The Local Black Histories Project

Photo courtesy: Albert W. Durant Collection, Visual Resources, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, "Sunday School Class, Little Zion Baptist Church"

Williamsburg, Virginia holds a powerful place in U.S. history. Yet, Black histories of the greater Williamsburg area have often been neglected or narrated by those who did not live these histories. The Local Black Histories Project centers the role of the descendant Black community in producing knowledge about these histories.

The Local Black Histories Project was launched by The Village Initiative, a grassroots organization that advocates for equity and racial justice in the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools. In 2019, The Village Initiative hosted a series of events to shed light on the history of educational integration, including an Oral History Collection Event generously hosted by the Union Baptist Church and the Integration: Then and Now Public Forum, which invited community members to reflect on the complicated legacies of school integration. Since that time, The Village Initiative has forged a partnership with William & Mary to amplify this important work. The Project is guided by the Community Advisory Board, consisting of leaders in the Black descendant community in the greater Williamsburg area.

The Local Black Histories Project offers an online archive of oral histories, community forums, films, and curated exhibits that illuminate the experiences of local Black communities. The Project encourages the community to explore and contribute to these resources and works in partnership with local educators to integrate these resources into their classrooms.

Meet the Community Advisory Board, led by Jacqueline Bridgeforth Williams, Founder and Director of The Village Initiative

Learn about the importance of
The Local Black Histories Project from
Community Advisory Board member, Mrs. Janice Canaday

Our children and future generations need to know their "Truth." They need to know who they descend from. Our stories of our local community members and leaders provide a powerful foundation for our children to build upon. It helps to ground them and keep them centered and focused. It provides strength when they don't feel strong enough. It helps them to know, by reading and hearing about how others overcame struggles, challenges, and obstacles, that they can do the same, and challenges don't mean failure. The stories are empowering. The stories tell how they created and participated and did not let others create limits for them. It informs how we gave to this nation before we ever took. It tells of how we impacted every discipline from industry, agriculture, science, math, astronomy, medicine, foodways, music, the military, and so much more. We are storytellers, we have always been the keepers of our history. We are great "Curators" of our Culture. We endure and always believed more in the light within us than the darkness around us. We remained faithful, compassionate, and spirit led. By sharing these stories and this history, others will have to hear how we have contributed with everything we had to the building of this nation. There is not a tree standing that is not supported by its roots. Our children can feel great pride, self-esteem, self-worth and power from this history and these stories are "Our Roots."

Explore and Learn