I had the honor to attend the unveiling of a Virginia historic highway marker [.pdf] for Parker Sydnor, a freedman and stonecutter in southside Virginia. Sydnor, and his kinswoman Vicey Skipwith, represent something that I found in my own dissertation work—individual people rarely conform to the larger narratives we impose on the past. Skipwith’s story, told by Dr. Angelita Reyes, is here.
The new marker is part of a larger initiative by Literacy Interactives [Facebook page here] to transform Sydnor’s log cabin into a “living history” site just outside of Clarksville, Virginia. By living history, they don’t mean costumed interpreters, but a place that draws deeply from history to promote various literacies today—technological literacy, cultural literacy, environmental literacy—and thereby strengthen local communities and civic life. Literacy Interactives is getting help from the Virginia Tech Community Design Assistance Center.
But I didn’t need to see the CDAC conceptual drawings to imagine the benefits this will have. At the dedication ceremony at St. Matthews Church, a young descendant of Mr. Sydnor testified about how she told her classmates that research into her ancestor had made her feel more connected to history and place.
And what more could you ask for!