The Monday, March 12, 2007, meeting of the Society will be at 7:00 P.M. at the Surry County, Va. Recreation Center.
Our speaker at the March meeting will be Dr. Rex Ellis, Vice-President of Colonial Williamsburg, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. See biographical details later in the newsletter. Don't miss this opportunity to get the inside scoop on the happenings in the Williamsburg area during this 400th anniversary year.
Quite often I'm confronted with the question, "Why do we need a month to celebrate African-American History?" My response is usually the same, we need to study and celebrate all history! In celebration we review the past, affirm the present, and bring into focus expectations for the future. Remembering always that the past and future can only exist in the present.
There remains a definite need to observe and preserve by reserving some extended period to review past achievements and failures; affirm by assessing present conditions and accepting daily challenges; and embrace in a collective way expectations of a better life in the future. The late Carter G. Woodson, a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, first led the movement to intentionally observe a time to review and recall issues of back history in 1924. It was not until 1926 that the second week in February was recognized in an official way as Black History Week.
Forty to sixty million people lost their lives as a result of the colonization of the Americas. This estimate includes Native Americans (North), Africans, and Europeans. America seems to have become a dumping ground. Eighty percent of all Europeans who came before 1700 to what is now the United States of America were probably indentured servants. Twelve million African young men and women were taken forcefully from the continent of Africa and enslaved in the Americas. Today, there are fewer indigenous people in the United States and Canada than were alive in 1492. This population has decreased from seven million in 1492 to 250,000 in 1900.
What happens when your history, the reported heritage of your people is marred by the stories of enslavement, rape, deprivation, restricted civil liberties, famine, diseases, genocide, and war? The need to study and observe extended periods to celebrate African-American History becomes even more apparent to us. Life for our forebears, men and women of the African Diaspora, does not begin or end with the Antebellum South. We are descendants of a much earlier culture and society than the United States of America. This is true for most if not all of my fellow countrymen. A part of our struggle and apparent in the annual celebrations of African-American History is what we as people of color are called and what we call ourselves. My grandfathers who were born in 1889 and 1892 were called Negro; my father who was born in 1929 was called colored; my brother and I call ourselves African-Americans. Reviewing our own history, we have discovered that no matter what we have been called or what we call ourselves as people of color in the United States of America what matters most is achievement. Additionally, acquiring education and training, fostering economic growth and developing a growing trust in God is what really counts today.
There is a most definite need to study and celebrate African-American History and Heritage so we can preserve cultural heritage, which in turn provides valuable experiences which lift barriers and restrictions we have placed on each other and those placed upon us. This leads us to a better understanding of what it means to be a person of color in the United States of America. Secondly, we need to study and celebrate in order to achieve a positive sense of self identity, understanding one's history, struggles, triumphs and tragedies. Creating this type of awareness, perhaps we will prevent a repeat of some historical tragedies like slavery. Thirdly, we need to study and celebrate in order to acquire coping skills to overcome the results of enslavement, poverty, institutional and individual racism. Fourth, we need to study and celebrate so as to create opportunities bringing about cross-cultural understanding and dialogue, providing for valuable experiences for growth.
Thank you to the members of the Historical Society for this type of forum and support for opportunities to study and celebrate. A permanent housing facility would greatly enhance our ability to do so in even a greater way. We need your continued support for financing the construction of the Historical Society building!!!
James M. Harrison
About Our March Speaker: Dr. Rex Ellis,Vice president of Colonial Williamsburg, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Rex Ellis, vice president of the Historic Area, holds a doctoral degree in higher education from the College of William and Mary, a master of fine arts from Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., and a bachelor of fine arts from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.
Prior to his current position, Ellis was chairman of the division of cultural history and curator of African-American history at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Ellis had been with the Smithsonian Institution since 1991, when he was appointed the director of its Center for Museum Studies.
A national leader in the museum field, Ellis worked at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for eleven years beginning in 1984, first as the manager of African-American programs, then assistant director and finally director of the Department of African-American Interpretation and Presentations. In these roles he contributed substantially to establishing Colonial Williamsburg's worldwide reputation for excellence in the field of African-American museum interpretation.
In 2001, Ellis was named vice president of the Historic Area where his responsibilities include staff development, training, budgeting and general operation of Colonial Williamsburg's 300-acre Historic Area, as well as the planning and presentation of all interpretive and theatrical programs at Colonial Williamsburg. His areas of responsibility include the departments of historic sites, historic trades, interpretive training, program planning and support and coach and livestock.
In addition to his work with the Smithsonian Institution and Colonial Williamsburg, Ellis is the author of several books, including Beneath the Blazing Sun: Stories From the African american Journey (1997) and most recently, With A Banjo On My Knee (2001), about early African-American banjo players. He has served as a consultant to the National Park Service, Old Salem Village in Winston-Salem, N.C., the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Monticello in Charlottesville, VA.
