Staunton’s “Other Park”



There are two parks in the small city of Staunton, Virginia.   During the time of segregation, whites were able to use Gypsy Hill Park at will, but the black residents of the city were only allowed to visit the park one day each year. Shortly after WWII, the black community leaders requested  more availability to Gypsy Hill. The city council purchased a historic farm call Montgomery Hall for $42,oo0 and placed the park in the hands of the black community.  Montgomery Hall was one of only two black parks in the state of Virginia.  (from the Staunton Visitor Center)

“Desperate Negro Woman” -Published in (Published in 1861 in the Staunton  Vindicator)

“A fine looking negro woman aged about 28 years, belonging to Mr. Joseph Cline, living about four miles from Staunton, becoming unruly, and  he determined to bring her to town and sell her. While she was going to get her clothes, she picked up an axe , she had concealed, and deliberately cut three of her fingers off, taking two  licks at them. . . . .She did the act for the double purpose of preventing her sale and taking revenge upon her master.”

I can imagine that for many of my international blogger friends, this situation is quite shocking, and well it should be. It is part of my culture and history. Did the southern United States start slavery?  No.  But should we have been more aware of these human beings and their suffering.  Yes, of course.  As uncomfortable as it is for us, the white children of Staunton to be confronted with these details, “It just was the way it was!”

In the words of Jane Gray Avery (Historian)

“I know of no other park property (Montgomery Hall Park)  that can trace its history from a plantation, made successful by the efforts of the enslaved people who lived there between 1822 and 1865 to a park creates as a haven for and run by the African American community. . . .”

In 2014  Staunton, there are opportunities to learn about the African American Heritage at the Frontier Culture Museum by touring the West African Farm exhibit from where many of the early slaves had come.   There is a large and popular African-American Festival  in the fall each year,  the largest in western Virginia. Today about 12% of Staunton’s population is African American.

I am including a ping-back to a post I wrote about Growing Up in the Jim Crowe South for anyone who might like to read more of my personal story in Staunton. (Left click below)

I would love to hear your thoughts. . . .. hard or not. . . . .We must continue to “shine light in the darkness.”

About annetbell

I am a retired elementary teacher, well seasoned world traveler,new blogger, grandmother, and a new enthusiastic discoverer of the wonderfully complex country of India. Anne
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