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The Museum of the American Revolution works to uncover and share compelling stories about the diverse people and complex events that sparked America’s ongoing experiment in liberty, equality, and self-government. Many of these stories are explored in the Museum’s core galleries, through immersive environments, life-like tableaux, object displays, and short films. Some stories, however, are so rich that to fully explore them, the Museum has created digital interactives within the galleries in order to dig deeper and more fully expand upon them.

Finding Freedom is one such story. Located in the War in the South gallery, Finding Freedom accompanies a tableau featuring the story of a young man named London, who has been enslaved in Virginia but chooses to seek his freedom with the British Army. How typical was his story? What were the experiences of other people of African descent – free and enslaved – in Virginia, as the British and American armies fought one another across the state? What opportunities and challenges did they face as the war progressed?

Finding Freedom seeks to explore these questions, through the experiences of five real people of African descent – including London – who all lived in Virginia in 1781. While most did not leave accounts of their lives, primary sources provide glimpses into their stories. We have fleshed out these stories, and crafted first-person narratives, using supporting primary and secondary documents, artwork, and objects, as well as the work of several historians.

While we cannot know for sure every detail of their lives – and in fact, in some cases know very little – we hope the presentations within Finding Freedom allow us to see them, members of their communities, and the opportunities and challenges the American Revolution presented for them, with more clarity.

Finding Freedom Creative Team 

The project to create Finding Freedom began in 2015 as plans for the Museum of the American Revolution took shape. Philip Mead, the project director, worked together with Mary Jane Taylor, Neal Hurst, and Matthew Skic to create the in-gallery Finding Freedom digital interactive, which debuted in 2017.

The project to translate and enhance Finding Freedom for the internet began in 2018. Adrienne Whaley, the project director, worked together with Philip Mead, Elizabeth Grant, Matthew Skic, Abby Vona, Kevin Rossi, Doug Levering, and Michael Hensinger to create the online version of Finding Freedom, which launched in 2020.

We are grateful for the work and support of the following organizations and individuals for their role in the creation of the Finding Freedom interactive feature and supporting teacher resources. 

Finding Freedom Illustrators

Though there were approximately 500,000 people of African descent living in British North America on the eve of the American Revolution, it is very rare to find images – portraits, drawings, and the like – of them. The realities of slavery meant that very few such images were created. None exist, to our knowledge, for Andrew, Deborah, Eve, Jack, or London.

We are grateful to the following artists, from Wood Ronsaville Harlan, Inc., for working with Museum staff member Matthew Skic to help imagine these individuals with respect and with attention to historical records and detail:

Matthew Frey, Greg Harlin, Pamela Ronsaville, Rob Wood.

Finding Freedom Teachers

We would like to thank the members of our Finding Freedom National Teacher Advisory Group, the members of our local Teacher Advisory Group, the participants in our July 2020 Finding Freedom Summer Teacher Institute, and the participants in our 2017 and 2019 formative evaluations for your contributions to the shaping of this resource. Your input and feedback have been invaluable.

Teacher Advisory Groups:
Mary Bonavita, Alicia Booker, Barbara Brunner, William Eichler, Melvin Garrison, Laura Hoyler, William Kenney, Maura Lincoln, Therese Lowrie, Thomas McGuire, Yaasiyn Muhammad, Kristle Morris, Nancy Paley, Michele Schaefer, Harrow Strickland, Rhonda Watton, Terry Anne Wildman, Todd Wonderlin

Finding Freedom Summer Teacher Institute Participants:
Maggie Beddow, Charlotte Bethany, Maura Lincoln, Barbara Brunner, Melissa Cohen, Beth Douma, Bob Fenster, Laura Hoyler, Sara Kortesluoma, Therese Lowrie, Holly Maluk, Jennifer Morgan, Catherine Nelson, Lorri Richardson, Nicole Thomas, Rhonda Watton

Finding Freedom Curriculum and Resources:
We are grateful to educator Stephanie Tisdale, who worked closely with Museum staff members Adrienne Whaley and Matthew Skic to prepare the resources to help students and teachers engage deeply with the stories, primary sources, and themes of Finding Freedom.

Finding Freedom Scholars

Many scholars have informed our thinking and produced immensely helpful work related to the stories of people of African descent during the American Revolution. In particular, we would like to thank the following individuals for their specific guidance or reflections on this project in its formative phase or ongoing development:

Todd W. Braisted, Vincent Brown, Cassandra Pybus, Gregory J.W. Urwin, Judith L. Van Buskirk, Matthew Spooner

Many thanks, as well, to the scholars who participated in our 2020 Finding Freedom Summer Teacher Institute, who gave us new and deeper perspectives on these stories we are privileged to tell. They include, along with the above:

Mike Adams, Cassandra Newby-Alexander, Julie Winch

We would also like to thank the curatorial, research and education staff of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and Monroe County History Center (Indiana) for their collegiality and expertise as we continue to explore the stories we hold in common. These include:

 George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Adam Erby, Jessie MacLeod, Brenda Parker, Thomas Reinhart

 The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Stephen Seals, Hope Alyssa Wright

Finding Freedom Technical Development

We would like to thank the team at Bluecadet for their design work in creating the in-gallery Finding Freedom digital interactive. Ksenia Dynkin worked alongside Museum staff members to craft the first-person narratives. 

Thank you to the team at AREA 17 for translating and enhancing Finding Freedom for the internet. 

Finding Freedom is made possible with generous support from The Albert M. Greenfield Foundation.

  • Image 102720 Albert M Greenfield Foundation Albertmgreenfield Color

Finding Freedom Interactive: Explore the stories of African American men and women in war-torn Virginia.

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