The David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History sponsored a day-long symposium, African American Life and Labor in the President’s Neighborhood, on February 27 at St. John’s Church on Lafayette Square. The Center’s inaugural event was a success thanks to the 15 speakers and more than 300 attendees.
Lonnie G. Bunch, III, Founding Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, provided introductory remarks on the important role museums and historical sites play in promoting the visibility of African American history. The keynote address was given by Spencer Crew, Robinson Professor of American, African American and Public History, George Mason University, who set the historical and cultural context for the day’s lectures.
For the rest of the day, presentations by five scholars gave glimpses of new research on the lives of the free and enslaved community in and around Lafayette Square. The program ended with a discussion and audience Q&A with four descendants of the storied DePriest, Jennings, Syphax, and Wormley families.
Registration for the event reached capacity several weeks in advance of the symposium, so if you weren’t able to attend, you will soon be able to watch the program broadcast on CSPAN. Check back for details.
The Center is located at Decatur House, a National Trust historic site operated by the White House Historical Association. Current conservation measures are being undertaken, so we are grateful that we could cooperate with St. John’s Church to bring this event to the public.