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OCAAH Society Newsletter Fall 2021

Updated: Feb 1, 2022


By Ellen Wessel

OCAAHS launched the Eclipse Award program four years ago to honor those who have consistently gone above and beyond in raising awareness of Orange County’s African American people and history. In 2020, the Society created a separate category for youth. The Eclipse Youth Award includes a small scholarship and recognizes young people who have demonstrated through their volunteerism, leadership, and other activities a commitment to raise awareness of Orange County’s African American people and history.

The Orange County Review showcased each of the five recipients over the course of five weeks, beginning Thursday, October 14. With COVID-19 still circulating, the board judged it prudent to again honor the winners virtually, with a Zoom ceremony on December 9. It showcased videos of President Darryle Crump’s personal visits to present each recipient with a crystal plaque. Board member and videographer Bruce Monroe accompanied Rev. Crump to record the occasion. The videos are now available for viewing at

The 2021 Eclipse Award recipients, in alpha order, are Barbara Anne Johnson, Pastor Frank Lewis, Sr., and Emily Winkey. The 2021 Eclipse Youth Award recipients are O’Brian Martin and Nia Robinson.



By Matt Reeves

With the help of Deborah Newman, owner of Petite Taway, the OCAAHS’s website is being completely revamped! The new website has a sleek look and most importantly we can now take on-line payments for membership! Deb is also coordinating our social media to work with our website and using her years of non-profit web experience to give the OCAAHS a more professional appearance and a functionality for the 21st century. Deb has worked on several Orange County organizations to redo their web presence and we are already seeing an uptick in our membership and contacts. Thanks for all you do Deb!



By Zann Nelson

Captain Andrew Maples was a man worthy of praise and admiration. A native son of Orange County, Virginia and a Tuskegee Airman he was a casualty of WWII. A few years ago a historic marker was dedicated to him on land that was on or very near his family’s home on Church Street, now part of the 1970s bypass of Main Street. The marker is a wonderful tribute and now there is another.

Many thanks to Judge David Franzene of the 16th Circuit Court for his initiation of having new portraits added to the historic courtroom. Judge Franzene shared his belief, “the courtroom belongs to the community and should reflect the faces of the citizenry.” He engaged the Orange County African American Historical Society (OCAAHS) to develop the vision to include people of color. We all concurred on the war veteran, Captain Maples, and set out to find an appropriate picture. Regrettably, none were suitable for enlargement to the size needed. The OCAAHS is a problem-solving organization, and we were determined to make this work. We had an excellent image and with added donations from the Orange Downtown Alliance(ODA)/LOVE Orange and the Tourism Department, OCAAHS commissioned Becky Parrish to paint his portrait.

On Saturday May 15, 2021, before a crowd of about one hundred, the oil painting was unveiled by two of the seventeen family members present for the event. Captain Maples received full military honors by the Culpeper VFW Honor Guard including a 21-gun salute, the presentation of the American flag to his two surviving sisters, and the playing of Taps. Though Captain Maples’ body was never recovered, he was declared dead in 1945. Seventy-five years later on the steps of the Orange County Courthouse, he and his family finally received the richly deserved honor for his service. It was beautiful!



By Bruce Monroe

Mark your calendars! Exciting plans for a Juneteenth celebration in 2022 are underway! On June 19, 2022, the Orange County African American Historical Society, in conjunction with the Montpelier Descendants Committee (the MDC), will hold its annual Juneteenth celebration in person for the first time since the pandemic began. As in years past, there will be music, food, and a celebration of work by talented local artists and craftsmen. What will make the 2022 event special is that it will also serve as the first gathering of the MDC since its inception in 2019. The MDC will invite African American families in Orange and its surrounding counties to join the organization, describe its plans for the National Memorial at the Montpelier Slave Cemetery, and share information about the launch of the first of its kind Arc of Enslaved Communities project. To receive more information about Juneteenth 2022 and the MDC Gathering event, please send a note to the MDC website at

The Montpelier Descendant Committee is an independent, tax-exempt, 501c3 organization representing the descend- ants of enslaved people who once lived and worked at Montpelier and its surrounding plantations. The MDC and the Board of Directors serve as co-stewards of James Madison’s Montpelier.



by Bruce Monroe

We are approaching the one-year mark since announcing the creation of a park to commemorate the once black business and residential district in the Town of Orange. We are happy to report that plans are advancing. There will be three interpretive markers installed on the vacant lot at Church and Chapman Streets. The markers will tell the stories of Railroad Avenue, Short Street, Mill Street and Church Street heading west. The marker space is limited, and we will be adding a QR code to each to include even more stories. But as you have likely already learned the markers are only a part of the project.

