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June 15 - Stories from Our Community



June 15 - Stories from Our Community: A Discussion with Local Historians and Keepers of Community History about How Black Communities Worked for Freedom


Our third panel discussion, "Stories from Our Community." This will be an conversation with local historians and keepers of community history about how black communities worked for freedom. Panelist include: Bruce Monroe, President of the OCAAHS, Niya Bates, PhD Candidate in History and African American Studies at Princeton University, and Jennifer Hurst-Wedner, Executive Director of the Germanna Foundation.

Meet Our Panelists

Niya Bates is a PhD candidate in the Department of History and Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. She studies 19th and 20th century U.S. history, global environmentalism, and rural cultural landscapes. For the past five years, Bates has worked in public history preserving rural African American community history in Central, VA. In that time, she also served as the director of African American history and the Getting Word African American Oral History Project at Monticello. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, CBS, The Today Show, NBC, PBS News Hour, ESPN The Undefeated, and Black Perspectives. Bates has been a guest on several podcasts and streaming platforms, including Oprah's Book Club, Monty Don's American Gardens, NPR's All Things Considered, Sporkful with Dan Pashman, and Following Harriet. She earned a B.A. in African and African American Studies and an M.A. in Architectural History with a certificate in Historic Preservation from the University of Virginia. Niya was born and raised in Central Virginia and is a descendant of several families who were enslaved in that area. Jennifer Hurst-Wender is the Executive Director of Historic Germanna. Jennifer has over 15 years' of experience working with historic sites. She came to the Germanna Foundation from Preservation Virginia, where she was the Director of Museum Operations and Education. She serves on multiple DEAI Task Force, and has managed NEH grants including Researching Enslaved Craftspersons and a NAGPRA consultation and documentation project. She helped launch Preservation Virginia’s Voices Remembered: Descendants Portal project, as a member of the International Coalition of the Sites of Conscience and participated in their Community Resilience program. She was a Community Trust-Building Fellow in 2018. In 2017 she spoke at the Carolina Low Country & Atlantic World Conference at Mother Emanuel AME, and hosted and was a symposium speaker with the Slave Dwelling Project. Her exhibit highlights include “They Left Their Mark”-Bacon’s Castle Orientation Exhibit, “Keeper of the Light: Willis Augustus Hodges” Digital StoryMap, “The Legacy of Patrick Henry: Liberty, Human Rights, Revolution” with ICoSoC “Scotchtown: People, Place, and Preservation”, “Richmond Justice”- Series of portraits and stories of individuals shaped by the justice system, “Performing Statistics” - Art 180’s and Legal Aid Justice Center’s collaborative project, a virtual reality exhibit spotlighting incarcerated teens and their artwork. James “Bruce” Monroe, was raised in Orange County, VA in the Freedman’s community of Little Petersburg. He attended Orange County Public Schools, graduating from Orange County High and received an associate degree in business from Piedmont Virginia Community College. He volunteered service with the United States Air Force during the Vietnam Era and spent more than 30 years in Aircraft Maintenance retiring at the rank of Senior Master Sergeant. He was also employed by the U.S. Department of Defense as Aircraft Maintenance Supervisor managing the inspection program for tactical aircraft assigned to the 192nd Fighter Group, Virginia Air National Guard until his retirement in 2005. Since retirement, James have served the Orange, Virginia community as Political Action Committee Chairman of the Orange County NAACP. He is a lifetime member of the Bethel Baptist Church of Orange where he serves as Trustee and Deacon. He is now serving as President of the Orange County African American Historical Society and is a proud member of the Montpelier Descendant Committee. Alexis Morris is the National Park Service Archaeologist at Petersburg National Battlefield. She graduated from Howard University with her B.A. and Syracuse University with her M.A. in Anthropology specializing in African American archeology, focusing on cultural landscapes and historic preservation. She is the Project Director of the Enslaved Field Laborers Project (EFLP). The EFLP offers an opportunity to better understand and interpret the daily life and experiences of African American women, men, and families who lived at the field quarters on Whitehill Plantation during the 1800s. The EFLP is interested in examining how enslaved people created homes and families, asserted their humanity and dignity, and sought to survive and resist the institution of slavery. The project is currently engaging community members in the interpretative process through a collaborative black heritage signage throughout the city of Petersburg. Furthermore, the park is hosting its first Urban Archeology Corps program, which will focus on drawing connections to black people's connection to agriculture in the area from the 19th century to the present. Using archeology as a vehicle for civic engagement and park stewardship the program will explore how the past has impacted the present.

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