Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Last Sunday's Talk at the Fairfax Museum (and an Upcoming Event)

This past Sunday I gave a lecture on the contraband camps of Northern Virginia at the Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center. First off, I'd like to thank curator Susan Gray for inviting me to speak about my research on this forgotten chapter in local Civil War history. Susan and I met while she was organizing an exhibition on Fairfax in 1863, and the museum used some of my research as part of the final display on emancipation.

The staff made room in the actual museum for my talk. I snapped this picture before anyone showed up. (I swear!) I liked the atmosphere of being surrounded by historical displays and artifacts while speaking.

A little over 30 people attended my talk on a cold winter afternoon. I really enjoyed giving my presentation, which last around 45 minutes (and without a PowerPoint malfunction). The audience was very engaged and asked many thought-provoking questions. I walked away from the discussion with a few ideas about the direction of future research, including possible U.S.C.T. recruitment efforts at the camps and the legal status of property rights of secessionists whose lands were taken for use as contraband farms. Another big question to emerge from audience involvement was whether the contrabands settled in Northern Virginia once the camps were closed. It is altogether possible that these freedmen and women formed the core of historic African-American communities in McLean, Falls Church, and elsewhere after the Civil War. I was also fortunate to meet Marion Dobbins, president of the Fairfax County African-American Historical Society, and Nikki Graves Henderson of the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation. Both groups have an interest in the contraband camps and local African-American history. I look forward to collaborating with them on research into the camps, and in particular, the former slaves' side of the story. Altogether, the day was a rewarding and enriching experience for me.

For those of you who missed it, I will give a repeat performance for the McLean Historical Society on Tuesday, March 11, at 7:30 p.m. The lecture will be held at the McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Drive in McLean.

Change in date: Please note that my talk on March 11 has been rescheduled for Tuesday, April 8, same time, same place. (Ed. - 3/9/14)

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