Collectors Scour Countryside Looking for Artifacts For Black Church Exhibit

Collectors for “It’s By God’s Grace: The Black Church in Central Virginia, 1820-1950,” have nearly finished their work, but a few items are still needed.

While the collectors have located written histories of many churches in Lynchburg and the surrounding counties—Amherst, Appomattox, Campbell, and Bedford—they know their list is far from complete.

And the Collection Committee, co-chaired by Willie Thornhill and Carolyn Bell, is still looking for a few pre-1950 personal items. “We don’t have enough hats,” said Thornhill, “and we need at least one pair of shoes.” Other needed artifacts include children’s clothing, aprons, a fancy fan, a purse or two, and handmade items from a church bazaar.

These artifacts and the many others that the collectors have already gathered will develop six themes outlined by guest curator Dianne Swann-Wright, director of African American and special programs at Monticello. The themes are historical context, organization of churches, the role of women, social action and expressions of leadership, religious education, and cultural expressions such as music, food, and clothing.

An interpretive label will explain each theme. Documents, photographs, and three-dimensional artifacts such as communion sets, furniture, Bibles, and altar decorations will illustrate the themes.

Swann-Wright is working with Betsy Johnson-Whitten, archivist at the Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry at the University of Virginia, who will design and install the exhibit. Johnson-Whitten, formerly curator of collections for the Lynchburg Museum System, also designed and installed Legacy’s first three exhibits.

Swann-Wright and Johnson-Whitten will meet with the collectors and the board of directors on Tuesday, April 15, at 4 p.m. at the Museum. All interested Legacy supporters are welcome to attend the meeting.

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