seeking to acknowledge, understand and heal the persistent wounds of the U.S. institution of slavery;”

  • Christy Coleman, President of Richmond’s American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar, former Director of Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and former Director of Colonial Williamsburg’s Department of African American Interpretations and Presentations;

  • Leslie King, founder of Black in the Burg, an online source of news and discussion for Central Virginia’s black community; representing Lynchburg’s “Many Voices, One Community,” an organization fostering “dialogue on race and racism” with a mission “to create a racially equitable community.”

  • Lynn Rainville, archaeologist, Director of the Tusculum Institute and Research Professor in the Humanities at Sweet Briar College, chronicler of the Sweet Briar Plantation enslaved community, and author of Hidden History: African-American Cemeteries in Virginia (UVA Press, 2014);

  • Ann van de Graaf, Randolph Macon Women’s College ’74, artist, civil rights activist, co-founder of the Legacy Museum of African American History and founder of Africa House.

4:15-4:30 p.m.
Slavery Symposium: Journey to the Mountaintop, Act 4
Houston Memorial Chapel
Dee Brown presents the final of four acts featuring several generations of African Americans, portraying a young civil rights activist at the end of the 1960s.

4:30-5:30 p.m.
Slavery Symposium: Reflections
Houston Memorial Chapel 
Acclaimed scholar Annette Gordon-Reed, Harvard University Law School’s Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History, reflects upon the ideas and opinions expressed during the symposium, and ponders things that still may be left to say and do in the nation’s ongoing struggle to confront its past and redeem its future.

Slavery Symposium: Musical Presentation
Houston Memorial Chapel

  • Song performed by Lynchburg’s The Soulsters on the Hill
  • Song performed by Lynchburg’s The Soulsters on the Hill and Randolph College’s Voices

5:45-6:45 p.m.
Slavery Symposium: Closing Reception

Hampson Commons, Student Center

Symposium funded by Kennedy-Fitzgerald Fund, Randolph College Campus Events Committee The National Trust for Historic Preservation and Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

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