William & Mary

Lemon Project to confront 'ghosts of slavery' at fifth annual symposium

  • 2014 symposium
    2014 symposium  Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members attended the 2014 Lemon Project Spring Symposium.  Photo by Erin Zagursky
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William & Mary’s fifth annual Lemon Project Spring Symposium will focus on the theme of “Ghosts of Slavery: The Afterlives of Racial Bondage” and will feature panel discussions, speakers, a solo theatrical performance and a spoken-word event.

The two-day symposium will begin the evening of April 10 in Williamsburg’s Bruton Heights School and continue April 11 at the W&M School of Education and Sadler Center. The programs are free and open to the public, but attendees are asked to register online.

“Once again, we’re looking forward to the gathering of community members, faculty, staff, and students interested in learning about challenging times in our nation’s history, considering the lessons taught, and how we might use those lessons to continue to move toward better race relations,”  said Jody Allen, Lemon Project coordinator and visiting assistant professor.

Symposium schedule

The 2015 symposium kicks off at 7:30 p.m. April 10 in Bruton Heights School with a performance of “Riding in Cars with Black People and Other Newly Dangerous Acts: A Memoir of Vanishing Whiteness,” written and performed by Chad Goller-Sojourner. According to its website, the piece focuses on “what happens when a black boy, raised by white parents ‘ages out’ of honorary white and suburban privilege and into a world where folklore, statistics and conjecture deem him dangerous until proven otherwise.”

Saturday’s program begins at 8:30 a.m. in the School of Education with a continental breakfast followed by opening remarks. At 9:45 a.m., Stephen Seals, manager of program development for African-American and Religion Interpretation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and Hope Wright, an actor and historical interpreter for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, will speak on “Humanizing the Dehumanized: Addressing the Afterlives of Slavery on the Public Stage.”

Following remarks by William & Mary President Taylor Reveley, three panel discussions – transforming death and trauma, slavery and the university and the limits of freedom – will take place concurrently from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. The panelists include professors and students from a variety of universities, including University of North Carolina, the University of Virginia, George Washington University, Norfolk State University and William & Mary.

After lunch, individual presentations from William & Mary and University of Richmond professors as well as family genealogists will take place concurrently from 1:15 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., followed by a community discussion about memorializing people who were enslaved by William & Mary, a discussion started last semester with a Lemon Project course, "Memorializing the Enslaved," co-taught by Allen and Instructor of Architectural Design Ed Pease.

The symposium’s afternoon session will wrap up around 3:45 p.m., but the event continues Saturday night with a spoken word event, to be held at 7 p.m. in Sadler Center’s Lodge 1.

A full schedule, complete with session descriptions, may be found online.

About the Lemon Project

The Lemon Project was launched in 2009 after the William & Mary Board of Visitors passed a resolution acknowledging the university’s involvement in slavery and calling for the establishment of a project to explore that history as well as William & Mary’s ongoing relationship with the African-American community. The project is named after a man who was enslaved by the university in the late 18th century.

Since its inception, the Lemon Project has supported multiple research projects, courses and special programs, including the Donning of the Kente ceremony and the “Porch Talks” series of informal, on-campus discussions.

The first Lemon Project Spring Symposium, organized around the theme of “From Slavery Toward Reconciliation: African Americans & The College,” took place in March 2011. Since then, the symposium has expanded into a two-day event that includes scholars from other institutions and a performance aspect. Last year, the symposium featured a presentation by Craig Steven Wilder, the author of Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities.