One of the great things about the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area is that it’s dense with history, both current and old. Any local homeschooling parent can tell you how enriched their child’s learning is because they travel to the living classroom to see historically relevant sites, not just read about them. This month, as we celebrate African American history month, there are several opportunities to bring the classroom to life for your child (and yourself), to learn about the contribution and struggles of early African Americans in the area.
Take a trip to Prince William and Manassas, Virginia. Rich in African American history, these Virginia communities have preserved the homes, stories and heritage of a population that played a crucial role in shaping America. Below are just some of the special events that will captivate visitors as they get a glimpse at African American life both before and after the Civil War.
Discover what school was like for African American children at Lucasville, which is the only restored, interpreted one-room African American schoolhouse in Northern Virginia. This interactive museum will be open every weekend in February.
Get a rare glimpse inside Liberia Plantation and the lives of the 80 slaves who worked at this 1825 home. Liberia, which was one of the largest and most successful plantations in Prince William, will be open for special tours on February 16th at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The plantation also served as the headquarters for both Union and Confederate officers during the Civil War and was visited by President Lincoln. Tickets are $15 and must be purchased in advance.
Step inside one of the only public slave quarters in Northern Virginia and experience slave life Feb. 16 at Ben Lomond Historic Site. Join costumed historians as they recreate life on a plantation and participate in hands-on demonstrations between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets are $5 a person.
Or, plan a trip of your own to one of the other sites rich in African American history. Some other must-see destinations include Prince William Forest Park, which was home to one of the few freed black communities prior to the Civil War, and Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre, where 12 enslaved people were executed. Agnes, one of those killed, allegedly still haunts the Centre’s jail.
“Lest We Forget: A Conference on Enslavement and Emancipation”, will take place February 21-23 at Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge, VA. This inaugural event, hosted by Prince William’s Historic Preservation Division, will explore the cultural and historical legacies of the antebellum period through dramatic plays, keynote addresses, forums and roundtable discussions.
This one-of-a-kind event lets visitors create their own experience and select from numerous sessions that cover everything from secession and the Civil War in Virginia to African American cemeteries and mortuary practices and the Underground Railroad. Or, listen to Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman as they chronicle their lives through dramatic plays. Speakers will come from several noted institutions, including the Maryland and Virginia historical societies, George Mason and George Washington universities, and the National Park Service.
The conference will conclude with two, day-long bus tours to significant African American sites in Prince William/Manassas and Washington, D.C., The tours, which cost $70 and $100 respectively, include lunch.
Some of the stops on the Prince William tour include Rippon Lodge, which is part of the National Park Service Underground Network to Freedom and the Jennie Dean School memorial. The school was founded by a former enslaved woman and was one of the only sources of higher education for African Americans in Northern Virginia. The D.C. tour will include Ford’s Theatre and the African American Memorial Freedom Foundation and Civil War Museum.
To register for the conference and for a complete listing of events, visit manassasbullrun.com or visitpwc.com. Know about any other living classroom events for African American history month in the area? Let us know.