Trip kicks off (January 6th)
Alamance Battleground Tour
Alamance Battleground is the very first stop of the trip and is fairly close to Elon. This morning was also COLD. Pretty great indicator of what the rest of the trip would look like. The tour starts off with a short film about what happened during the Battle of Alamance and then moves to the grounds where the battle occurred. We had a male and a female tour guide who were knowledgeable, passionate, and intent on pushing the importance of the Battle of Alamance and North Carolina’s rich history. This battle was fought when some Carolina colonists became unhappy with the taxation and means of collecting money in the colony and decided to take a stand against the British. The colonists were known as the “regulators.”
The interesting thing about the Alamance Battleground is that they are claiming that they were the first battle of the American of the revolution when in fact they weren’t even fighting for freedom from Britain! In my opinion, those who run this site are making a bit too big of claims about their importance. While this battle may be important to North Carolinians, it isn’t really the start to the revolution.
While this isn’t the most interesting of sites, it’s a good little start to the trip. As a displaced Texan, it’s interesting to learn a little bit about the history of other states.
Dr. Carpenter joins us in Raleigh!
Lunch time at Cafe Carolina
Our next stop was the state capitol grounds and quick lunch in Raleigh. Quite honestly, the assignment concerning the state capitol grounds is kind of silly. We were asked to go in the museum and look at the statues in order to consider whether or not the monuments are biased towards the Confederacy. Of course, considering that we’re in North Carolina, they are very biased. We were able to pick up a bulletin from inside the museum and write about it without looking around much.
The most interesting part of this day was finding a foreigner’s wallet that contained over $1,000 in cash. Turning it in to the police was a sad moment but it had to be done.
For lunch we stopped in a little cafe called Cafe Carolina which is very similar to Panera! I’d definitely recommend it for a quick stop.
On to VA
Rachel, Danielle, and Hannah
VA Day 1 (January 7th)
Anna, Daniella, Kristy, and I
Group shot on the “settlement ships”
My roommate for the trip, Kristy!
Recreation of the settlement ships
Our Jamestown tour was quite possibly the worst of the trip. I found the majority of the tour to be slightly uncomfortable and disappointing overall. Our guide spent most of the time talking about the different cultures of people that became mixed at Jamestown and how those different types of people lived, while failing to mention the importance of Jamestown as a settlement.
The guide tried too hard too hard to force us to answer questions and engage us, almost as if we were young kids. I think that he was overexcited that we weren’t little kids (his usual touring age group). The tour became boring and it was hard to follow his rambling at times. Additionally, he did not seem to realize that some teenage girls would be made uncomfortable with an older man they did not know touching their shoulders or getting in their personal space during his demonstrations. It is very important to respect boundaries when teaching others. Despite the disappointing guide, I found the discussion of the different cultures to be interesting – especially the outdoor portion of the tour where we got to see how the Powhatan tribe lived.
Learning soldier skills
Thankfully, Yorktown was a MUCH better experience than Jamestown.
Yorktown is remembered as the last major battle of the American Revolution and the deciding factor in the outcome of the war. Despite Yorktown being at the end of the Revolution, our guide did a wonderful job outlining the whole revolution and explaining how it all started. She began her by showing Ben Franklin’s “Join or Die” cartoon that sought to show the colonies that they could not win the war separately – they must all fight together. Then, she explained the different reasons that the war began. As a result of a costly French and Indian war and British soldiers monitoring of the border of 1763, Britain began to enforce more taxes on the American. Thus, taxation without representation began. Americans begin to get fed up with these taxes because they believed that they were unfair, so they rebelled. The Boston Tea Party was organized by Sam Adams and represents the throwing away of the King’s property. Others follow suit across the colonies. The 1st shot is fired at Lexington and Concord and just like that, the war begins.
Our tour guide’s presentation was interesting, engaging, contained college-appropriate material and was to the point. It was especially fun to see the soldier’s living quarters and pretend that we were soldiers learning drill. The tour was, however, biased towards the American side. Our guide told a story of being shocked that a museum in London only had one small display remembering the American Revolution and the American victory at Yorktown. The Revolution is such a small deal to the British but is a huge deal to Americans including her and the rest of the staff at Yorktown. She stated, “history is told by its victors.” This certainly rings true at Yorktown.