The project has expanded to include the design of a small community park on that vacant lot at Church and Chapman streets. We have built a collaborative partnership with the Town of Orange, the Orange Downtown Alliance (ODA)/LOVE Orange and the Orange County Tourism Dept.

To date, we have received approval from the Town for use of the property, secured funding, and interviewed present and former residents of the area to gather information and recommendations. The project is on schedule. Two of the panel contents were submitted to the Town and approved. Selection of the panel vendor is close to completion. The ODA has received $30,000 in grants (which we are matching) and secured conceptual drawings of the park for us to consider. The target month for groundbreaking is February 2022, and the dedication of the park is on schedule for June 2022. We would love to have your thoughts.

Contact Bruce Monroe (540-219-2636) or Zann Nelson (540-718-3465).



By Judy Peterson

Park your car and take a walk in historic downtown Orange. The Orange Downtown Alliance(ODA)/LOVE Orange produced the first edition of the Walking Tour brochure in 2006. An updated 2021 brochure is now available thanks to coordinated work by the Orange County Tourism Department, the Orange County Historical Society (OCHS), the Orange County African American Historical Society, the James Madison Museum, and many local historians. The updated walking tour brochure may be picked up at the historical society building at 130 Caroline Street or at the Visitor’s Bureau at the Orange Train Station.

The new enhanced walking tour guide gives much more early historical information about the thriving African American community on Church, Chapman, and Mill streets and Railroad Avenue. As Bruce Monroe has noted, “There’s a lot of history here—These were the descendants of emancipated slaves. This neighborhood was the hub of Black activity in downtown Orange.” Here you will see and read in the guide descriptions about buildings that held Black-owned businesses and places of employment, shopping and socializing for African American residents of Orange.

Following the guide and starting at the Orange County CourtHouse (1859) you will walk west on Main Street, south on Caroline Street, onto West Church Street, cross Madison Road and continue onto East Church Street. You will go by Chapman Street, Mill Street, Railroad Avenue, Short Street, Byrd Street, May-Fray Avenue and back to the Court House following East Main Street.

We encourage you to go behind these buildings and through beautifully bricked alleyways between Chapman Street and Railroad Avenue. You will find Crosthwaite Alley, Towles Terrill Alley and short cuts to East Main Street.

An audio version of the walking tour narrated by Phil Audibert is available at



By Rev. Dr. Halliard Brown, Jr.

A momentous historical occasion has made its way to the Town of Orange. Allies of the Orange County Charters of Freedom is proud to announce the upcoming installment of the Charters of Freedom in Orange, Virginia. This permanent, outdoor exhibition consists of detailed reproductions of The Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Constitution, The Bill of Rights, and The Civil Rights Amendments (13, 14, 15, 19 and 24).

They are scheduled to be installed next Spring in the Town of Orange beside the James Madison Museum. Orange is only the second community in Virginia to receive this honor. The Charters of Freedom in Orange are also special as we are only the second community with The Civil Rights Amendments in the grouping.

These documents are an important part of what it means to be an American. For those unable to travel to view the original founding documents at the National Archives, this permanent outdoor setting offers 24/7 access close to home. It brings the opportunity to educate students and other citizens about the our government. The setting also provides a location for communities to reflect, gather, and celebrate the United States and the people who have fought to expand and protect our rights and freedoms. The Orange County

African American Historical Society (OCAAHS) is proud to be participating in the planning of this history-making project.



The OCAAHS Board meets the third Monday of each month, except in December. Members and interested parties are welcome to attend. The meetings are held at the Historical Society Building at 130 Caroline Street in Orange, and we appreciate the use of the space.



Sunday, February 13, 2022, 3:00-5:00pm

The Arts Center of Orange

OCAAHS newsletter-Fall 2021
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