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If Walls Could Talk

On this blog, I endeavor to tell stories of little known people or little known stories of the well known. This week I thought I would take a moment to share stories of buildings because they often hold stories of those people. Have you ever wondered what the walls of your house would say? Have you ever visited a historic location and wondered what stories those places would tell?

As a teenager, I had the opportunity to visit the National Immigration Museum on Ellis Island. I remember walking into the main hall where the immigrants coming through would have waited. The walls in that room have writings all over them from those who were waiting. Yet you still wonder what stories these walls have seen. The things they would say if they could talk.

Those who have been reading my blog for a while can probably figure out that Colonial Williamsburg is one of my favorite museums to visit. I enjoy visiting not just to interact with the Nation Builders, but also to learn the stories of the homes and buildings in the historic area.

Recently, Colonial Williamsburg released a virtual tour of the Peyton Randolph House. Peyton Randolph, was a distant cousin to Thomas Jefferson as well as Speaker of the House of Burgesses and President of both sessions of the Continental Congress. His home is one of the 88 original buildings in the historic area of Colonial Williamsburg.

Recently, the Randolph home has been closed to tours due to the pandemic, and so instead they created a tour of the home. The unique aspect of this virtual tour is that there are interpreters to interact with in the tour. Yet the stories told are not of the family but of the enslaved who lived and worked in the home.

Often we get a one sided look at history or a historical home, yet history is not one sided. It is multifaceted. I have previously on this blog discussed the importance of studying history and so shall not repeat myself here, but rather point you towards the a post entitled "A Few Thoughts on the Importance of Studying History".

I would highly recommend checking out the Peyton Randolph house tour as it gives a wonderful look at what life for the enslaved in town was like. It is different then the stereotype of plantation field slaves. If you don't have time to explore the house but would love to learn some of the stories of an enslaved individual that you don't normally think about, I would highly recommend checking out These Roots by Not Your Momma's History.

Ms. Cheyney McKnight (the founder and owner of Not Your Momma's History), who has previously worked at Colonial Williamsburg, uses her skills of historical interpretation to bring to life and tell the stories of those whose stories are often untold. In the first episode of These Roots (included below) Ms. Cheyney shares the story of an enslaved lady's maid in the Lee family home of Stratford Hall, Virginia.

Sometimes the stories that are the most interesting are the ones that were behind the scenes or in the shadows.


The American Revolution (from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation) ~ Peyton Randolph


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