Local Williamsburg history doesn’t just stop with the historic district and Jamestown. Williamsburg is rich with the stories of the families, people, and lives that have inhabited it for the past 400 years. In this article our own Trish Thomas is cited with some very interesting information on a house that was put on the market in Williamsburg.
If you live in Williamsburg Virginia and want to learn about your homes potential history, or the surrounding history of your neighborhood, give us a call! We love to research tidbits of information about our local history.
Williamsburg is a crossroad point of America. It is a physical location that encompasses a historic journey of freedom that memorialized a young Colonial nation breaking away from their dominating origin country. This theme is played out throughout the entire United States, encompassing battlefields, museums, books, personal accounts, and the struggle of many people, especially the African American population.
Understanding American history or African American history will take you on many twists and turns down roads that were forgotten, overlooked, or even just more significant than you may have realized. June is the historical month that the 54th Massachusetts African American Infantry was commissioned and created to fight in the Civil War.
The story was brought into the public forefront more than a century after the war with the movie Glory. It is a great story of the struggle of individuals on a bigger stage against the backdrop of a divided racist nation, battling over the moral and political direction of thousands.
One thing black history in Williamsburg, or the United States can attest to is:
Freedom is not free
There is always a fight. The 54th Massachusetts African American Infantry embodied this both historically and symbolically. As the regiment was populated by many freed slaves as well as led by those whose views were heavily abolitionist, the fight for freedom was an active struggle both
On the battlefields of the Civil War and in the society that would have to accept the African American population as legal citizens and contributors to the society
Taking up the call to fight in a war for your country is one of the purest and most visceral responsibilities of citizenship. The 54th answered the call as harbingers of a people who would become new citizens of a hostile nation. The battlefield for African American citizenship would end victoriously in 1865. The battle for total acceptance into American society had just started…
African American History is a definitely one where you have to approach it is a detective. And not just do you have to investigate untruths but also what I call convenient historical absences. By absences I mean things that just seemed to get forgotten by the history books. African American History suffers heavily from significant contributions that mysteriously do not get publicized in the rich pageant known as American history. I guess that is why a historians work is really never done.
April..Jackie Robinson Breaks The Race Barrier In Sports
Nevertheless sometimes history gets it right with respect to black history in Williamsburg and America. Once such place where the overall public perception is very good would be the Jackie Robinson story. Why I am pulling this story out of the hundreds, if not thousands of potential stories that feature African American historical people and stories. Well, the answer is simple..It is April and this is the month Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.
A Rich Historical Account
That alone is a pretty well known fact. Our National pastime, baseball, and America, would be forever changed by this humble historical figure. Ok, that is totally true. He would become one of the best players ever. That is documented. But his life was so much richer, in achievement and historical significance than really gets relayed in a sound bite or two. But for history sake let us go into some quick detail that really builds the dimension of this black historical sports icon.
So I pulled some facts I didn’t know that I wanted to mention here that may not be as well known. Here we go:
Jackie Robinson was an Officer in the US Army During World War 2. Something of huge notoriety in itself
He was not allowed to serve in combat because he refused to sit in a segregated section of a bus in America
He was rookie of the year his first year of Major League Baseball
His number is retired from ALL of baseball..Not Just a Team. This is a huge honor
He received the Presidential Medal Of Freedom, the highest award an American can receive out of the military
He was a huge figure in fighting for civil rights, even after his retirement from baseball
He struggled with diabetes
He was the first African American Vice President of an American Corporation..Chock Full Of Nuts
Every MLB must wear number 42 on Jackie Robinson day, which honors him
He was the first African American TV Sports Analyst On Television For ABC
And there is a lot more..
I could probably go on for about ten more pages, but I think I have done this article justice. Jackie Robinson strove for excellence and justice in just about everything he did. What an incredible American.
