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W&M Lemon Project symposium tied to 1619 anniversary

  • Lemon Symposium:
    Lemon Symposium:  Christy Coleman, chief executive officer of the American Civil War Museum, will give the symposium's keynote address on March 15.  Courtesy photo
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Bray School historical marker to be dedicated

William & Mary’s Lemon Project will host its annual spring symposium on campus March 14-16.

The event, titled “Celebrating Legacies, Constructing Futures: Four Hundred Years of Black Community and Culture,” will include a meeting of the Universities Studying Slavery consortium and a keynote address by Christy Coleman, chief executive officer of the American Civil War Museum, along with multiple panel discussions.

The symposium is free and open to the public, except for the USS Consortium meeting, which is open to members only. People interested in attending the symposium are asked to register in advance online. Breakfast and lunch on Saturday will be provided.

The theme of this year’s symposium refers to the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans on the Virginia Peninsula. Kidnapped from their homes, they were enslaved and brought to what is now Hampton, Virginia, in 1619 to be sold. Multiple events are planned throughout 2019 to mark the anniversary, including the 10th Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora, which will be hosted by W&M Nov. 5-10.

“The symposium is continuing to grow — with more paper and panel proposals and registrants than ever before.  We are looking forward to engaging discussions from beginning to end,” said Jody Allen, assistant professor of history and director of the Lemon Project.

“As we recognize the 400 years since Africans were brought to Point Comfort against their will, we also acknowledge their vast contributions to Virginia and the country,” she said. “We must never forget that they, along with Native Americans and Europeans, established the foundation of what is now the United States.”

Symposium schedule

The activities for the symposium begin on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the Sadler Center’s Commonwealth Auditorium with a screening of “The Long Shadow,” a film that follows two people as they explore their families’ history of slave ownership.

The symposium continues on Friday with a dedication of a marker at the site of the Bray School, an 18th century school operated by W&M for black children. The dedication begins at 10 a.m. at Brown Hall located at 107 N. Boundary St. in Williamsburg.

Friday afternoon beginning at 12:30 p.m., three sets of concurrent panel sessions will be held in various locations at the School of Education. After an introduction by W&M President Katherine A. Rowe, Coleman will deliver the keynote address, “Reclaiming the Narrative of the American Civil War Museum, at 5 p.m. in the Matoaka Woods room.

The symposium continues on Saturday morning in the School of Education with breakfast at 8 a.m. At 9 a.m., Joanne Braxton, Frances L. & Edwin L. Cummings Professor Emerita of English & Humanities at William & Mary, will moderate a roundtable discussion on “New Perspectives on Restorative Justice and Collective Healing.”

Following the roundtable, concurrent panel discussions will begin at 10:30 a.m. and continue after lunch at 12:30 p.m. The symposium will end following concluding remarks at 3:15 p.m.

A full schedule and descriptions of the panel sessions may be found online.

Studying slavery

The Lemon Project was established by W&M in 2009 as a long-term research project to explore the university’s history of slavery and its continued relationship with the African-American community. It is named for a man who was enslaved by the university. In 2016, a residence hall at W&M was also named in his memory.

Last year, the W&M Board of Visitors adopted a resolution to extend the Lemon Project and to apologize for the university’s history related to slavery and racial discrimination.

But W&M is not the only institution of higher learning taking a deeper look at its past. The USS consortium is a group of institutions from around the country plus the United Kingdom and Ireland that are collaborating as they look to study their individual histories with slavery. Other member institutions include Brown University, Columbia University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Rutgers University, the University of the South and the University of Glasgow.

Representatives with the consortium will meet privately at W&M March 14 and will join the symposium the following day.