Reflections on Black History: An evening of song, stories and memories on February 25 at Stratford Hall

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Media Contact: Jim Schepmoes
804-493-8038 ext. 8119

For Immediate Release

STRATFORD, VA, (February 3, 2011) – Join us at Stratford Hall on February 25 for an evening of praise and remembrance in celebration of Black History Month. The event will be held in Stratford’s Council House from 7:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Doors will open to the public at 6:30 p.m.

Slaves were forbidden by Virginia Law to be taught to read and write. The vast majority of pre-Civil War slaves held onto hope for a better life through the inspiration of songs, stories, and poems. Once freed from the bondage of slavery, the church and the school grew to sustain the individual through the travails of the intolerable Jim Crow laws and continued legislated segregation. The community was nourished with the help of tireless community leaders, spiritual guides, gifted teachers and educational philanthropic organizations.

Taking part in this special program will be Richard Wayne Campbell, Daisy Howard-Douglas, Charles Johnson Jr., Elnora Ashton Johnson, Lois Johnson, William E. Johnson, Sr., Reverend Henry C. Lee, Martha E. Newman, Odessa Dixon Smith, and Rita M. Wagstaff.

Richard Wayne Campbell, a gifted poet and singer of Negro Spirituals, will present the famous Martin L. King, Jr. “I have a dream” speech. He currently is the president of the Westmoreland Storytellers Guild and is a faithful member of the Zion Baptist Church located in Kinsale, Virginia.

Daisy Howard-Douglas is the founder of the Westmoreland Weavers of the Word Storytelling Guild and is an award-winning and internationally recognized teacher. In addition, she spearheaded the research that resulted in the establishment of three Virginia Highway markers highlighting the contributions of Westmoreland’s County’s African American community.

Charles Johnson, Jr., recipient of the Bronze Star, is a retired army paratrooper. Mr. Johnson is the son of Charles and Ethel Payne Johnson and the grandson of William (Uncle Wes) Payne who lived most of his life at Stratford. Mr. Johnson is an active church member and community activist.

Elnora Johnson is the daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Ashton, the wife of Charles A. Johnson Jr., and a mother of five. Ms. Johnson is an active member of the church and has contributed to numerous community services.

Lois Johnson, who graduated from A.T. Johnson High school, Montross, Virginia, in 1964, is the daughter of Charles and Ethel Payne Johnson. Ms. Johnson has held a wide variety of federal government positions and retired from the General Services Administration in 1994. She is an active church member and member of the Messengers of Christ singers.

William E. Johnson, Sr. is a gifted musician and son of Charles A. Johnson, Sr. and Ethel Payne Johnson and grandson of William (Uncle Wes) Payne.

Reverend Henry C. Lee is a Baptist minister and son of the Reverend Johnson B. Lee and Mattie Hunter Lee. Mr. Lee is the grandson of Robert E. Lee and Maggie Johnson and grandson of Betsy Lee, born a slave in 1850.

Martha Newman, a gifted writer of inspirational poems, has presented at numerous local churches and is currently employed as a tour guide at Strafford Hall.

Odessa Dixon Smith is the daughter of the late William and Viola Weldon and is a retired music resource teacher for the elementary schools in Westmoreland County. Ms. Smith has been keeping the legacy of African-American music alive through her group Echoes of the Past, a spiritual singing group, a jazz ensemble, which performs songs from the legends of African-American jazz, and her music accompaniment at a local church. Ms. Smith is joined by Lisa Rich, Karen Henry, Mavis Jackson and Elnora Johnson.

Rita Wagstaff is a great storyteller, delivering her tales with warmth and wit. Her favorite stories to share are African folk tales. Ms. Wagstaff is currently teaching English at Washington & Lee High School in Montross, Virginia.

Seating is limited. RSVPs are strongly recommended and will be given preferred seating. Ticket prices are Adults $8.00 – Children $5.00 – children under 5 free. Light refreshments will be available. Please contact or leave a voicemail at 804-493-8038×7787 to RSVP. For more information, contact Jon Bachman at 804-493-8038 x1039. For a complete program schedule, visit