Leesburg, VA

Morven Park Launches a Social Justice Initiative Dedicated to Honoring Enslaved Men, Women, and Children

Uplift Loudoun

For many descendants of enslaved Africans, genealogy research hits a “brick wall” or a dead end at 1865. This image of the green plant breakPhoto byMorven Park

Morven Park, a historic site in Leesburg, Virginia, which includes three museums, an equestrian center, and athletic field complex, has announced a new project that will document and honor enslaved individuals.

The work is called the 246 Years Project. A press release shared by Morven Park describes the initiative as a way to share the names and stories of the enslaved individuals who were recorded in a variety of documents by enslavers managing their "property". There is historical records that exist in the archives of historic sites, community history organizations, and local courts. 

In a collaborative effort, Morven Park will work in parternship with the Loudoun County Circuit Court, and collect and organize biographical data within a custom-built, on-line database that will be available this month. Together they will reassemble the pieces to reveal the life events of the men, women, and children enslaved specifically in Loudoun County. The searchable database will be available on-line, free of charge, for public use.

“The 246 Years Project will bring to light thousands of untold stories of strength, resilience, and persistence, creating an opportunity for truth-telling, recognition, and memorialization,” said Stacey Metcalfe, executive director of Morven Park. “We are honored to be a part of the stories and healing that will come from these efforts to find their names and honor their legacies.”

Clerk of the Loudoun County Circuit Court, Gary Clemens, said he's honored to be part of a wonderful historic endeavor related to the 246 Years Project. "By virtue of my partnership with Morven Park, we hope this collaboration will allow both my office and the Westmoreland Davis Memorial Foundation to offer valuable insights related to the people who lived and worked at Morven Park and in Loudoun County."

Historical Background

In August 1619, a group of 20 Africans were brought to Jamestown, Virginia, and sold to the settlement. On December 6, 1865, the ratification of the 13th Amendment liberated close to four million individuals from slavery.  

In the 246 years between 1619 and 1865, vast numbers of Africans and their descendants were held in bondage and legally considered property. As property, their names are absent from most standard government records such as census, birth, and death registers. These 246 years of omission prevent current descendants of enslaved Africans from being able to trace their ancestry through the many on-line genealogy services available today. 

For more information visit www.morvenpark.org/246years

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