*Earlier this month, archaeologists in Colonial Williamsburg broke ground on a project set to unearth the history of First Baptist Church, one of America’s oldest black congregations.
The Virginia house of worship traces its roots to 1776, when a group of enslaved and free black people gathered to pray and sing at Green Springs, a plantation located a few miles outside of the colonial city. At the time, the United States had just declared its independence from Great Britain. African American individuals were forbidden from gathering in large groups, but they defied the law by conducting secret meetings in a brush arbor. According to Michael E. Ruane of the Washington Post, black preacher Reverend Moses was regularly whipped for leading such gatherings.
By 1791, enslaved tavern worker and preacher Gowan Pamphlet had grown the congregation to as many as 500 members, according to historian Linda H. Rowe. The church expanded even further after local white businessman Jesse Cole stumbled upon one of its outdoor services; Cole was reportedly so moved by the meeting that he offered the group use of his carriage house on Nassau Street. By 1828, notes NBC News, the physical church established at the site boasted more than 600 members.
A tornado destroyed this original structure—known as the Baptist Meeting House—in 1834. But a new brick building was constructed in 1856, and in 1863, the congregation was renamed the First Baptist Church. Throughout the 1860s, the church also served as a school for young black students. After Colonial Williamsburg purchased the property in 1955, the congregation relocated to a new building on Scotland Street, where it resides today. The original 19th-century structure was torn down, and the site was paved over.
Now, the church and its Let Freedom Ring Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving the congregation’s history, are leading the charge to investigate the centuries-old site. Their work is all the more important because narratives about African Americans have long been left out of the city’s history, says Let Freedom Ring President Connie Matthews Harshaw.
“There’s a noticeable absence of the story of early African Americans in Williamsburg,” Harshaw tells the Post.
For many years, she adds, the tourist site “basically erased everything that has to do with African Americans.”
In May, archaeologists scanned the area with ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and found encouraging evidence of structures hidden below ground. Excavations are scheduled to last seven weeks and may be extended another year and a half depending on what the researchers discover.
Below, a video about the history of First Baptist Church.
Revolt Announces New Social Justice Documentary ‘From Pain to Power’ (Trailer)
*REVOLT is behind a new captivating documentary that takes a close look at the passionate struggle for social equality happening today, and the robust grassroots efforts propelling the movement forward. “From Pain to Power: A REVOLT Special” will premiere on Monday, Oct. 26.
“From Pain to Power: A REVOLT Special” spotlights the fight for social justice, starting at the March on Washington and spreading to the streets of Kentucky, Atlanta, and beyond. The film features intimate interviews with some of the most well-known celebrities and activists at the forefront of the social justice battle including Tip”T.I.” Harris, Tamika Mallory, Mysonne, Ben Crump, Drumma Boy, Shabazz the OG, Dr. Frank Smith, Ms. Opal Lee, Linda Sarsour, Bridgett Floyd, Lonita Baker, Angela Williams, and Mothers of the Movement: Kadiatou Diallo, Thelma Pannell-Dantzler, Sybrina Fulton, Wanda Johnson, Maria Hamilton, Gwenn Carr, and Tamika Palmer.
“Our resilience as Black people in America after centuries of oppression is nothing short of remarkable,” says activist Tamika Mallory. “We need to continue to archive our brilliance, our power and yes, even our pain, and REVOLT TV is the platform for our full stories.”
“We are honored that REVOLT saw that this is a critical moment in African American and civil rights history, and with T.I. leading the charge, this should be shown to the world,” says Steve Raze and Mac Mills, executive producers and CEOs of AGA Agency.
“After months of mass protests in the streets demanding social justice – and now a presidential election just weeks away – it’s obvious that we’re at a historic crossroads where systemic change is not only possible, but critically necessary,” says Detavio Samuels, Chief Operating Office at REVOLT. “From Pain to Power not only documents this moment in time, but charts our next steps forward. We couldn’t be any prouder to premiere this program on REVOLT.”
Watch the trailer above.
The Story Behind Today’s Google Doodle Honoree and Founder of Notting Hill Carnival, Claudia Jones (Watch)
*Claudia Jones, feminist, anti-racism campaigner, and the founder of the popular Notting Hill Carnival in London, is being honored as today’s Google Doodle in the UK.
On this day in 2008, Jones was honored with a Great British Stamp in the “Women of Distinction” series to commemorate her lifetime of pioneering activism. A multitalented individual, Jones was not pigeonholed by one title or profession. She proved to be a voice for the Black community across the globe.
Read and watch videos celebrating her story below:
Claudia Jones was born Claudia Vera Cumberbatch on February 21, 1915, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. At 8 years old, she and her family emigrated to Harlem in New York City. A passionate writer, Jones contributed to and led a variety of Communist publications as a young adult, and she spent much of her adulthood as an active member of the Communist Party USA.
A champion for civil rights, gender equality, and decolonization, Claudia Jones focused much of her work on the liberation of Black women across the globe from the racism, classism, and sexism they faced (and still face) every day.
As an activist, Jones was imprisoned on multiple occasions. This eventually led to her deportation to the United Kingdom in 1955. However, undeterred, she continued to work tirelessly with the West Indian community in London. This led to the creation of the annual Notting Hill Carnival, which celebrates the shared history of the Caribbean community within London and the UK.
Today, when hitting the main Search page in the United Kingdom, visitors will see today’s Google Doodle featuring Claudia Jones which that highlights her in the UK and across the globe.
Dr. Gretchen Sorin Talks Driving While Black and Her PBS Special on SiriusXM’s ‘Auto Trends’
In an exclusive two-part conversation with Auto Trends with JeffCars.com, curator, documentarian, professor and author Dr. Gretchen Sorin literally take us on a historical road trip, exploring the popular acronym DWB beyond the lens of racial profiling. In her new book, Driving While Black, the effervescent Sorin shares how the car, which has served as the ultimate symbol of independence and possibility, played different roles for both the Black and White community.
We begin our talk during the period of 1930, which was also known as the Jim Crow Era, discussing everything from W. E. B. Dubose to Booker T. Washington to Albert Einstein to the cars that played a prominent role with Black vacationers, business travelers, entertainers, sports figures and Civil Rights activists. We also dissect the history behind the infamous Green Book travel guides, sharing a number of revealing findings.
And we conclude our conversation, delving into how Dr. Sorin partnered with filmmaker Ric Burns, who is the younger brother to documentarian Ken Burns, to turn her book, which has been a labor of love for over two decades, into an upcoming must-see PBS documentary.
To Tune In via SiriusXM and/or several of our free FM online outlets, click here.
Show One Airs – Saturday, October 3 – Wednesday, October 7
Show Two Airs – Saturday, October 10 – Wednesday, October 14
And for more information on the upcoming PBS Special, click here.
About Auto Trends with JeffCars.com
Jeff Fortson is the host and executive producer of Auto Trends with JeffCars.com, the only multicultural syndicated automotive program airing throughout the U.S. The 30-minute weekly show, which airs on SiriusXM 141 and a number of FM radio dials, includes one-on-one conversations with many of today’s pioneers and influencers.
For upcoming shows, car-buying tips, recall updates or car reviews, visit JeffCars.com.
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