Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Course designation: LLRN 2266 - Freedom Trolley Tour

Date: Sunday, Feb. 22

Time: 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Class Fee: $15

Location: Trolley departs from Fredericksburg Visitors Center at 706 Caroline St.

Call to register: 540/891-3012

Silver Cos. Vice President Jervis Hairston, whose family is the subject of a critically acclaimed book on slavery, and who became Fredericksburg's first black city planner, will be the instructor for a Germanna Black History Month Workforce and Community Education class that will consist of a trolley tour of historic slavery sites in the city.

The trolley will leave the Fredericksburg Visitors Center at 706 Caroline St at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 22. The tour will last until 4 p.m. The tour is limited to the trolley's capacity of 32 people. It will cost $15.

Hairston will talk about downtown areas such as Freedom Alley, a path used by free blacks who feared being stopped without their papers. Before the Civil War, any white person could stop a freed black, and that former slave could be returned to slavery if he or she didn't have proper documentation.

In Fredericksburg, Hairston said, there were heroes who helped run the "Underground Railroad" that carried slaves to freedom in the North.

And, there is the story of Kunta Kinte, who became, a century after his death, perhaps America's best-known slave.

"It is rather like opening up an old boil and letting all the pus out," the late "Roots" author Alex Haley said of the miniseries in January 1977.

A seminal television miniseries was based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1976 book, which traced his ancestors from a village in Gambia, West Africa, to Spotsylvania.

In 1977, the television series "Roots" made household names of Chicken George, Kizzy, Fiddler and, of course, Kunta Kinte. One hundred thirty million people were transfixed as it was telecast for eight consecutive nights on ABC, becoming the most popular television miniseries ever.

Though some historians have disputed the details, Kunta Kinte is believed to have been held in slavery on a plantation in Spotsylvania County and to be buried on Graveyard Hill, near Arcadia.

Charlottesville historian and author Henry Wiensek has written a book about Hairston's family. "The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White" follows two families--one that descended from the white owners, the other from the slaves.

Samuel Hairston of the Oak Hill plantation near Danville may have been the richest man in the United States in the mid-1800s, according to Wiensek. He was said to own more slaves than any American--as many as 10,000.

One was Jervis Hairston's great-grandfather, David W. Hairston, who lived from 1842 to 1929.

The white Hairstons fought alongside Confederate Gens. Jubal Early and J.E.B. Stuart during the Civil War.

Of the black Hairstons, Wiensek writes, "In order to survive, African-Americans always had to be stronger than the system that oppressed them. Slavery could not crush them, nor anything thereafter. What kind of people could endure such evil and still cling to the country that dispensed it?" --Source: Michael Zitz


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm really looking forward to this tour!