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Presbyterians and Race: A Reflective Experience in Power and Social Justice
September 19 @ 9:45 am - 12:00 pmFree
An event for this time of racial reckoning. To be offered again in the near future.
On Saturday, September 19, 10:00 a.m.-noon the Reformed Institute held a reflective walk in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia to sites that mark key moments in the story of Presbyterians, White supremacy, and Black resistance from colonial days to the present. The 25 participants walked with a focus on reflection, inspiration and a challenge to action for racial justice. We were honored to have members of the Justice Formation Fellowship churches with us as well. We visited these sites:
Presbyterian cemetery (starting point) where White slaveholders and workers for abolition are buried side by side. We will also pass the Frederick Douglas Cemetery, where many Black families are buried.
The Freedom House: now a Museum built on one of the largest holding pens for enslaved peoples, often “owned” by White Presbyterians like Carlyle and Alexander, but with their own stories of resistance and dignity.
Site of Appomattox Statue to dead Confederate soldiers, including white Presbyterians, who fought for the “the Lost Cause,” and recently removed by the city after Virginia law changed.
Beulah Baptist Church: founded by Rev. Clem Robinson, a graduate of Presbyterian Ashmun Institute (PA) for African-Americans, and site of first theological school founded for former slaves during Reconstruction.
Alexandria Academy: first semi-public school for Whites in Alexandria, organized and lead by Presbyterians, and supported by George Washington’s scholarships for poorer students. Robert E. Lee was schooled here. Also site of early Black school in 19th century.
The Progressive Club: established by Black federal workers, denied access to established clubs, in order to strengthen social networks and offer hospitality to professional Black families.
Old Presbyterian Meeting House: Colonial church founded by city fathers, with prominent slave “owners,” some slavery resisters, and some Black congregants in the early days.
Contraband and Freedman’s Cemetery: burial site of Black Freedmen who struggled with White supremacy and those who successfully escaped slavery during Reconstruction. Their stories continue to inspire and guide present struggles for racial justice. (Vans will take us here, and back to cars at the Presbyterian Cemetery.)
This walk was dedicated to engaging Reformed history and theology with all its voices, and to serve as a resource for challenging White dominance, lifting up Black resistance and furthering racial justice. Leaders: Dr. Kent Myers, Judy Herseth, Dr. Perzavia Praylow, Pamela Russel, Dr. Larry Golemon, and Yvonne McKinney.
The planning team has decided to offer this event again, so STAY TUNED about possible dates.