The Silent Witnesses Enslavement Project in Lynchburg, Virginia
The Legacy Museum of African American History and the Lynchburg Museum System are pleased to announce a new collaborative public history project called Silent Witnesses: The History of Enslavement in Lynchburg, Virginia. The mission of the project is to document the enslaved experience of people of African descent and associated sites in Lynchburg, Virginia, and educate citizens of all ages about this history. The two partner museums will lead the creation of a series of historical markers throughout the city, as well as a digital archive of primary and secondary sources that explore the full history of enslavement in the Hill City.
Silent Witnesses was approved by both the Legacy Museum of African American History Board of Directors and the Lynchburg Museum Advisory Board in the fall of 2021. Valeria P. Chambers, President of the Legacy Museum Board of Directors, stated, “The mission of the Legacy Museum of African American History is to foster and stimulate an appreciation of African American contributions in Lynchburg and surrounding counties/cities. This joint project with the Lynchburg Museum will document, memorialize, and make publicly visible in our streetscape and online the sites, the lives and contributions of African American enslaved people in Lynchburg, Virginia, that have been largely invisible.”
Lynchburg Museum Director Ted Delaney added, “This is a story that needs to be told, and I am excited to share our discoveries with the public. We are exploring primary sources that have never been studied before and are incorporating the latest scholarship by professional historians.”
One of the project’s primary goals is to make the history of enslavement visible in the city’s landscape, connecting the institution to local people, places, events, and artifacts. Organizers plan to install interpretive signage at sites of significance and smaller ground-level markers inspired by the Stolpersteine Art Project in Europe. A public unveiling of these signs and markers is planned for Juneteenth 2023. Museum partners also hope to integrate new research and understanding of enslavement in Lynchburg into local school curricula. Other educational initiatives include creating resources for students and teachers, guided walking tours, and a new “trail” brochure for residents and tourists.
Silent Witnesses is the first comprehensive study of the history of enslavement in Lynchburg. The first documented enslaved people were brought to Central Virginia in the late 1730’s. By 1860 the city of Lynchburg was not only home to one of the largest concentrations of enslaved factory workers in Virginia, but it was also a major site for trading and auctioning enslaved people in the state. Between 1800 and 1860, there were nearly as many enslaved and free Black residents of Lynchburg as there were white.
The Legacy and Lynchburg Museums are looking for any photographs, documents, artifacts, oral histories, and other memorabilia that illustrate the enslaved experience in Lynchburg and the history of slavery in the area. Individuals and other organizations that would like to contribute information or artifacts, or participate in any aspect of the project, should contact the Legacy Museum or Lynchburg Museum System for more information. The project boundaries are the current Lynchburg city limits and adjoining properties in Amherst, Bedford, and Campbell Counties.
About the Legacy Museum of African American History
The Legacy Museum is the first and only African American history museum in Central Virginia. The museum’s mission is to enrich the lives of local residents and museum visitors by fostering and stimulating an appreciation of the diversity of the African American experience in Lynchburg and surrounding counties/cities. The museum presents oral history, artifacts and memorabilia through exhibitions, programs, workshops, and lectures that represent the achievements of African Americans.
The Legacy Project was initially sponsored by the Lynchburg branch of the NAACP. It became incorporated with 501(c)(3) non-profit status in 1995 and opened the Legacy Museum at 403 Monroe Street in 2000.
For more information about the Legacy Museum, please call (434) 845-3455, email email@example.com, or visit LegacyMuseum.org.
About the Lynchburg Museum System
The Lynchburg Museum System manages the official history museums and archives of the City of Lynchburg. Its mission is to collect, interpret, preserve, and share the history and culture of Lynchburg, Virginia, and the surrounding area. The Museum System is a division of the City’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism, working in partnership with the non-profit Lynchburg Museum Foundation.
The Museum System is responsible for operating two museums: the Lynchburg Museum at the Old Court House on Court Street and Point of Honor, the former plantation site on Daniel’s Hill. These museums preserve over 40,000 artifacts and share the diverse stories of three centuries of local history with residents, tourists, and students of all ages.
For more information on this project, visit the Lynchburg Museum & Visitor Services