Slice of history

Learning should never end.

Tourism Director Linda Shepperd is pitching a plan to create an African-American Cultural and Heritage Trail to cover from the colonial period through the civil rights era. 

The mission is to identify, preserve, share and celebrate African-American heritage in the county. 

“We feel this is an opportunity we have not totally captured,” Shepperd told governing officials last week. “It is only a proposal, and we will not be asking for any money. We will be writing a grant, and it will come out of our current budget.”

An interactive way to highlight often forgotten moments in history, it would be more than just a map of various sites. Instead, the trail would be content-rich.

Five sites already on the Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail would serve as a foundation for this new historical endeavor. 

Additional sites will require gathering documents before being included on the trail. There is nothing to prevent further sites from being added to the trail as more information becomes available, Shepperd said.

She’s working to form a committee of seven residents and elected representatives to work on the African-American Cultural Trail project as well as getting input from the community. Immediate goals of a steering committee include creating the official name of the trail and creation of a logo; criteria for inclusion on the trail; and announcement of first trail sites. 

This points to a positive and engaging way to educate not only students, but all residents, the impact of African-Americans on Halifax County.

There are many unsung heros who deserve more recognition. 

For local residents and visitors alike, Shepperd said the trail would provide a broader understanding of the lives of African-American pioneers, entrepreneurs, civic leaders and business owners who struggled, triumphed and established themselves in the fabric of the community. 

A sampling of sites and people to highlight include:

• The slave cemetery at Berry Hill where more than 300 graves are considered one of the largest in Virginia

• Dr. and Mrs. James M. Mason House, the first hospital for black citizens 

• Clover School, a Rosenwald School where Henrietta Lacks attended

• Rose Garden Cemetery, an early black cemetery in South Boston, established mid-1800s  

• First Baptist Church Ferry Street: Organized in 1865 by former slaves from Berry Hill

• Henrietta Lacks 

• Matthew Hale Coleman 

• Hamilton Family Builders 

• Sydnor Johnston Jennings 

• Benjamin Jerome Kent Sr. 

• William Albert Kent 

• Josephine Prince Marshall

Sometimes in our busy lives it’s easy to forget the important monuments to history right here in our own backyard. This proposal seems like an excellent way to ensure we never forget.