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February is when we honor the rich history and contributions of black Americans.

James FarmerDr. James Farmer, Jr.
Photo from librarypoint.org
It’s amazing when you think that Dr. James Farmer Jr., a key player in the civil rights movement, called Fredericksburg home. When you stroll along the campus of the University of Mary Washington, you’ll see a statue that honors Dr. Farmer and his legacy. If you’ve ever seen the 2007 film, The Great Debaters, starring Denzel Washington, Dr. Farmer’s back story as a collegiate orator on the Wiley College debate team is highlighted.

Maybe you’ve seen Shiloh Baptist Church on Sophia Street. That church is a cornerstone of some of the best local history that Fredericksburg has to offer. Its pastors, men of conviction and spirit, challenged the status quo time and again, skillfully guiding the black community through social change after social change.

Walker GrantThe original Walker-Grant High School now houses Fredericksburg school administrative officesSomething else you may be unaware of is that the original Walker-Grant High School, which opened in 1938, was the city’s first publicly supported black high school.

Mayfield still stands as a historically black community and Liberty Town once was. Fredericksburg son and fifth president of the United States, James Monroe, a prominent supporter of the colonization of Liberia, has the capital city of Monrovia named after him.

This is only scratching the surface. Sure, it’s great to learn about Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and other famous black Americans, but I encourage you and your children to spend time tapping into the rich black history all around you in Fredericksburg this year. The people you don’t know have shaped the city that you love. You may be surprised at what you discover. After all, it’s our shared history.

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