The Williamsburg Walking Tour African American Tour
Our African American Tour Of Williamsburg looks at Black history through the interpretation of historical data. By data a true complete history of what actually happened and not historical marketing. Cutting, pasting, and omitting history to create a new history is not tolerable. Our tour is open and honest about the true African American experience in Williamsburg, Colonial America, and beyond.
42 FACTS ABOUT JACKIE ROBINSON
In-text: (Mentalfloss.com, 2018)
Your Bibliography: Mentalfloss.com. (2018). 42 Facts About Jackie Robinson. [online] Available at: http://mentalfloss.com/article/50059/42-facts-about-jackie-robinson [Accessed 23 Mar. 2018].
Mention going to the Williamsburg Ghost Walk or Ghost walk tour to anyone and you will get a mixed response. On the one hand it seems unnatural to pay to be scared while walking the cobblestone streets of Colonial Williamsburg. On the other hand, we, as a human species WANT TO KNOW. We have a deep need for truth. And I mean all types of truth. Whether that history is monumental, sad, terrifying, or part of the realm of the unexplained, curiosity can overrule fear, at least for a while.
Colonial Williamsburg Ghost Tour
Which brings us back to the ghost tour. Every year hoards of people come to hear about the unexplained paranormal past(and present) of Colonial Williamsburg. It is unexplained history. Emotional history of restless people and events that apparently, due to many accounts, are occurring around you with some interval of frequency.
And they cause you to feel fear
Some ghost stories are so over the top that most people probably dismiss them as not even in the realm of possibility. Some ghost style experiences are more caricature and drama shock like haunted houses and haunted theme parks like Howl O Scream (which is a ton of fun). But these scare you and you move on. REAL ghost stories of Williamsburg Virginia’s Colonial era send a chill down your spine. They make you think and they stay with you long after the tour is over.
Real People, Real Lives
These ghost stories aren’t about fictional Halloween characters like Dracula or shredded zombie Europeans. These are REAL people who had issues and problems just like you and I face. Many are unresolved conflicts and emotions, spilling into our time from centuries ago. This is another type of history, real history…or at least really distressing history.
You won’t see this kind of honesty about historical ghost hauntings in the Peanuts version of history either…
By Peanuts version of history I mean the marked up marketed and elegantly packaged version of history that we read about. You never see Charlie Brown look at Snoopy in traditional television specials turning to Snoopy and asking about apparitions in the night. This is just not good for public relations. This is a world where normal people live normal lives in a normal timeline. They are happy stories and nothing is bizarre or out of place.
So bite the bullet and register for OUR ghost tour
We promise to give you the real stories, no matter how eerie and unsettling they are.
Our Contact Information For Williamsburg Ghost Tours
For years General Washington had a strategy of survival. His mantra was that even if you couldn’t win against the British in open battle, he could choose not to lose. What I mean by this is as long as the British armies could not openly defeat and decimate the Colonial Army, they could continue to fight on and on in a war of attrition. He knew the longer he could prolong the fighting, the greater the chance of victory as the British army would run low on energy, manpower, supplies and just a general will to win. In the end he was right. It did get to that point as he was able to recruit Allies to help the developing nation and overwhelm a weary British force.
September marks that turning point in the paths of the Colonial American colonies and the British Empire. And it was culminated with a brilliant strategic move by General Washington and General Rochambeau of France to trap the British at Yorktown. Wedging them between the Continental Army on the land and the French Armada by sea forced them to surrender as they became overwhelmed by artillery. The battle alone is a huge strategic victory over well trained, well disciplined forces that would govern a huge number of countries in the world all through the 19th century.
But it was something much bigger than that. We had delivered a titanic blow to the British Empire as they began their rise to Colonial Expansion worldwide. They would come to dominate the 19th century, with interests in Africa Asia and even North America.
It would certainly be a blow that the British were not going to forget anytime soon. In fact another war would break out in 1812 as the British actually invaded young America. Naturally, we resisted and were victors in this conflict as well. Truly the saying that freedom isn’t free is accurate.