VA Day 2 (January 8th)
Jefferson’s beautiful home
Under Jefferson’s home
Danielle and Megan
Monticello, as a whole, did a more than adequate job of explaining the Jefferson contradiction – a man famous for proclaiming all men free and equal in the Declaration of Independence owned over a hundred slaves. This being said, workers at Monticello clearly admire Jefferson for his various accomplishments and his ingenuity despite the fact that he owned slaves.
Our tour started with a short orientation film about Jefferson’s life that opened with a Jefferson quote claiming, “Equality is man’s natural law” and following with a list of his many accomplishments. The film goes on to discuss his living contradiction. Jefferson had more than 140 African Americans living at Monticello and only freed the children that he fathered with Sally Hemmings at the time of his death. Although the film mentions the contradiction, it ends with further heroification of Jefferson by comparing him to the other great men who have worked towards freedom in their lifetimes: Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, Obama and various others.
Monticello seemed very progressive in its discussions of slave life during Jefferson’s era. Our tour guide brought up that it was not always this way though and that they are still learning more about Jefferson each year and working to give the most accurate and informative tours possible. We must also keep in mind that Monticello is a family attraction that should leave visitors feeling good, not scare little children off with the horrors of slave beatings. I appreciated that our guide “kept it real” with us and was able to appreciate and criticize Jefferson without quite granting him hero status. After all, he was a human just like all of us.
Monticello was one of my favorite stops of the trip. Not only are the grounds and buildings beautiful, but the tour does a fantastic job of portraying history accurately and teaching visitors about the time.
On to second hotel
VA Day 3 (January 9th)
American Civil War Museum
Unfortunately, on this tour day I was sick! I spent the day eating Dominoes in bed and drinking sprite. Jim was kind enough to give me a “free pass” on the journal from this day! Luckily, I recovered quickly and was back in commission soon enough 🙂
VA Day 4 (January 10th)
The Mount Vernon tour began much like Monticello with a video. The Washington heroification begins from the moment the video starts. A deep narrating voice tells us that “Washington never told a lie” and that “this estate shows his true personality.” The only time that slavery is brought up during the whole video is when the slave memorial is mentioned. There is more time devoted to sales ploys in the video than time spent talking about slavery. This sends the message that money and white history is more important than slavery. How ridiculous. The video moves on to tell a very romanticized story of how Martha and Washington met and how bravely he was able to rally his men to win the Revolutionary War. Slavery is never mentioned again and Washington is crowned the “patriot of liberty.” The video ends by asking us to “remain true to his memory.”
This version of Washington that the Mount Vernon video describes is the one I spent my childhood learning about. In reality though, Washington was not that perfect and painting him as so is ludicrous. When we heroify we miss out on so much of history and the lessons that can be learned from it. Our tour through the house was interesting (and not in a good way) to say the least. We began by touring the “servants house” in which a flat screen TV was housed and servants were not even mentioned. Is calling them servants supposed to disguise the fact that they were enslaved? Of course, the house itself is beautiful. The extra staff member on guard in each room was a bit unnerving though.
Our guide Nathan Noble seemed uncomfortable with our slavery questions and was clearly a huge Washington admirer. He even called himself our adopted professor (what a goof). Monticello did a much better job of balancing the contradiction of Jefferson overall – they were willing to admit that owning slaves was an issue even though he accomplished great things. Brushing slavery under the rug is not an honest recount of Washington’s life. Guests to Mount Vernon deserve to hear both the good and the bad. After all, that is what makes history interesting and how we learn from it.
On the grounds of Mount Vernon, we explored the area and visited both the Washington family grave and slave gravesite. Washington and Martha’s graves are magnificent and quite the spectacle. After seeing them though, walking over to the slave’s gravesite and seeing a few simple stones serving to commemorate the unmarked graves of over 300 slaves seems very sad in comparison. It does not seem to me that these people were ever paid proper tribute then or now. The memorial that exists now was not even commissioned until the 80’s.
After visiting the graves we spent some time exploring the museum and education center, both of which were very impressive. As expected, most of the museum was dedicated to Washington’s life and the Revolutionary War. There was one section in the education center with a plaque “Behind the Shadows of Slavery” that explained how Washington inherited the slaves and the tasks those slaves played both at Mount Vernon and in the Revolutionary War. While this plaque was good, I would’ve liked to see more things like it incorporated throughout Mount Vernon.
On to Philly
Pit stop in Maryland
What a great start to our trip! Follow my journey as we take on Philadelphia next!