Ellis is a member of the American Association of Museums, the Association of African american Museums, the American Association of State and Local History and is a former board chairman of the National Storytelling Association.
He has been a storyteller for over twenty years. Although he is not a freelance teller, he is among the most popular storytellers in the field. His interest in storytelling began while working at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, in Williamsburg, Virginia. While there he used storytelling as a means of teaching African American history.
Ellis spearheaded the first ever Storytelling Festival at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. "Spinning Stories/Spanning Time: A Weekend of Stories Old and New" successfully showcased eight internationally acclaimed storytellers, as well as several of Colonial Williamsburg's expert Storytellers.
A native of Williamsburg, Ellis and his wife, Paulette, have a son and a daughter.
Member Alert - Change in Rules for Charitable Giving in 2007
If you itemize deductions (Schedule A) for 2007, new IRS rules related to records of charitable giving are now in force. In the past, written records of gifts were required for gifts of $250 or more. Beginning in January, 2007, you must have written records of any contribution, regardless of size, to claim a deduction on your tax forms. To itemize your charitable gifts made in 2007 and beyond, you will need written communication from the charity that contains
The final, final refinements to the plans for the Society's new home are nearing completion. We should be ready to execute the construction contract very soon. See latest sketches included in the newsletter. It will be very exciting to see this dream become a reality!
WE NEED YOUR HELP! Our fund raising campaign for the construction of our future home is coming along quite well, but we are not at our goal. To date we are pleased to announce that we have raised approximately $240,000 towards our $400,000 goal. We want to thank the donors who have made a contribution towards our construction project. If you wish to help us achieve our goal to make "The Home of Surry History" a reality, donations can be made payable to: The Surry Historical Society.
Please note in the memo line of the check "Building Fund", and mail to:
Please help us make our goal soon! Remember that all contributions are tax deductible.
An Added Resource: The Kornwolf book to be reprinted. Per information received from Carolyn A. Keen, Virginia Historic Houses at P. O. Box 2449, Suffolk, Va. 23432. Phone (757) 357-2173, The Guide to Buildings of and the American Revolution is being reprinted. This book, originally printed in 1976, has been out of print and in demand for years. The few original copies that have hit the market recently have sold for as much as $200.00. This book contains 216 pages and 150 photos., is 8 1/2" by 11" The price is $75.00 plus tax.
Claremont, Virginia, is now making preparations for the Commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. Claremont's significance in this historic reenactment stems from its location on the James River. On May 5, 1607, a landing party from the Godspeed brought a shallop to shore at the location we call Claremont. There they met the tribe in residence, the Quiyoughcohonack. After a brief feast and ceremony, with the Werowance in attendance, the explorers proceeded up the James and ultimately return to Jamestown to build their settlement.
The Claremont 2007 Commemoration will begin at 10:00 A.M., Saturday, May 5. 2007, with a focus on the invaluable contributions of the Virginia Indians to the settlers. During the weekend, various ceremonies will be performed illustrating Native American Indian culture. The Art and Drama Department of the Appomattox Regional Governor's School will perform their interpretation of the English settlers meeting Quiyoughcohonack Tribe on that date 400 years ago.
Vendors and crafters will line designated streets offering a variety of wares including authentic American Indian crafts and the special Commemorative Gifts marketed by the Jamestown Foundation. A temporary stage will be erected on the old ball field near the Town Circle. The TomLori Trio will also offer roving recitals of Colonial and Early American music. The Town Hall will be transformed into a History Museum displaying artifacts from the town's past. Included in the Town Hall display will be items from the Smallwood Institute, a significant fixture in the history of higher education for Blacks in Virginia, with books signed by the founder, John Smallwood. Musical performances (including a special concert on a period-correct harpsichord constructed by local craftsman Peter Redstone) will take place on the stages. Claremont Public Library will host a local authors exhibit, along with a display on loan from the Library Virginia about a Surry native, sculptor Leslie Garland Bolling.
Sunday morning, May 6, 2007, the Godspeed (one of the three replica ships on display at Jamestown) docks at Claremont for its final stop on the "Journey Up the James". Claremont Beach will have temporary barge to accommodate the mooring and for visitors to board. The Godspeed will be open for visitors from 12:00 noon till 6:00 p.m. Crafters, vendors, music, performances, and exhibits will resume from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. A special service at the Ritchie Memorial Episcopal Church, a classic example of Victorian architecture in rural Virginia of the late 1800s, will be conducted at 9:00.
All times listed for events are subject to change
Saturday, May 5,2007:
The Dendron Museum and Boxcar opening dates for the remainder of 2007 are scheduled for the following Saturdays and Sundays from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.:
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