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April 13, 2007

CW's Equiano Lecture Series explores the abolition of the slave trade

To commemorate the 200-year anniversary of the 1807 abolition of the slave trade act passed by British Parliament, Colonial Williamsburg’s Equiano Lecture Series will present a two-day symposium titled “Unifying the Divine and Secular: The Role of Theology and the Law in the Abolish of the Slave Trade.” The symposium will be held April 27-28 at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

This event will investigate the moral and legal arguments that shaped pro- and anti-slavery attitudes during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Symposium presenters will consider the thoughts, actions and opinions of historical figures like Thomas Jefferson, Olaudah Equiano and William Wilberforce.

The symposium will feature several distinguished scholars, including Vincent Carretta, Kahlil G. Chism, Reginald Davis, Morris Henderson, Andrew Levy, Eric Metaxas and James Walvin (scholar biographies attached).

The symposium also will feature various living history presentations performed throughout the Historic Area. Gowan Pamphlet, a locally known 18th-century African American Baptist preacher who is portrayed by Colonial Williamsburg interpreter James Ingram, will deliver an anti-slavery sermon. The Rev. William Graham, an 18th-century Presbyterian minister and first rector and president of Liberty Academy, now Washington & Lee University, portrayed by Colonial Williamsburg interpreter Jack Flintom, will deliver a pro-slavery sermon. Olaudah Equiano, portrayed by Colonial Williamsburg interpreter Richard Josey, will share stories of his enslavement in America. Robert Carter III, portrayed by Colonial Williamsburg interpreter Gerry Underdown, will reveal how his faith led to his decision to free his slaves. Thomas Jefferson, portrayed by Colonial Williamsburg interpreter Bill Barker, will discuss the grave implications that might arise as a result of abolishing slavery in the United States.

The cost to attend the symposium is $30. Registration includes a weekend admission ticket to all Colonial Williamsburg exhibition sites, continental breakfast for two days, lunch on Friday at a historic tavern and a commemorative poster. Pre-registration is recommended and can be made at

The Equiano Lecture Series Symposium is funded in part by a generous grant from the Norfolk Southern Corporation and the Charles E. Culpeper Endowments in Arts and Culture of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Additional support for African American programming comes from Douglas N. Morton and Marilyn L. Brown, and Mr. and Mrs. Richard D. Parsons.

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture — stories of our journey to become Americans. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. Williamsburg is located 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information or reservations, call toll-free 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg on the Internet at

Background on Speakers:

  • Vincent Carretta is professor of English at the University of Maryland, specializing in 18th-century transatlantic English-speaking authors of African descent. His recent fellowships include a W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research Fellowship at Harvard University 2004-2005 and a School of Historical Studies Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton University, 2003-2004. His latest book “Olaudah Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man” was chosen co-winner of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies 2004-06 Annibel Jenkins Prize for best biography of the year. It also was selected in 2006 as one of “The Best of the Best of the University Presses: Books You Should Know About” by the Association of American University Presses (2006).

  • Kahlil G. Chism has taught American studies, U.S. history, U.S. government, English, writing and introduction to classroom computer technology at both the secondary and post-secondary levels. He received his bachelor’s degree in history and his master’s degree in secondary education and social studies, both from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va. As an education specialist at the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., Chism coordinates and presents workshops and videoconferences to a national audience of students, teachers and administrators, kindergarten through undergraduate college studies. His work focuses on the critical analysis and effective use of primary source materials in the nation’s classrooms to promote civics and social studies education.

  • Reginald F. Davis is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Va., one of the oldest African American Baptist churches in America. Davis holds a master’s of divinity degree from Colgate Rochester Divinity School and a doctorate in humanities, with a concentration in African American Studies from Florida State University. He has served as the Dean of Students at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill. Davis also has served on the faculties of Barry University and Florida A&M University. He is the author of the groundbreaking work “Frederick Douglass: Precursor of Liberation Theology” (Mercer University Press 2005).

  • Morris Henderson is a professor of African American and religious studies, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Va. Henderson received his bachelor’s degree in music education from Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss. He holds a master’s degree from Virginia Union University School of Theology in Richmond, Va., and a doctorate of ministry degree from Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, D.C. He is a former instructor of religious studies at the Governor’s School in Richmond, Va. He also has served as an adjunct professor of religion, Mississippi University for Women, Columbus, Miss. Henderson has served as executive director of the Williams Institute of Technology and Humanities Inc. Columbus, Miss., and executive director of the Golden Triangle Regional Housing Corp., Columbus, Miss. He continues to serve as executive director of the Center Advancing Self Help.

  • Andrew Levy holds the distinguished Cooper Chair in English at Butler University and is author of the prize-winning work “The First Emancipator.” A native of New Jersey, Levy is a graduate of Brown University with degrees in mathematics and English. He received a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars and a doctorate in English from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2001, Levy published “The Anti-Jefferson,” an essay celebrating the forgotten emancipator Robert Carter III. “The Anti-Jefferson” was included in Best American Essays 2002, was named best essay by a younger writer in the American Scholar for that year and was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered. Levy’s work, “The First Emancipator” (Random House; paperback, Jan. 2007), is a biography of Robert Carter III. It was described as “an absorbing portrait” on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, reviewed prominently in newspapers and scholarly journals, and supported by television, radio and university lecture appearances nationwide.

  • Eric Metaxas is the author of the acclaimed best-seller “Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery,” the "official companion book" to the feature film. He is a graduate of Yale University, where he was editor of the nation’s “oldest college humor magazine" and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, First Things and other publications. He also is the author of “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (but were afraid to ask)” (WaterBrook Press, 2005). A sequel “Everything ELSE You Always Wanted to Know About God” will be released on May 15 (WaterBrook Press 2007). Metaxas has done voice-overs and written scripts and books for “VeggieTales” and is the author of 30 children’s books. His Rabbit Ears videos and books have earned him three Grammy nominations for Best Children’s Recording.

  • James Walvin is professor emeritus at the University of York, United Kingdom, and currently is historical curator for the British Parliament's exhibition “The British Slave Trade: Abolition, Parliament and the People” to be held in Westminster Hall May 23–Sept. 23. Walvin has held visiting positions in the Caribbean, the United States and Australia. He has published widely on the history of slavery and the slave trade. During the 2007 commemorative year of the British Abolition of the African Slave Trade, Walvin will release two new works--“A Short History of Slavery” (Penguin, March 2007) and “The Trader, The Owner, The Slave” (Cape, March 2007).

    Media Contact:
    Penna Rogers
    (757) 220-7121

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