Before the living history museum of Colonial Williamsburg started its concerted interpretation of slavery in 1979, the African American coachmen were already representing the past and implicating black history and slavery in this restored eighteenth-century capital of Virginia. Various records of photographs, postcards, letters, newspaper clippings, oral history accounts, visitor observations, and corporate papers provide a window to understand the social climates of the museum’s period in the 1930s to the 1970s. This body of evidence supports the contention that the coachmen were visible and influenced public history within and outside the museum.
Before 1979: African American Coachmen, Visibility, and Representation at Colonial Williamsburg
Ywone Edwards-Ingram is an interdisciplinary scholar and works as an archaeologist, African American history specialist, and public history professional at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in Williamsburg, Virginia, where she has been on staff since 1992. She served as a research consultant for places like the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the National Park Service, the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, the Fort Monroe Federal Area Authority, and the Smithsonian Institution. Edwards-Ingram has taught courses in archaeology, plantation cultures, material culture, museums, and slavery at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. She has written articles and book chapters and has presented at many public lectures and conferences. Her current book project focuses on the history and material culture of black coachmen in slavery and freedom within the African Diaspora. Dr. Edwards-Ingram is the Section Editor for “Slavery” at Encyclopedia Virginia, a web-based project of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.
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Ywone Edwards-Ingram; Before 1979: African American Coachmen, Visibility, and Representation at Colonial Williamsburg. The Public Historian 1 February 2014; 36 (1): 9–35. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2014.36.1.9
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