Culinary historian examines lives of slaves through colonial cuisine
Colonial Williamsburg’s special program More than Slaves will offer those interested in American history a look at stories of a people in desperate circumstances struggling to improve their lot.
During the July 6-8 weekend, the program will depict the lives of African-Americans in Virginia, brutally aware they were excluded from the rights and privileges afforded to the ruling class and race but becoming “active in seeking freedom and liberty,” according to a Williamsburg news release. The weekend includes programs by culinary historian Michael W. Twitty, showing how enslaved Africans maintained their connection to their homeland through cooking and how that affected the larger development of American cuisine.
In Souls around the Hearth, Twitty explores the lives of enslaved chefs serving in white homes, taverns and restaurants. Some of these chefs parlayed their culinary abilities into a ticket to freedom. The exhibit is at 10 a.m. July 7 in the Randolph House Kitchen. Entry is included with a Revolutionary City admission ticket.
Later on July 7, in The Golden Age of Africa in Virginia, Twitty discusses how enslaved Africans used their culinary history to recall their heritage and maintain resistance to the dominant culture. The program, which will be followed by a reception, starts at 6:30 p.m. in the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, 326 W. Francis St. Entry is included with a Revolutionary City or museum admission ticket.
In the July 8 program Foodways to Freedom, guests will learn how Southern barbecue helped enslaved Africans maintain a sense of autonomy in servitude. That program is at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., in the Great Hopes Plantation. Entry is included with a Revolutionary City admission ticket.
Also July 8, in The Power of Plants program, Twitty examines the gardening methods of enslaved Africans in the colony. That program is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., in the Great Hopes Plantation. Entry is included with a Revolutionary City admission ticket but a free reservation is required.
Additional programs offered in The Revolutionary City and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum show ways outside the kitchen that enslaved Africans challenged their position in society and worked to make life better for future generations while building a culture rooted in their African past.
On July 6, The Examination of Joe and Dick demonstrates how two slaves who ran away to join the British army fighting Virginian forces are interrogated by the colonial Committee of Safety.
On July 7, in Her Enduring Spirit, an actress portrays the life of a free African-American woman and her perspective on life in 18th-century Williamsburg. Guests will join her as she conducts her business, revealing the roles women played in Williamsburg and nearby cities. That program is at 9:30 a.m. in the Lumber House Ticket Office. Entry is included with a Revolutionary City ticket.
Also July 7, in What the Future Holds, actors portraying slaves abandoned by the British at the end of the war contemplate their fates before being sold at auction by the new government. Old memories and new fears arise as the time for their sale approaches. The program is scheduled for 4 p.m. in the Governor’s Palace Garden (weather permitting). Entry is included with Revolutionary City ticket.
In another program, Papa Said, Mama Said, actors portraying slaves show how they absorbed morals and values from their elders' stories. The program highlights the importance of oral history in the African-American tradition and the moral lessons handed down from generation to generation. The event is scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m. in the Play Booth Theatre. Tickets cost $18 for ages 6 and up; $9 for children under 6.
Taking place on July 6 and 7 will be African American Folk Art, a guided tour of the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum that helps guests view 18th and 19th century folk art and learn what it has to say about the lives of African-Americans in the country's early years. The tour is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Entry is included with a Revolutionary City or museum ticket.
On July 8, another program, Freedom to Slavery, tells the story of Elizabeth, a woman forced back into slavery after living in freedom with the Shawnee Indians. Freedom to Slavery takes place at 3 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the Milliner Shop. Entry is provided with a Revolutionary City ticket.
Later on July 8, the African American Music program will demonstrate how the African-American community blended African and European cultural traditions. Guests will have the opportunity to help keep the rhythms, sing the songs and dance dances adapted from West Africa during Colonial times. The program is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. in the Great Hopes Plantation. Tickets are $18 for those aged 6 and up; $9 for children under 6.
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