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date: 16 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

How has Colonial Williamsburg theatricalized slavery during the last three hundred years? John D. Rockefeller and an appointed corporate team in the two decades before the Second World War reconstructed Williamsburg to celebrate a white patriarchal American mythography concerning the birth of freedom. That is still what it reflects. There was however a period of remarkable intensity in the early 1990s when things were done there which turned the place, albeit very briefly, into a politically charged theatre of trauma. Williamsburg became a radical debating space for thinking about the existence and operations of slavery within a Georgian city. Drawing on interview materials with Christy Coleman and Rex Ellis, two figures at the centre of the Williamsburg black re-enactment programmes, the analysis considers what kind of power dynamics are operating when African Americans perform trauma before mainly white audiences in what was the colonial capital of Georgian Virginia.

Keywords: Colonial Williamsburg, slavery, theatre, re-enactment, Rex Ellis, Christy Coleman, American history

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