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LOCAL News :: Historical Reclamation

Community forum: flight as resistance to slavery

WHAT: Forum on “Flight as Resistance to Slavery?
WHEN 10am - noon August 27, 2005
WHERE Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) on Sophia Street in downtown Fredericksburg
In Downtown Fredericksburg later this month, an ad hoc group of organizations and individuals will present a forum on “Flight as Resistance to Slavery? in the Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania area. The forum is the latest in a series of events focused on “slavery, resistance, and freedom? designed to spark a more broad community conversation about slavery.

“During the Antebellum period approximately half the population of Virginia was enslaved,? said James Spady, an organizer of the event. Many enslaved people chose to flee their masters rather than remain in bondage, which historians have come to understand was itself a form of resistance to slavery. “Local slaves ran for their freedom during the 1700s and 1800s,? Spady said, adding that “ads seeking their capture appeared in the local Fredericksburg newspapers.? “Many thousands of escaped slaves came through here on their way to freedom in the brief four-year stretch of the Civil War,? Spady said

In addition to discussing how local enslaved people fled for freedom, the forum will focus on identifying relevant sites in the area for preservation as well as new opportunities for commemoration.

Paula Royster, President and CEO of the Center for African American Genealogical Research, a local non-profit, believes the forum could help change historical representation in the area.

“We wanted to sponsor this event to present to the community a more balanced and accurate representation of local history,? Royster said.

“Most locals are aware of the historical significance of Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) in the African American community? but this event may help them see that significance in a new way, Royster said.

Jenny Masur, one of three speakers, works for the National Park Service (NPS). Masur directs the NPS “Network to Freedom Project? commemorating significant places closely associated with but not necessarily part of the Underground Railroad. Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) may qualify to become part of that program, as may other area churches.

Other speakers include James Spady, a lecturer in American History at Mary Washington, and Eli Tubman, a descendant of the Under Ground Rail Road conductor Harriet Tubman.

“Eli's participation as a historian, educator, and descendant of Harriet Tubman,? Royster said, is “especially germane to the overall goals and objectives of the forum. We are happy to participate in this latest of many community events planned for the future"

There will be ample time allowed for people in the audience to make announcements, statements, or ask questions. “We hope people will come out prepared to educate one another,? Spady said.

The first of these forums, held in March at the University of Mary Washington, launched a community discussion board for Mary Washington students and local people.

The event is sponsored by Old Site Shiloh Baptist Church, the Moncure Conway House Foundation, and the Center for African American Genealogical Research. Co-sponsors include the James Farmer Multicultural Center at the University of Mary Washington and the Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania National Military Park.


James Spady
History and American Studies Department
The University of Mary Washington
Phone: 540.371.6208

Paula Royster, President and CEO
Center for African American Genealogical Research
Phone: 540.907.6700

Norm and Lenetta Schools
Moncure Conway House Foundation
305 King Street, Falmouth
Phone: 540.368.0464

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