Contributions: African Americans in the Shenandoah

Join us for the opening day of the new exhibition, African Americans in the Shenandoah.

African Americans have contributed to the shaping of the Shenandoah Valley for more than 300 years and their influence can be found throughout the MSV Collection. With art, objects, and documents, Contributions tells the stories of those who endured enslavement, resisted oppression, and achieved success. More than 40 significant African Americans in the northern Shenandoah Valley’s history—from the 1700s to today—are highlighted in the exhibition. On view through January 16, 2023, Contributions will be updated with new discoveries, ongoing research, and community collaborations.

This exhibition is made possible by the extraordinary support of the MSV Compass Society.

Lunch and Learn: Civil Rights in Virginia

Learn about the Civil Rights Movement and school desegregation in Winchester with historian Judy Humbert. An author, Humbert is a 1965 graduate of Douglas School, Winchester’s African American high school during the days of segregation. Bring your lunch and spend an hour with an expert!

MSV members: $5; all others: $12 (includes admission, beverages & cookies). Pre-register by February 19; register online or call 540-662-1473, ext. 240. Walk-ins welcome as space permits.

Photo: Douglas High School students, 1965–1966, Judy Humbert Collection, Stewart Bell Jr. Archives, Handley Regional Library, Winchester, VA.

Black History Month Gospel Concert

Celebrate Black History Month with gospels, spirituals, and protest songs from the American Civil Rights Movement performed by Shenandoah University’s Harambee Gospel Choir and interpreted by Dr. James Coates.

Harambee Gospel Choir is a group of talented students, faculty and staff brought together by a love of gospel music. We strive to enlighten the spiritual growth amongst students as well as encourage diversity because all are welcome. Harambee is a family and we try to create a fun and creative atmosphere through song.

Dr. James Coates, Jr. is a retired college professor. He completed his graduate degrees at the University of Maryland College Park. His work focuses on teaching, cultural studies and sport, leisure and recreation in the African American Community. Coates has lectures, consulted, presented, and published articles and essays on sport, education, and African American history.

Free. Registration requested by February 8; register online or call 540-662-1473, ext. 240. Walk-ins welcome as space permits. Snow Date: February 23.

Black History Month Movies

The Youth Development Center celebrates Black History Month with two incredible movies about true heroes in American history.

February 8th – the film SELMA (PG-13) at 5:00pm featuring a talk back will be led by Judy Humbert after the movie.

February 15th – the film HARRIET (PG-13) at 5:00pm featuring a Q&A led by LaTasha Do’zia

Tickets are FREE. Concessions are available.

An African American History of Stephens City

In cooperation with the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society, the Newtown History Center will be offering a lecture presentation on the history of the African Americans in our community.

We will hold this event in the Parish Hall of Trinity Lutheran Church in Stephens City (double doors off of main part of parking lot).

Admission is free.

Honoring the Legacies of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King

Robin Packard, Minister Barbara Davis, Gwen Walker and Vice Mayor John Hill honor the two drum majors of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, by looking at these lives that helped to shape and change the lives of so many people, not only in the United States, but around the world.

Refreshments will be served after the program.

History at Sunset

Life in the Borderland: The Limits and Possibilities of Freedom for Enslaved and Free Blacks
What did Shenandoah Valley enslaved have to do to earn their freedom? How did free blacks in the area circumnavigate laws which required them to leave the state within a year of acquiring their freedom? Why did some choose to stay in a land where Virginia laws and social codes created racial restrictions that severely limited their freedoms, while others chose to find new lives in an unknown land? These are some of the questions that will be explored during this special History at Sunset program.

This will be the final presentation during our special event – Inalienable Rights: Free & Enslaved Blacks Crafting A Life In The Shenandoah Valley. Meet at Belle Grove (336 Belle Grove Road, Middletown, VA 22645).

African American History Program and Bell Ringing

To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the landing of the first Africans in English-occupied North America (representing the beginning of 246 years of slavery in the United States), the National Park Service is inviting organizations and communities nation-wide to ring bells at 3:00 pm EDT on August 25, 2019, as part of a day of healing and reconciliation. Bells will be ringing throughout the Shenandoah Valley including a special program at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park.

In 2019 and 2020, the National Park Service is commemorating a significant moment in American history; the landing of the first enslaved Africans in English-occupied North America in August 1619 at Virginia’s Point Comfort, now part of For Monroe National Monument. This symbolic gesture will enable Americans from all walks of life to participate in this historic moment from wherever they are–to capture the spirit of healing and reconciliation while honoring the significance of 400 years of African American history and culture.

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park and its partners will commemorate this special moment in history with a special ranger program at 2:30 p.m. “Kneading in Silence: A Glimpse into the Life of Judah, the Enslaved Cook.” This will immediately be followed by the bell ringing ceremony at 3:00 p.m. Bells will be rung nation-wide for four minutes—one minute for each 100 years—to honor the first Africans who landed in 1619 at Point Comfort, Virginia and the hardship and contributions of African Americans over the last 400 years.

This event is free and open to the public. Visitors interested in participating are encouraged to bring their own bells.

Please join the nation in ringing bells precisely at 3:00 pm EDT for four minutes (each minute symbolic of 100 years).

Talk on the Archaeology at Belle Grove Enslaved Quarter Site

Matthew Greer, a PhD candidate at Syracuse University will conduct a free talk about his archaeological research in the area where the enslaved men, women, and children owned by the Hite family at Belle Grove lived and worked. Since 2015, Mr. Greer has conducted archaeology of the 1.5-acre site located across Belle Grove Road from the main visitor parking lot. He has confirmed it was inhabited between about 1800 and 1850, that it likely was the home of many of the enslaved at Belle Grove, and that the site included a livestock barn and farm equipment shed. To date, more than 44,000 artifacts have been recovered at this site. The artifacts provide information on how the homes were constructed, how they were situated on the landscape, and what daily life was like for the enslaved at Belle Grove.

This program will follow a free Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park Ranger Program about Judah, one of the enslaved cooks at Belle Grove. Read more here:

Rebecca and Thomas: A Civil War Spy Tale

In observation of Juneteenth (June 19), celebrating freedom and commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S., hear the story of Rebecca Wright (1838 – 1914) and Thomas Laws (1817 – 1896) as told through this one-act play performed as a reading. Wright, a local teacher and Unionist, and Laws, an enslaved man from Millwood, Virginia, relayed intelligence about Confederate troop movements in and around Winchester, ultimately leading to General Philip Sheridan’s decisionto attack. The play was written by Winchester resident and former teacher Sharon Dixon.

Admission to this event is FREE and registration is not required.