Incendiary Speaker, 1920
"Sometimes, despite all our records, we have only glimpses of the past. Such is the case with an incident in 1920. We know from the Virginia Gazette that an incendiary speaker from Rhode Island was scheduled to speak at one of Williamsburg's black churches. We know from Mary Haldane Coleman's letter to her friend that George Coleman was among the white men who met with leaders of the African-American community and persuaded them to cancel the speaking engagement. But that's all we know. Who was the speaker? Why was he considered incendiary? Did he ever speak in Williamsburg? If you can shed any light on this incident, please contact us."1
Lyon Tyler and Equality of the Races
"A minor controversy in 1901 demonstrates the strength of racial prejudice. William Roberts, the rector of Bruton Parish, wrote a vicious letter to the chair of the state constitutional convention criticizing the College of William & Mary and charging that its president, Lyon G. Tyler, endorsed the equality of the races. Tyler did so, according to Roberts, by allowing his daughter to attend Wellesley College with the daughter of the prominent African American educator Booker T. Washington. At the time, Tyler was lobbying to the have the state government adopt William & Mary as a full-fledged state institution. Livid, he responded in a letter to Bruton Parish's vestry, expressing his astonishment that the rector would try to undermine the future of another Williamsburg institution. Tyler indignantly refuted Roberts' charge, denying that he supported racial equality and explaining that his daughter did not even know Washington's daughter and that he had no control over who Wellesley chose to admit."2
"In the early 1900s, as Confederate veterans of the Civil War grew elderly and died out, the Williamsburg chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy decided to honor them with a monument. On May 5, 1908, surviving veterans and others gathered to dedicate the monument on the Courthouse (now Palace) Green, as seen in these pictures. When the Williamsburg Restoration took over the Green and rebuilt the Palace in the early 1930s, it pressured the UDC to move the monument, deeming it unsuitable in a colonial town. Some people resisted, and the poem here reflects their resentment. In January 1932, the UDC moved the monument to Cedar Grove Cemetery and a few months later to near the new courthouse on South England Street. Today, the monument stands in Bicentennial Park."3
Material in the Special Collections Research Center
- Conflict and Controversy from the exhibit "A Most Thriving & Growing Place": Williamsburg Before the Restoration.