Black History in the Valley

Belle Grove Plantation

Belle Grove Plantation

Josephine School Community Museum

josephine school community museum

Today, all across the Shenandoah Valley, you will find businesses, agencies, and residents advocating together to involve black history into every aspect of our culture. Between events, lectures, and iconic historical sights, there is so much to understand, learn, and appreciate.

 

This guide includes lots of food for thought, interspersed with plenty of actual food and drink, for a rich, holistic weekend of experiencing the Valley.

Day 1:

Belle Grove Plantation

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Photo Courtesy: Facebook - Belle Grove Plantation

Your first stop should be Belle Grove Plantation in Middletown, birthplace of James Madison. If you’re coming from the Southeast, you’ll want to start your morning with a stop at Happy Creek Coffee and Tea in Front Royal, nested in Warren County

Twenty-five miles up the road, you’ll arrive at Belle Grove Plantation Manor House. The home was built in 1797 and sat at the center of what eventually became a 7,500 acre plantation, growing cattle, wheat, and sheep sustained by hundreds of enslaved people.

 

The Plantation offers guided house and grounds tours featuring the Manor House, ice and smokehouses, apple orchard, and slave cemetery. The visitors’ center also offers a self-guided tour of the plantation so that you can explore and take in the history of both the main house and that life of those who were enslaved on the property. 

 

QUICK TIP

To give yourself more time to explore, consider packing a picnic lunch.

 

After an afternoon of learning and conversation, head to nearby Winchester’s pedestrian mall for a wide selection of local eats. Once you’ve had your fill at local hot spots, like Water Street Kitchen or Broken Window Brewing, plan to stay in Berryville at the beautiful Historic Rosemont Manor. You’ll be a short distance to wake up and tour the Josephine School Museum, next up on the list.

Day 2:

Josephine School Community Museum

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Photo Courtesy: J School Museum

After a long Saturday, start your Sunday morning slow with a delicious gourmet waffle and latte brunch at Cordial Coffee in downtown Berryville. Once you’ve had your fill, it’s just a quick 3 minute drive, or a 15 minute walk away, is the Josephine School Museum, part of the Clark County African American Cultural Center.

 

The Josephine School Museum is a perfect place to learn more about black history. In 1882, this school was built by former slaves and freed colored people within the community. It was a way to provide children of color education and during such challenging times. Upon integrating with the public schools in the mid 1900’s, the school served all races up until it closed in 1987. However, its intrinsic value and historical background led this school to become a landmark in the Valley, transforming it into a museum in 2003. 

 

The museum is only open Sunday afternoons, so this is the perfect rare opportunity to see all that it has to offer. The museum is community-run, so you can be sure there will be staff around, readily available to answer your questions and engage in conversations that you’ll remember for years to come.

These are just two places to pique your interest around Virginia’s multilayered history and how it’s still impacting life today. If you’d like to plan even more, visit The Virginia African American Historic Sites trail and to maximize your time in the Shenandoah Valley check out all the places to visit and eats that Clarke and Frederick counties have to offer.

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