Oatlands Awarded $12K for African American Exhibit

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Oatlands Historic House and Gardens has landed a $12,000 grant to fund permanent interpretation of African American history at former plantation.

The project is funded by the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation with support from The JPB Foundation and will be led by Oatlands Director of Programming and Education Lori Kimball.

The grant will allow Oatlands to use the Smoke House, a building in the historic garden, to exhibit its research about the enslaved people who lived on the property. The interactive exhibit will educate school groups and visitors with stories and images featuring specific individuals, their families and their descendants and will periods of enslavement, Reconstruction and Jim Crow, segregation during the World Wars and in public schools, and the emergence of the Civil Rights movement.

Descendants of the enslaved community at Oatlands will guide the project for both short and long-term planning.Gertrude Evans, an artist whose ancestral roots in Loudoun County can be traced back to the mid-1800s, will provide artwork that depicts the transition from enslavement, to freedom, to the Jim Crow era.

This permanent exhibit is part of Oatlands’ mission—led by Kimball—to tell the full story of African American history and culture at the site. Descendants of people once enslaved at Oatlands gather at the site each year for Descendants Day. Their participation has resulted in continuously updated family pages that can be viewed on Oatlands’ website. Programs to educate the public about African American history and culture have included talks and cooking demonstrations by the best-selling author, Michael Twitty; a sleepover by the Slave Dwelling Project; ongoing exhibit of artifacts of slavery by the Loudoun Freedom Center; a speaker series; archaeology programs; and partnering with organizations such as the Black History Committee of the Friends of the Thomas Balch Library; the Loudoun Freedom Center, the Edwin Washington Project, and the Friends of the Arcola Slave Quarters.

“We remain focused on the Oatlands mission of education and preservation and we are very excited to dedicate this historic structure as interpretive space to tell the important histories of those enslaved at Oatlands and their descendants, histories of incredible strength, sacrifice, resilience and a determined perseverance for justice,” said Interim Executive Director Matt Kraycinovich. “Oatlands is moving forward by expanding our efforts to understand and interpret our entire past for present and future visitors.”

To learn more oatlands.org/slavery.