Preserving Virginia history at Highland

James Monroe's Highland and William & Mary Libraries have partnered to conduct oral histories with descendants of enslaved African Americans who lived and worked at Highland during Monroe's many years in public service, as well as individuals and families who trace their ancestors to Highland after Monroe's ownership.

Conversations with this group will explore histories that have not been made public, but have been part of family knowledge for generations. Staff will video these oral histories, create transcripts, and make them available through the William & Mary Libraries' Digital Collections portal.

The project's objective is to expand the understanding of slavery at Highland and its legacies through the succeeding centuries, and to preserve the memories of these descendants in the context of the changing landscape of Virginia's racial history.

These oral histories will be used to tell a story at Highland that has not been fully addressed, and provide multi-vocal perspectives for new visitors interested in more than presidential history or the founding fathers.

The project has been chosen for Tribefunding, a W&M crowdfunding initiative, which is in its final days of raising funds for the project.

Donors who give $250 or more will receive a private tour of James Monroe's Highland, followed by a conversation with Executive Director Sara Bon-Harper, who will discuss Highland's efforts to connect with the descendants of the property's enslaved community. Donors will also be invited to a private behind-the-scenes tour of Swem Library's Special Collections Research Center with Dean of University Libraries Carrie Cooper and Special Collections Director Jay Gaidmore.

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