On March 20-21, theological scholars and historians from across the country gathered together to dive into Virginia’s religious roots in 1619. Exploring the impact of this pivotal year on African Americans, the scholarly conference, Faith Journeys in the Black Experience: 1619-2019, uncovered the evolution of a religious and culturally diverse United States in the 21st century.
American Evolution partnered with the Virginia Council of Churches and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University (VUU) to present the scholarly conference. The event explored the faith journey of Africans and African Americans over 400 years, beginning when the first Africans were enslaved and forcibly migrated to the Virginia colony.
Scholars presented their papers to the crowd of more than 50, followed by comments and questions from the audience. With responses ranging from applause to full sermons, the content was engaging and provided a fresh perspective to the history. The conference served as an exclusive preview for these papers which will be edited and published in 2020.
But the Faith Journeys Conference was not limited to discussion. On Wednesday, March 20, the attendees were treated to a public education program and concert, Reflections of the Past: Songs from the African American Journey. Historical interpreter Wisteria Perry and the Youth Choir from Pilgrim Journey Baptist Church performed spirituals in context of the African American journey.
Thursday was back to the books with a full panel discussion: “What would reconciliation, civility look like?” Featuring panelists from Virginia Indian tribes, Virginia government officials, church and academic institutions.
“Let’s go back and get the story right. Let’s lead the way for America because America’s story began here.” Kelly Thomasson, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia, said to participants.
The Faith Journeys conference highlighted the importance of taking a deep dive into our past, and learning from history to move forward.
Virginia Senator Jennifer L. McClellan said it best during Thursday’s panel discussion.
“Before we talk about where we go from here, it is important to note how we got here.”