Quick Summary of Reading – Rowe & Ellis

The written works by Rowe and Ellis discuss the history of African Americans in the Williamsburg area. In reading these works, I was surprised to learn of the African American presence here during the latter half of the nineteenth century. According to Rowe, “During the reconstructions, more than sixty percent of registered voters in Williamsburg and James City and York counties were African American…In 1860, blacks outnumbered whites in Williamsburg (864 to 742)…[and] among the 864 were 121 free blacks.” However, this is not to say that African Americans did not face discrimination. Until the desegregation of Williamsburg schools in 1968, black students were educated in separate buildings from whites. The educational institutions established for African Americans were anything but equal to that of white students, as these institutions received considerably less funding. (It is important to remember that before the Virginia Public School System was created, black churches were in charge of education for African Americans). Black citizens faced discriminatory practices in other areas as well, including employment and recreation. In response to this, Rowe tells us that in “March 1941, the State Defense Council of Virginia, chaired by Dr. Douglas S. Freeman, called upon defense contractors, trade unions, and employers not to make a mockery of democracy by refusing to hire African American workers.” And, Ellis points out that “churches, social organizations, clubs, and many bars and restaurants, while open to all, are still essentially separate racially [today] – a reality that does not seem to be a major concern to either community.” Residential neighborhoods also remain racially separated in Williamsburg. During the Colonial Williamsburg project, black and white families were displaced to make room for the reconstruction. As a result, African American families resettled in areas on the outskirts of town including such areas as Centerville and Grove. These racial divides can still be traced on a map of Williamsburg today.

1 Response to “Quick Summary of Reading – Rowe & Ellis”

  1. 1 sgglos February 5, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Having read about local history (Kammen), did these chapters meet your expectations?

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The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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