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April 1, 2011

Colonial Williamsburg’s Religion Month Scholarly Lecture Series Examines Issues Surrounding Worship

Colonial Williamsburg’s 2011 Religion Month Scholarly Lecture Series features topics ranging from 18th-century church music to the question of religion and slavery. These one-hour programs will be held throughout April in the Hennage Auditorium of the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Art Museum.

Programs include:

  • Proposing an American Musical Independence: The Tunesmiths and Sacred Music in 18th-century New England. Sterling Murray, professor emeritus of music history, School of Music, West Chester University, speaks about 18th-century church music. Discover what makes this repertory distinctive and when and how it related to the move toward independence in America. 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 6.
  • Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? John Fea, associate professor of American history, Messiah College and author of “The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America” and “Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?” explores the debate over religion and the founding. This lecture approaches the question from a historical perspective to see past the emotional rhetoric of today and to the recorded facts of the past. A book signing follows at the Museum Store. 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 13.
  • “Rummaging in Rushworth”: What Roundheads and Cavaliers Meant to Patriots and Loyalists. Gary Sandling, vice president of programs and services at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, explores how Revolutionary patriots and loyalists looked back on the political and religious divide of 17th-century England. 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 20.
  • “Those of our brethren who are in bondage”: Black Evangelicals and the Problem of Slavery. Charles Irons, associate professor of history at Elon University and the author of “The Origins of Proslavery Christianity: White and Black Evangelicals in Colonial and Antebellum Virginia,” discusses how the thousands of black Virginians joined the Commonwealth’s evangelical churches in the late colonial and early national periods and forced their white co-religionists to ask new question about the morality of slaveholding. A book signing follows at the museum store. 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 27.

    A Colonial Williamsburg admission pass gains entry into these programs. For more information, call 1-800-HISTORY.

    Religion Month programs are made possible with the generous support of the Kern Family Foundation, Waukesha, Wis.

    Programs and exhibitions at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum are supported by the DeWitt Wallace Endowment Fund.

    Equiano Forum on Early African American History and Culture Examines the Question of Providing Religious Instruction to Slaves

    In addition to the 2011 Religion Month Scholarly Lecture Series, the Equiano Forum on Early African American History and Culture presents “…Pretends to be Religious”: African American Literacy and Religion in Colonial America.” The programs, offered at 11:30 a.m. Thursdays, April 7, 14 and 21 at the Wallace Museum, examine the conflicts of offering religious instruction and literacy to free and enslaved African Americans in Williamsburg. Historians provide the background and actor/interpreters portray three religious educators of the time.

    In colonial Virginia, the Church of England’s obligation to provide religious instruction to slaves clashed with slave owners’ concerns about slaves learning to read and write. Slave owners feared that religion would embolden the slaves and literacy would make them discontent with their condition. Listen as the Rev. John Camm supports educating slaves and addresses the fears of slave owners.

    From 1760-774, the Bray Associates established the Bray School in Williamsburg. Anne Wager, mistress of the Bray School, shares her experiences of providing religious instruction and literacy to free and enslaved African American children.

    While some African Americans sought Christian instruction through the Church of England, others followed dissenters such as Gowan Pamphlet, a popular Baptist preacher. Gowan Pamphlet shares his efforts to gain official recognition of the First Baptist Church in Williamsburg.

    A Colonial Williamsburg admission pass gains entry into these programs. For more information, call 1-800-HISTORY.

    The Equiano Forum on Early African American History and Culture provides historic and contemporary discourse to broaden public knowledge about African and African American history and culture in Virginia and the Atlantic World.

    Colonial Williamsburg’s African American programming has been made possible by the generous support of Mr. and Mrs. Richard D. Parsons, and Douglas N. Morton and Marilyn L. Brown.

    The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and presentation of the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. This town-sized living history museum tells the inspirational stories of our journey to become Americans through programs in the Historic Area and through the award-winning Revolutionary City program. Explore The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg and discover the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum featuring the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670 – 1830 and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, comprising more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Colonial Williamsburg is committed to expanding its thought-provoking programming through education outreach on-site and online. Purchase of Colonial Williamsburg products and services supports the preservation, research and educational programs of the Foundation. Philanthropic support by individuals, corporations, and foundations benefits the educational mission of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

    Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

    Media Contact:
    Penna Rogers
    (757) 220-7121

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