News

October 8, 2007

Skillman Library Commemorates the Fight to End Slavery Oct. 11

Events include a lecture by Marquis scholar Robert Rhodes Crout, a historical re-enactment, and the opening of the For Captive Africa exhibit

A number of events Oct. 11 in Skillman Library will focus on the fight to end slavery in America, England, and France, and highlight the role the Marquis de Lafayette played in abolishing slavery.

Robert Rhodes Crout, of the College of Charleston, will present the lecture “Lafayette and Slavery: The Ideal, The Practical” at 4:10 p.m. in the Gendebien Room. Following the lecture, historical interpreters from the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association will perform “Lafayette & Slavery,” a short dramatic portrayal of the Marquis and the African American slave/spy James Armistead Lafayette.

Also opening Oct. 11 in the Simon Room will be the For Captive Africa exhibit. Running through Feb. 29, 2008, the exhibit commemorates the 200th anniversary of the ending of the slave trade by Great Britain and America.

All three events are part of the College’s celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Marquis’ birth.

The yearlong celebration during 2007-08 is in recognition of the life and legacy of the man for whom the College is named. Major events include the Lives of Liberty lecture series; a historical exhibit at the Williams Center for the Arts, entitled A Son and his Adoptive Father: The Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington; and a birthday party, which was Sept. 6.

A web site dedicated to the celebration and to the Marquis’ unique connection to the College provides information and updates.
Crout’s lecture will cover the Marquis’ youthful endeavors and his mature struggles that spanned three continents to end the “peculiar institution” of slavery. It was a goal that became his lifelong quest. Crout was co-editor of the Lafayette Papers Project at Cornell University which published the five volume series, Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776-1790. He was a consultant and on-camera expert in the recent History Channel series “Washington and His Generals” and is currently working with the Discovery Channel on a forthcoming program on Lafayette.

The “Lafayette & Slavery” performance is a production of the First Person Interpretation Unit in the Education Department of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.

James Armistead Lafayette, an African American spy for the Continental Army, will be portrayed by William O. Little III in “Entitled to Every Reward.” Armistead Lafayette served under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette as a spy in the Yorktown Campaign in 1781. As a result, he was eventually granted his freedom.

The Marquis de Lafayette will be portrayed by K. Ken Johnston in “For the Black Part of Mankind.” The Marquis will speak of his efforts to end slavery in the young republic of the United States and in his native France.
Little III is an interpretive performer at Mount Vernon and a theatre major at Howard University. Johnston is managing director of First Person Interpretation & Programs at Mount Vernon and a professional actor, writer, and director.

Through resources from the library’s Rare Book Collection, the For Captive Africa exhibit will include anti-slavery periodicals and poetry, publications by women abolitionists, works on the American Colonization Movement, and books by or about British abolitionists such as Granville Sharp, Thomas Clarkson, and William Wilberforce.

The exhibit will also include two extremely rare volumes – a first edition of An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called African (1833), by Lydia Maria Child, and a second edition of The Slave: or Memoirs of Archy Moore (1840) by Richard Hildreth. Skillman Library recently acquired these two books, bound together, through a sealed bid auction from the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

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