Park Programs Highlight Powerful Stories of Emancipation

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP offers

Park Historian Steward Henderson speaks to participants at the "To Freedom" event.

NPS Photo

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This spring Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County National Military Park commemorated the experiences of 10,000 enslaved citizens of Fredericksburg who gained their freedom when Union forces arrived in the area in 1862.  In April the park co-sponsored its third annual "Years of Anguish" program, with a special focus on the experiences of the women, men and children who sought freedom during the Civil War and what that meant to them.  The program culminated in a presentation by Park Historian John Hennessy that incorporated first-hand narratives to provide a powerful description of the challenges and struggles faced by these newly-emancipated people.

Building on these stories, during the first weekend in May the park co-sponsored "To Freedom," a commemorative event that included music, tours, theater, readings of first-person accounts, and a symbolic procession in which participants carried 300 stones, each attached to the name of a slave, then discarded the stones to represent slaves' shedding of their burden as they moved toward freedom.  More than 100 people ranging in age from 3 to 70 years old joined the program as participants and observers.  The park continues to offer powerful programs that speak to the experiences of civilians and soldiers during the Civil War.