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Archive for the ‘Colonial Williamsburg’ Category




Give Me History or Give Me Death!

Written on Monday, June 25th, 2012 [permanent link]

We get plenty of Patrick Henry thundering around the historic streets of Williamsburg, where I live. But he also made a lot of noise in Richmond during the Revolutionary Era, so yesterday I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon at Historic St. John’s Church in Richmond for the weekly reenactment of Henry’s “Give Me Liberty” speech.

It was sunny and warm — nothing like the wintery March day in 1775 when Henry and other people you know (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, etc) gathered at the church to talk about what to do in the face of Britain’s troop surge to control Boston. St. John’s Church was the biggest, most comfortable building in what was then a village of about 600 people, and it was a good distance away from the cranky royal governor still perched in the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg. More than 100 Virginia colonial leaders heard Henry ask that the colonists form a militia to prepare for war. When conservative leaders spoke against his motion and urged patience, Henry stood to give the rousing speech that ended with his dramatic cry.

The reenactment was rousing, too. The actors in costume sat among the people in the modern crowd and rose to speak as if we were all in that 1775 convention. At the end, we all got a vote. Back then, Henry’s resolutions passed by only five votes. But the next few weeks after that vote proved he was right — shots fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts began open warfare, and a few days later Virginia’s royal governor took away the colony’s gunpowder in the middle of the night to prevent open rebellion in Virginia. It’s rare for a politician to be proven so right, so soon 😉

It was wonderful to be in the same space where Henry himself spoke. St. John’s Church was completed in 1741 — the first church built in the city of Richmond. William Byrd II, founder of the city of Richmond, donated the land and timber to build the church. The graveyard is the site of the first public cemetery in Richmond; buried there are George Wythe, signer of the Declaration of Independence and teacher of law to Thomas Jefferson, Chief Justice John Marshall, and Henry Clay; John Page and James Wood, Governors of Virginia; Elizabeth Arnold Poe, mother of Edgar Allan Poe; and Dr. James McClurg, a Virginia delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

If you’re in Richmond on a Sunday afternoon this summer, go to church!

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Posted in Colonial Williamsburg, Historical Travel, History Teacher | No Comments »

Anti-British?? Not on ye life!

Written on Monday, August 30th, 2010 [permanent link]

Today I got a great chat message from friend of mine working a historic site bookshop at Jamestown: “British couple just bought ‘Revolutionary Rumblings,’ ‘War for Independence,’ and ‘Revolutionary City‘ – they loved that it wasn’t just pure ‘anti-Brit propaganda.’ They said they are used to that in American accounts of the war.”

That is a very high compliment to me. I’ve studied the American Revolution since I was a 10-year-old during the Bicentennial, and I view the conflict as a civil war. American colonists spent the years between the French & Indian War and the Boston Tea Party asking to be considered full British citizens. It was the King and the English politicians’ refusal to grant full British political rights to their colonists that led to war. The shifting of the political wind in the 13 colonies happened very suddenly between January and June of 1776 — Full, declared independence from Britain was a move that came a year AFTER the first shots fired in Massachusetts! We held onto our British-ness for a long, long time.

I try to approach all history with a broad view. There are very few dastardly villans and shining heroes in real life, and I resist storytelling that shows real life historic figures that way. Look how complicated Jefferson was! But so was Patrick Henry and James Madison and John Adams and . . .

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about my point-of-view in my comic storytelling — most of it about the 1860s Civil War stories, of course. Amazing how that debate rages on. I own up to my point-of-view. Every human storyteller has one. To pretend otherwise is a lie. There is no one right way — one “unbiased” way — to tell the life of Washington or Lincoln or Roosevelt. I can be accurate with facts, but at some point I have to choose which facts and events to include in a story, and those decisions come out of my point-of-view. But I don’t just shoot from the hip — I’ve learned that my storytelling is better if I listen first. So I listen to as many different points-of-view as I can before I make my Author’s Choices. To those who have objected that I’m changing the historical stories they grew up with, I reply: I’m not changing history, I’m just including EVERYONE’S story now.

And when I listen to 1775, I hear a lot of debate that still echoes through our politics today. That must mean there’s no one right answer 😉

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Posted in Author's Purpose, Colonial Williamsburg, History Teacher | No Comments »

Happy Historical Holidays!

Written on Thursday, December 25th, 2008 [permanent link]

Here you go: historical comic book artist, costumed son and DRAGON!!! This is right after one of this month’s holiday puppet shows that my youngest, Truman, did at Colonial Williamsburg’s Geddy House, just off the green that runs up to the Governor’s Palace.

It’s a great way to grow up, walking in the footsteps of kids from across hundreds of years. Truman got to be the dragon in a holiday production of the St. George and the Dragon folk tale. This was his first year as a costumed junior interpreter at the Geddy, and I could not be more proud of him! I’ve learned a lot about the Colonial era from the time both my sons have spent as junior interpreters.

When I started drawing the daily Chester the Crab history strips for the Daily Press in 1999, my oldest son, Samuel, was as old as the target school audience. (And he was attending the elementary school next to Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area about the same time that a Geddy descendant did!) So Samuel got to be a character moving through time and learning with Chester. But now, a decade later, Truman’s patience has paid off – all the new stuff I’m drawing features HIM! I’m working on a Colonial Williamsburg comic right now that features Truman and his personality in this garb! It’s great to have your historical character so close . . .

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