Montpelier Slave Descendants Reunion, June 8-10, 2007

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 .

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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.

The African-American DNA Roots Project:
Dr. Bruce 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 they were.

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.

©2005 Montpelier Slave Descendants Reunion Committee. All rights reserved.