Spirited celebrations, talented artists and musicians, independent women, people of faith, and even a Revolutionary spy. Black History Month at Colonial Williamsburg brings to life the varied and rich stories of both free and enslaved people who lived, loved, and strove to create a better future.
More than half of 18th-century Williamsburg residents were African American. Their stories are woven into our living history year-round, but this month, we highlight these complex stories with even more programs.
As you are guided through the opulent home of Peyton and Elizabeth Randolph, a heart-wrenching narrative unfolds exploring the complicated relationships between gentry women and their enslaved maidservants.
Free reservation required. Space is limited for this program. To book your reservation, please visit a ticket office or call our Guest Services at (888) 965-7254.
The distinguished patriarch, Peyton Randolph, lived in one of the most prominent homes in Virginia. Take a tour of the Randolph House and discover how the free and enslaved members of the household struggle with their own conflicting desires for freedom.
The Royal Governor of Virginia wielded great influence over the colony, and to ensure success in the New World they often called upon free and enslaved African-Americans for help - both at the Palace and on missions throughout the colony of Virginia. Hear these important stories and learn about the contributions of free and enslaved African-Americans during your visit to the Palace.
Caesar Hope was a celebrated figure in the city who, as their barber, gained a unique perspective on the most notable gentlemen of the time. Stop in to his shop and meet this iconic figure as he shares his incredible life's story with you.
Discover the history and explore the accomplishments of African-Americans in the 18th through 20th centuries. This guided gallery tour showcases a variety of folk and decorative arts they created, as well as the art that depicted their lives.
On your visit to the Capitol, discover how enslaved African Americans fought to obtain their freedom by petitioning the Virginia courts and legislature. Learn also how slave code affected African Americans, both enslaved and free, and how criminal trials for the enslaved differed from those for free people.
Witness a compelling moment in the life of an 18th century person. Then join the discussion as the actor interpreter shares how they brought the character to life.
Once music is heard, it is set free, free to travel to anyone and any place. The influences of music in the early American soundscape stretched across the streets of Williamsburg to the plantations of surrounding Virginia. Embark on this musical journey from song sheet to the oral tradition of how music was shared between European and African cultures in historic Virginia.
During the 18th century, half of Williamsburg’s population was black. Learn more about the daily life and culture of African Virginians.Get Started
Throughout 2019 the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation commemorates 40 years of African-American historical interpretation, inviting guests and the community to experience spotlighted programming, a series of community conversations on the past, present and future of the Foundation’s work, and a special exhibition in remembrance of the African-American men and women of Williamsburg who helped forge the nation.Find Out More
During the American Revolution, there were a few free Blacks living in and around Williamsburg. Meet Ms. Edith, a free black woman with five brothers fighting in the American Revolution. Discover how free Black Virginians lived in the city that provided challenges to them.
Over a game of chess Thomas Jefferson and his manservant, Jupiter, challenge and amuse each other. Are all men created equal? In this depiction of a private moment in the life of a very public figure, chess becomes a metaphor for the power dynamics present in the master/slave relationship.
Journey with Ann Wager, a lifelong teacher in Colonial Virginia, as she experiences what it takes to run the Williamsburg Bray School — the first official Virginia school for African Americans. Uncover how running this school changes — or doesn’t change — Ann’s understanding of slavery, education, and religion in Colonial Virginia.
Slaves and masters have always been at odds in Colonial Virginia. However, in the case of Jane Vobe and Gowan, it is more complicated. As the wealthy owner of the King’s Arms Tavern, Mrs. Vobe has a high reputation, manages properties, and educates her enslaved workers. Gowan, her right-hand man, has become a devoted follower of the Baptist faith and the message that all are equal in the eyes of God. Although Mrs. Vobe gives some liberties in Gowan’s enslavement, society demands that they fit into the normal hierarchy of slave and master. When Gowan makes a radical request, both of their lives could be at stake. Meet Jane Vobe and Gowan in 1772 as they look for meaning in their roles in the changing social climate in Colonial Virginia.
The building of the home at Turkey Island as Ryland Randolph envisioned it was a considerable undertaking. Wood, stone, brick, glass, and slate all bent, modeled and cut to create the perfect country estate for a wealthy man with impeccable taste. Its creation affected all who called the plantation home, but as it took shape an enslaved woman Aggy was growing into a new creation as well. Mind, body, and soul, forged in bondage but created for liberty. Join Aggy as she asks the question, “What does it take to build a home?”
James Armistead Lafayette served as an enslaved spy for the Marquis de Lafayette during the American Revolution. Take a front row seat to their reunion when the Marquis returns to America 40 years later and sits down with James. Listen in as the two catch up on their lives. How did the revolution that brought them together affect the next four decades of their lives? What have they both had to endured?