Henry Preliminary Research Ideas

When brainstorming preliminary ideas for a topic, I realized that I should focus on a topic that drew me to American Studies, which is the topic of race; however, the first few readings drew me to a family that have strong ties to the College of William and Mary. As a member of the Williamsburg Community, I am lucky to actually to have some interaction with this family, but did not realize their connection to Williamsburg and its history. Unfortunately, I do not think focusing on this family would allow further understanding of Williamsburg since this course will focus on spaces.

Instead, I thought that exploring certain gated communities like Kingsmill would be a better topic. These communities have been in Williamsburg for some years yet, the people who reside there appear to not have changed. Kingsmill was initially Kingsmill Plantation and was owned by Richard Kingsmill. It went through many changes and its greatest change was during reconstruction initiated by the Rockefellers. I am engrossed in the idea of researching these places because I know some students who currently work in these small communities and tell stories of their experiences with the residents. Seemingly, the staff in those gated communities appears to have the same racial structure as the cooking staff at William and Mary. Many of the stories depict how stagnant Williamsburg is compared to other cities.

Another possible topic that interested me was looking at the first African American church in Williamsburg, which is First Baptist Church on Scotland. The church in African American communities has been a place where they could come together and discuss religion but also politics, education, and much more. As a member of Ebony Expressions Gospel Choir, I frequently attended the church and was able to interact with many of the members of First Baptist Church. I found that the current members wanted to build a stronger relationship with the students at the College. I did not know if they sought a stronger relationship because there are more African American students or if there was never a relationship established. I am interested in seeing how the relationship between the college and the church has evolved. This church has proven to have been unscathed by the numerous events that have taken place in Williamsburg similar to the College. Through exploring the relationship between the college and church, there would be a more in depth understanding of the race relations in Williamsburg as well as what this space means to the church members.

1 Response to “Henry Preliminary Research Ideas”

  1. 1 mal2013 February 2, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    I am also fascinated by the phenomenon of gated communities. A colleague recently pointed out that there are actually very few truly “gated” communities in Williamsburg. However, there are several developments whose spatial arrangement suggests that they aspire to the exclusivity of a gated community.

    In thinking about the First Baptist Church’s relationship with the college, I’m wondering about the spatial concepts of “near” and “far.” First Baptist is located geographically very near to the College of William and Mary. And yet, you’re reporting that at least some members of the congregation feel they are very far from building close ties with the student body. Do the barriers that prevent a closer relationship fall into the usual category of “Town and Gown” divides?

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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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