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Slavery in the Valley: Different than elsewhere?


aug county historical societyThe lower number of slaves in the Shenandoah Valley before the Civil War has fostered the idea that slavery there was different or more benevolent.  Not so, says local historian Nancy Sorrells.  In a Sunday program at the Government Center, Sorrells will present the facts on “Slavery and its Aftermath in the Upper Valley.”

The program, which will follow a brief Augusta County Historical Society business meeting, is free and open to the public.  Refreshments will be provided following the program.

Sorrells notes that, when the Civil War broke out in 1861, one in every five Augusta County residents was a slave, but that number was less than across the Deep South.  She says that the smaller number of area slaves has prompted some to think that slavery never was really strong in this area.  In the November 15 program, she will explain that, while there were some differences, slavery in the Valley was no less horrific or entwined in the culture than in any other slave society.  Sorrells will also describe what happened when the war ended and freedom came to this part of the Valley.

Sorrells has researched and written about the area’s African-America history for 25 years. She says, “History is not always pretty, and the story of slavery and freedom is a painful one, but one that is very important to tell and to learn from.”  She added, “To not tell this story is to ignore people who, in the face of unimaginable hardship, were able to maintain a sense of dignity and self-respect while building a culture drawn from the strength of family. Every day until the end of the Civil War meant waking up to the reality that you could be separated from your family and sold. And the struggle for equality continued long after the war ended.”

The ACHS was founded in 1964 to study, collect, preserve, publish, educate about, and promote the history of Augusta County and its communities. More information is available online at www.augustacountyhs.org.



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