LOCAL BLACK HISTORY
The Village Initiative has undertaken several initiatives, programs, and events that amplify the voices of our community and raise awareness of Williamsburg-James City County's Black history.
LOCAL BLACK HISTORIES PROJECT
Since 2019, The Village Initiative has gathered the stories of community members in an effort to educate the public and the students of WJCC
The Local Black Histories Project is a project of The Village Initiative in partnership with William & Mary and the Williamsburg-James City County School Division. Together, we are creating resources for K-12 teachers to teach local Black histories in their classrooms. These include performance assessments for elementary, middle, and high school, a collection of oral histories from community members, and an archive of primary documents related to local Black histories.
On August 3, 2019, we launched the Local Black Histories Project by collecting oral histories from community members at Union Baptist Church.
In the spring of 2020, W&M Professors Omiyemi Green and Amy Quark taught a course in which W&M students collected oral histories and archival documents and developed lesson plans for K-12 teachers.
In November of 2021, the Local Black History Project website was launched at a public event that celebrated Williamsburg's Black Descendant community.
We are continuing to work with WJCC schools to monitor and facilitate uptake of Black history curricular materials in the classroom.
INTEGRATION THEN & NOW
The Village Initiative hosted a community forum on September 21, 2019, marking the 50th anniversary of school integration in the WJCC School District.
2019 marked the fiftieth anniversary of integration in WJCC schools. On September 21st, 2019, the Village hosted a community forum to reflect on our community’s experiences of integration. Watch the entire event below.
Our multi-generational set of panelists (Edith "Cookie" Heard, Sylvia Willis, Philip Canady, Janice Canaday, and Xavia Carter) were asked to reflect on the experiences of integration and its continuing implications for future generations.
Our audience included WJCC School Board administrators and staff and local and state-level elected officials. After the event, School Board members made reference to it in discussion of the recruitment and retention of minority teachers.
The event was also covered by Williamsburg-Yorktown Daily.
The schools were integrated by law, but within the schools they were still segregated. [Black students] were looked at as though they were not good enough to be with the Caucasian students. The pain still resonates. There are things you experience that you take with you for the rest of your life.
NATIONAL WALK FOR JUNETEENTH AWARENESS
On August 26, 2019, the Village Initiative hosted hosted Ms. Opal Lee as she came to Williamsburg on August 26 as part of her walk across the country in a campaign to make Juneteenth a National Holiday.
The Village invited Ms. Opal Lee to Williamsburg for a series of events celebrating Juneteenth, including a reading of her children's book for local youth at the Williamsburg Public Library followed by a walk through historic black neighborhoods that culminated at First Baptist Church where Ms. Lee rang the Freedom Bell.
To have Miss Opal is so meaningful, because I look at her as a light, a torch bearer. I am a future torchbearer because they have ran this race for so long, and now we are here to continue to the finish line.
Jacqueline Bridgeforth Williams
Founder of the Village
Village founder Jackie Bridgeforth Williams with Ms. Opal Lee in August, 2019.
Celebrating Community Leaders
The Village is committed to celebrating and honoring local leaders who have committed themselves to equity and empowerment for WJCC's Black and African American community.