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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Journey to Smithsonian Highlights 2017 Black History Month Events at Old Dominion University

By Brendan O'Hallarn

A trip to see a priceless artifact donated to the National Museum of African American History & Culture by the family of an Old Dominion University faculty member is the highlight event of Black History Month at the University.

On Saturday, Feb. 18, the Office of Intercultural Relations, Student Government Association, Office of Housing & Residence Life, Women's Center and Programs All Weekend will take up to 55 Old Dominion students to the Smithsonian museum.

Participants will be joined by Wendy Porter, adjunct faculty member in ODU's Department of Women's Studies. Porter's family donated a Bible which belonged to Nat Turner, who was killed while leading a slave rebellion in southeastern Virginia.

The prized family artifact, which was passed down through generations, was given to the Smithsonian after being identified positively as belonging to Turner.

"As a child, I knew the Nat Turner Bible was never meant to rest with my family, that it deserved a home that was just as important as the Bible was itself, and I always knew it should be the Smithsonian," she said.

Porter is thrilled to escort a bus-full of Old Dominion University students to see the Bible.

"I adore the ODU community and to be able to take almost 60 students on a field trip to see an amazing museum is an opportunity that I take great pride in," she said.

Jasmine Omorogbe, associate director for intercultural activities in the Office of Intercultural Relations and head of the planning committee for the trip, said the ODU connection makes it a perfect event for Black History Month.

"We are excited to provide the opportunity for ODU students to witness artifacts and exhibits which work to capture the magnitude of the history of people of African descent in the United States and beyond," Omorogbe said.

The trip is being offered at no cost to students, including museum admission, transportation, lunch and dinner. They will participate in a post-trip discussion Feb. 20. For more information, see the Office of Intercultural Relations website.

Turner, a slave in Southampton County, led a rebellion in 1831 that resulted in the deaths of several dozen white people. Turner was captured two months later, put on trial and hung.

Porter told The Virginian-Pilot that Lavinia Francis, the great-grandmother of her stepfather, Maurice Person, had been hidden by house slaves the night Turner led his rebellion through the area. Person went undetected. Years after Turner's trial, officials at the Southampton County Courthouse offered the Bible, which had been confiscated upon Turner's capture, to Person's father, Walter. The keepsake was a family heirloom for decades.

Porter said she is honored that her family's gift can help the museum tell the story of the African- American experience in the United States.

"When students stop me and tell me they visited the Bible or simply read more about Nat Turner, I know the Bible is in good hands," she said.

Old Dominion celebrates the contributions of African descendants during Black History Month. Author Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week in 1926 to celebrate the achievements of African Americans. In 1976 it became Black History Month. The University staff along with student organizations and community groups host a variety of events that highlight black culture, history and tradition.

Black History Month events at Old Dominion University include:

Opening Reception: The Bright Side of Tough Lives - Women's Everyday Beauty, Feb. 6, 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Thirty photographs by Laura Fitzpatrick. Exhibit will run Feb. 6 to 18 at Old Dominion University Virginia Beach. Co-sponsored by Norfolk State University Virginia Beach and Old Dominion University Virginia Beach. Guest parking in Lot 3, 1881 University Drive. (757) 368-4100, www.odu.edu/vabeach. Free and open to the public.

Prisons of the Forgotten: King on Ghettos and Economic Justice, Feb. 16, 7 to 8:30 p.m.

1012 Batten Arts & Letters Building. A lecture by Tommie Shelby, Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies and Philosophy, Harvard University. Open to the ODU community and the public.

Global Café - Kenya, Office of Intercultural Relations, Feb. 16, 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.

A place where all international and U.S. students, faculty and staff are welcome. Come meet new friends and learn about Kenya. Open to the ODU community and the public.

Hidden Figures, Feb. 16, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

River Rooms, Webb University Center. An exhibit to educate the campus community on prominent and "hidden" African-American figures in historically black sororities and fraternities. Open to the ODU community and the public.

Ebony Impact Gospel Choir 40th Anniversary Celebration, Feb. 18, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

North Café, Webb University Center. The event brings together college choirs to praise and worship. This year the event is celebrating 40 years of serving God, the campus and community. Open to the ODU community and the public. Students $5, community $8.

A full calendar of Black History Month events is included in the calendar image. For more information about Black History Month at Old Dominion University and any of the programs scheduled, contact the University's Office of Intercultural Relations website, at 757-683-4406.

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