Alvarez’s Preliminary Research Ideas

While brainstorming possible topics to pursue for my project, I have found that I keep coming back to two general ideas: race and religion. I have had the opportunity to study both pretty broadly and on a national and international scale through my American Studies major. I have found a passion for these topics through my coursework, and find myself continually taking classes related to these topics. What excites me about the potential of running with one of the two ideas is that I will have the opportunity to engage with what I have learned on a much more personal scale, and in a place that has been relevant and accessible to me; I will have the chance to bring these ideas to life. What I was finding to be an obstacle, though, was how to exactly tie in my ideas with the theme of “places: lost, found, and remembered”.

After some surface level research, I stumbled upon the First Baptist Church that is located on Scotland Street here in Williamsburg. This church is a predominantly African American Baptist church with quite a long history in this city, and ties together both religion and race. This church was originally founded in the 1700’s by the free and enslaved blacks who no longer wished to worship God amongst their slave owners at Bruton Parish. It was first housed in the Carriage House of Robert F. Coles on Nassau Street in 1776. In 1856, a new African Baptist Church was erected across from the Carriage house, where it stayed until 1956 when it moved to its present location of Scotland Street.

I would want to locate the sites of the previous locations to examine their current state and see if they have been kept and memorialized. I would then visit the current location of the church, which could happen preliminarily through church tours that are offered. I think visiting Bruton Parish would add an interesting perspective to the project, and seeing the racial relations from the opposite lens.

When I was thinking of this project prior to coming to the first class, I considered stepping outside of the immediate Williamsburg area and examining race and education out in Farmville, Virginia, a location that I have studied much about. I had the opportunity in another class to interview the previous principal of the Prince Edward High School, which had been shut down for 6 years in attempts to resist integration. Unfortunately, I only had the opportunity to conduct a short, over the phone interview, and would have loved the opportunity to reconnect with him and those whom he shared in these experiences with. The Moton Museum, which was previously the high school, memorializes this time and tries to educate others on inequality and discrimination in public education. There is a William and Mary alumni who currently works with the museum and on their outreach program, which would have been another potential interview contact.

1 Response to “Alvarez’s Preliminary Research Ideas”

  1. 1 mal2013 February 2, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    The First Baptist Church is getting a lot of WDP love! Two projects on the same “place” in the same year might mean we’ll be missing an opportunity to explore another Williamsburg place that has received less attention. However, I like the idea of researching the earlier locations of the African American Baptist church. Perhaps we could have a collaborative project examining the long term history of First Baptist and how its early history influences the current’s congregation’s perceptions of their community?

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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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