Years of struggle
Victory at Yorktown was not an easy one. The area stands as a monument to the eventual triumph of the colonies. But the years leading up to this outcome were marked by struggle and doubt. There was no guarantee that it would be an overwhelming victory like in Yorktown.
In fact when you see Colonial Williamsburg you see a beautiful microcosm of a gorgeous Colonial day. You don’t see the day in and day out struggle that many of these colonists faced in wartime.
Our tours are designed to give you real history. History is not neat and orderly. It is a mark of struggle, sacrifice and is often brutal. Our tours give you the real dimensions of history and history is not gentile. This is a contrast from “historical marketing” or the reshaping of history to fit what certain groups want which you may have experienced elsewhere.
Chestnuts roasting against a hearth in the Colonial Williamsburg atmosphere. Trees, with the smell of fresh pine, adorned with handcrafted ornaments to guests visiting the lively town that once housed founders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as they fought to hammer out a new nation. Christmas carolers singing together in the cool December Virginia air. All this paints a beautiful picture of a Colonial Christmas Tradition we enjoy, both as a caricature of the pristine upstanding colonists, and as a testament to holiday traditions that have carried on into our homes in the modern era.
But there is a problem.
This wasn’t the way Colonials celebrated the holiday season. In fact it was a vastly different experience and atmosphere for them then the the hypercharged traditions of decorations, music, food, and customs. Here are some Colonial America Christmas facts you may not have known:
Colonial Christmas In Williamsburg
Christmas was a holiday for adults
Christmas was centered around the adults and not the children in Colonial America. The traditions of Christmas being for children came from non English European influences in the decades after Colonial America.
Christmas Trees were not the main symbol of the holiday season
The Christmas tree, more of a pagan or Germanic ritual, did not emerge as a staple of the holiday season until later.
Decorations Were Austere
Yes, the Colonists had decorations during the modern Yule Tide Season. But
they were centered around natural materials of the day, which found themselves in things like the hanging of the Mistletoe and homemade wreaths. Things like ivy, holly, and berries were some of the things used to adorn these simple displays.
New England Colonists Did not Celebrate Christmas
What? New England, the home of the picturesque Thanksgiving feast with joy, peace, and gratitude between the English and Wampanoag Natives did not celebrate Christmas. It was viewed as a Pagan holiday. There were religious traditions but the marriage of Christianity to a hyper commercialized secular pagan ritual was foreign to the early English settlers.
(Oh and by the way what you know about the first Thanksgiving is also wrong, read about it here)
Santa Claus, the jolly caricature of holiday magic and joy, was foreign to the Williamsburg colonists. It would be awhile before he became the centerpiece to happy children waiting for him to bring him presents.
So What Changed?
A lot of different theories here, each with their own merits. The biggest reason is the company expanded and begin to fill with people of other cultures who did celebrate a much different Christmas than the stoic English settlers. Just like our food, our holiday customs begin to incorporate ideas from other cultures, usually migrating from an ocean or more away.
What Really Happened in Williamsburg during…
So what else is different. Well American history is often abridged and reshaped to fit someone’s specific world view of what they WANT things to be. It is not always the accurate truth.
Williamsburg Walking Tours explores the real Williamsburg and Colonial America through different guided offerings, bringing insight to any Americans who partake in it.
Are you ready to take your Williamsburg historical Thanksgiving quiz?
Which one of these two statements is historically true?
The pilgrims in Massachusetts and the Wampanoag Indians came together for the first Thanksgiving.
The Virginia settlers got together at the Berkeley plantation, in Williamsburg in early December, to commemorate their arrival in the New World with a ceremony that was the first American Thanksgiving, years before the Pilgrims had what many consider the first Thanksgiving.
