Sara in Colonial Virginia

A first-year student majoring in English and public relations, Sara is a Dedman Scholar and member of the University Honors Program. During spring 2014, she is enrolled in the Honors history class “The Founding Fathers and Slavery.” The class traveled to Virginia during spring break, with visits to Alexandria, Colonial Williamsburg, Washington, Charlottesville and the plantations of George Washington (Mount Vernon), Thomas Jefferson (Monticello), and James Madison (Montpelier).

Many of the photos on this blog were taken by Lucy, a first-year Dedman Scholar and member of the University Honors Program who is majoring in biology.

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Learning the minuet and more in Williamsburg

On the road

On the road

The night before, our class drove from Alexandria to Colonial Williamsburg. The drive was … cramped, to say the least, but we made it safely to our destination. This morning, we would have the opportunity to explore the colonial town for the first time. Our first day in Williamsburg didn’t have a lot of structure compared to the other days. We would meet as a class, walk to the town, and split up except for lunch and dinner.

At the Governor's Palace

At the Governor’s Palace

A majority of us met up at the Governor’s Palace, where we walked around the grounds before entering the house. We enjoyed looking at the elaborate set-up, exclaiming over brightly colored fabrics and guns covering the walls of the house. Amidst all of this finery, there was one thing that caught our group’s attention: the rum punch in the dining room! But I think that came from our hunger more than anything. We ended up sneaking out of the house tour early to meet our class for lunch — thank goodness, too!!

After lunch, the re-created Raleigh Tavern offered colonial dance lessons. Not everyone wanted to attend, so we split off into smaller groups to explore the rest of the town. Kelly, Adam, A.J., and I decided to see what the dancing was all about. Inside the tavern, we found an instructor accompanied by two musicians. As we made our way to the back of the room, the instructor called for everyone’s attention. They began by teaching us how to “show honors,” or rather, bow and curtsy. It was so funny to see everyone in jeans and shorts trying to act so formal! Then, the instructor gave people the opportunity to come to the center of the room and learn how to do a Virginia minuet. The version that my classmates and I did was a little bit more complicated than the kids’ version, but it reminded me of the two-step they showed us at Mustang Corral — lots of group circles and “wheels!” But we definitely had a blast with it!! However, I did snicker a little bit when the instructor thanked us for “stepping a country dance” with her. I’m a Texas native, and I have an entirely different perspective when it comes to country dancing!

The Williamsburg Jail

The Williamsburg Jail

Our afternoon was spent exploring Williamsburg, much like the rest of our classmates. We even found an authentic colonial bakery … complete with refrigerators and Coca-Cola! Some of the other students went to a program called the Offering of the Ladies, which sounded incredibly interesting. There were actors portraying Martha Washington, Martha Jefferson, and Elizabeth Randolph. Andrew and Lucy, who were both at the program, said it was interesting to see how they were connected by all of the struggles that ladies faced in their time. Ms. Spaniolo also attended this event, and, like the students, she enjoyed the interesting perspective that the actors gave. She added that it was interesting to see how the women interacted with slavery — it was as if they viewed slaves as the background worker bees (which they were). They acted as if they ran the plantation or traveled completely by themselves, and Martha Jefferson even went so far as to call the slaves “my people,” as opposed to addressing the slaves’ true station in life.

Morgan and Emily took the afternoon to check out the different shops and buildings along the main street. They seemed to like the apothecary a lot. Morgan said the shopkeeper told them how colonial people used different trees and plants for their ailments, including actual licorice bark! They also got to see the Capitol, where they had a wonderful tour guide. Jessica and Courtney spent their afternoon watching the wig maker and the silversmith, which they enjoyed because they could see how the products were made and had the opportunity to buy the products as well.

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