Vermont’s First African American Heritage Trail Opens with 10 Educational Sites & Exhibits

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Statewide events honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month

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A student photographs Twilight Hall, named after educator, minister, and politician, Alexander Twilight, the first African American to earn a bachelor's degree from an American college.

This trail anchors the stories of African descended Vermonters to our landscape and, as such, does a great service in helping to change the history from a predominately white story to what it has always been from the beginning, a multicultural endeavor.

When it comes to diversity in this nation, Vermont has a strong history of Firsts. Vermont was the first to abolish slavery in its constitution, and the first state to enroll and graduate a black student, who went on to serve in state legislature.

Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing honors Vermont’s African American heritage with the new Vermont African American Heritage Trail; 10 sites that explore museums and exhibits where films and tours illuminate the lives of African Americans for whom the Green Mountain State played an integral part of their lives. Visitors will meet teachers, storytellers, activists, ministers and legislators - people unique in history for being the first to attain positions formerly held only by Americans of European descent.

“Vermont is defined not only by the varied people who made our history, but also by our distinct geography. This trail anchors the stories of African descended Vermonters to our landscape and, as such, does a great service in helping to change the history of our state from a predominately white story to what it has always been from the beginning, a multicultural endeavor,” said Elise Guyette, author of “Discovering Black Vermont: African American Farmers in Hinesburgh, 1790-1890.”

The trail includes one of New England’s best documented underground railroad sites, Rokeby Museum, the Old Stone House Museum, which includes the school built by African American Alexander Twilight, Hildene, the Lincoln family home, and exhibits about raconteur Daisy Turner.

“Vermont’s cultural organizations and historians have been eager participants in the development of the Vermont African American Heritage Trail,” Vermont Dept. of Tourism and Marketing Commissioner Megan Smith said. “This speaks to Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin’s intent to showcase our state’s cultural heritage and diversity to residents and travelers alike.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Events:

Folklorist Jane Beck Presents the Stories of Daisy Turner:
Dr. Jane Beck recounts the stories of Daisy Turner, the child of former slaves. This story spans two centuries of American history, from Africa into slavery and back to freedom. Vermont History Center, January 21, at 7:00 p.m.

Let Freedom Ring!:
Let Freedom Ring! is the 15th annual celebration by the Middlebury College Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir, Alexander Twilight Artist in Residence Francois Clemmons, Middlebury College student dancers and actors, all performing tributes to the Civil rights leader’s legacy. Middlebury College Mead Chapel, January 21, 8:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration:
Tour the national, traveling exhibit “Race: Are We So Different.” Programs to honor Dr. King's legacy, include a performance from the musical, "I Have a Dream" by the Edmunds Elementary School Chorus and a facilitated community dialogue on the topics of race, inclusion, and diversity. Echo Aquarium, January 21, 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.

In addition to the trail’s ongoing exhibits, more events are scheduled during Black History Month. These include a jazz concert by Arthur Brooks at the Vermont Folklife Center, and a program in conjunction with the PBS airing of The Abolitionists at Rokeby Museum. For more info, visit http://www.vermontvacation.com/africanamericanheritagetrail.

IMAGES: Vermont African American Heritage Trail: https://vermont.imagerelay.com/sb/444f4fdd-4bce-4a9a-ab42-d40232fea6bb

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