If you’re a believer in the first one I have a shock for you. The right answer is number #2, first Thanksgiving was in Williamsburg Virginia
For some of you I’m guessing there’s a little bit of shock associated with that statement. Maybe even denial. I mean this is the stuff of fairytales in American historical folklore. Everything from the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special ,to about 1 billion different items with orange brown and red turkeys on them, attest to the American Thanksgiving being in Massachusetts with the Pilgrims. Just the possibility of this could nullify decades of macaroni turkey art, Pilgrim costumes, and elementary school plays re enacting these events. And on top of that, no one wants to think they are living a lie.
Even the history channel has gone into the actual historical account of the Wampanoag Indians and the Pilgrims from England, telling the story of how they barely survived on what they had, coming together for the first Thanksgiving in the building of this new grand free world…in the North.
But the evidence against the Pilgrim Thanksgiving is both extensive and authoritative. I pulled some information from a Washingtonian article. Here are some of the indisputable facts:
The Berkeley company gave a written mandate to the Virginia Settlers that their arrival day be celebrated as a day of Thanksgiving in 1619, two years before the Pilgrim Thanksgiving.
Retired William and Mary President D Lyon Tyler found documented written records about this first Thanksgiving that were originally published in New York in the late 1800s.
President Kennedy had Arthur Schlesinger send a telegram to Virginia State Senator John Wicker claiming it was true in 1962.
President George W. Bush also publicly acknowledged this fact.
But I don’t see the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special being banned or pulled from television. My children have no clue of this new revelation. And while there are people who have celebrated this American History Alternative Festival for decades, most Americans are not going to abandon this tradition of a Pilgrim Thanksgiving.
Is a Williamsburg Virginia Thanksgiving really worth considering?
American history is filled with accounts of at least two versions. One version of American history seems to be a homogenized ultra kind cartoon style version where we are always right and no “real” harm is done to anyone. It kind of leaves you with that feeling for those who weren’t allowed to celebrate at either Thanksgiving, or be free, really did not have it all that bad.
The Williamsburg version comes from the tradition of alternate history..
This version attests that the facts aren’t that accurate and America was really not that nice. I mean, younger people must have always been suspicious that the Pilgrims feasted with a Native American group, but future settlers would turn on the Native American groups that helped the first settlers to survive. Definitely not a great historical example of gratitude. And rather than hide this fact, the country does not deny this incredible contribution by Native Americans or the brutal treatment of them in the decades after the First Thanksgiving.
Stuck Between A (Plymouth) Rock And A Hard Place Named Williamsburg
We sit in an ambiguous situation. We still hold to the Pilgrim Thanksgiving myth but know that there was another earlier Thanksgiving in Williamsburg. Maybe it is foreshadowing of the competitive conflict that would emerge between Northern and Southern Americans as time went on, going from small Colonial roots, to a nation divided on Southern and Northern cultural lines in the 1860s, each vying to create an America based on what they wanted.
But why not have both versions?
Why can’t we just celebrate both. Why not have the original Thanksgiving and maybe a Thanksgiving Harvest Festival Meal on the date of the historical first Williamsburg Thanksgiving. Even better yet why not just give both colonies credit and write a history where both colonies quickly came to a tradition of a feast of gratitude in the hostile new world. A few years difference is not that big a deal. In fact, it would be great to reconcile both groups of colonists, though different and in opposite locations, which would form an America we live in today. An America where we need to accept the differences and historical mistakes that haunt our past.
I think in general we need to revisit the past and make sure our accounts are accurate. Maybe even commission a second Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special where the Peanuts gang learns of the true first Thanksgiving and comes to accept it. Maybe they could call it ‘there are 2 versions of Thanksgiving Charlie Brown.”Not sure if there are any takers for that idea but..
Happy Thanksgiving (whichever version you celebrate)
Come Explore Real Williamsburg Colonial History
Come explore real Colonial history in Williamsburg with Williamsburg Walking Tours. Learn facts and accounts that might change your mind on truths you never questioned.