In June of 2007, descendants of African-Americans who had been enslaved at
president James Madison's plantation, Montpelier, came to
Orange County, Virginia to commemorate and honor the contributions
of those whose freedom was sacrificed to build our nation.
This three-day celebration brought together slave descendants, historians and genealogists from around the
United States. Saturday's keynote address, delivered by world-renowned historian John Hope Franklin,
electrified an audience of over 200 people.
Dr. Bruce Jackson, a co-director of the African American DNA Roots
Project, participated in a Saturday-afternoon genealogy workshop and collected DNA samples from volunteers
who were interested in tracing their genetic roots.
A quiet Sunday-morning memorial service was conducted at
Montpelier's slave cemetery, at which Dr. Hortense Hinton read her moving poem "Only
for a Moment", composed
for the occasion. The cemetery service was followed by an inspiring tent service delivered by local minister
Youtha Hardman-Cromwell. Throughout the reunion, attendees struck up new friendships
or renewed old acquantances.
We thank all those who attended, and hope each of you had a wonderful experience.
If you would like further information about the Reunion, please contact the Reunion Committee at .
The Montpelier Slave Descendants Reunion was Co-sponsored by the
Montpelier Foundation and the Orange County African-American
Historical Society with additional support from Wachovia, the Virginia
Foundation for the Humanities, the Gilder Foundation and the Inez Duff
Bishop Charitable Trust.
2007 Reunion Events:
Keynote Speaker: John Hope Franklin
John Hope Franklin is a world-renowned scholar who has led an
incredibly rich and varied career. His works express a deep
concern for the lives of African-Americans. From his initial
publications in the 1930s to his 2006 autobiography, Franklin's life
and works span the depth and breadth of the African-American experience.
The two volumes of his seminal book "From Slavery to Freedom", originally
published in 1947, remain in print today, in their eighth edition.
After seven decades of teaching and writing, Dr. Franklin
is an iconic historian respected by students, colleagues, political
leaders and the general public. We were honored to have Dr. Franklin
as our keynote speaker.
For more information about Dr. Franklin, see his biography at Duke University's John Hope Franklin Center.
African-American DNA Roots Project:
Jackson of the University of Massachusetts Lowell attended the reunion
and collected DNA samples from anyone who was interested in tracing their roots back to particular
West African tribes.
"During the slave trade in colonial America, people were kidnapped from
their homes, primarily in the areas of western Africa, and were
brought to the US. In order to break the slaves, they were forced to
forget their homes and where they came from. In essence, to forget who
Now, thanks to DNA technology, it may be possible to reconnect some
African-Americans to their ancestral roots in Africa."
Slave Cemetery Commemoration: During the reunion
we honored the slaves who died at Montpelier by laying wreaths at
the estate's slave cemetery.