September 9, 2004
CW's Brothers-in-Arms Weekend October 8-10 delves into slavery, freedom and the American Revolution
Join Colonial Williamsburg during Columbus Day Weekend, Oct. 8-10, as it presents the story of African-Americans in the American Revolution during the 8th annual Brothers-In-Arms Weekend. Guests explore the compelling stories of thousands of free and enslaved African-Americans who were active participants in the War for Independence as soldiers, sailors, camp followers, pioneers, spies and laborers.
Brothers-In-Arms underscores the importance of self-determination as free and enslaved men and women transformed their personal lives and the future of their nation. Their hunger for freedom became the foundation for future struggles for freedom and equality in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
The weekend events begin at 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8 with “Revolutionary Promise: Our Struggle to Be Both Free and Equal” in the Hennage Auditorium of the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Several “people from the past” – an African-American soldier, a Founding Father and military officers – share their conflicting perspectives on the troubling issue of slavery, freedom and the American Revolution.
The events continue Saturday, Oct. 9 when the experienced and battle-tested reenactment soldiers of the American Continental Army and the Rhode Island Regiment take to the field in an encampment on the grounds of Bassett Hall, the original Williamsburg home of Colonial Williamsburg benefactor John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. The Rhode Island Regiment represented one of the many “speckled troops” (integrated) of the American Revolution. Through vignettes and interactions with the soldiers and officers, guests discover the experiences and stories of this diverse group of men of African, American Indian and European descent that fought side-by-side as they prepared for the siege of Yorktown in the fall of 1781.
The weekend concludes Sunday, Oct. 10 as the encampment represents a regiment of former slaves who joined the British Army, Lord Dunmore’s Royal Ethiopian Regiment. In 1775 Virginia Gov. Dunmore’s Proclamation offered freedom to slaves of rebel masters. Hundreds of enslaved men, women and children flocked to Norfolk to join the British. This is the story of slaves who became soldiers and women who carried their families to freedom in the British encampment. Through vignettes and interactions with soldiers, officers and camp followers, guests learn what happened to the thousands of African-Americans during and after the War of Independence.
Throughout Colonial Williamsburg’s Brothers-In-Arms Weekend guests experience encampment activities such as cooking, military life, drills and firing demonstrations. They are invited to participate in mock military marching drills while learning about soldiers’ camp life. A military miniature display will illustrate the battles in which each regiment fought. Guests are encouraged to experience the encampment while interacting with the soldiers, officers and camp followers and learn about the difficult decisions, sacrifices and aspirations of the thousands of slaves and free blacks during the American Revolutionary era.
The Norfolk Southern Foundation has provided generous funding to support African-American programming at Colonial Williamsburg.
Lorraine C. Brooks