Smithfield Plantation to Host Tour for Black History Month

The historic Smithfield plantation in Blacksburg, Virginia, will launch a tour of its grounds this weekend to honor Black History Month.

The tour — titled “Heritage & Origins: Exploring the Roots & Culture of the Enslaved at Smithfield” — aims to honor the individuality and culture of those enslaved at Smithfield by showing the grounds of the plantation, including the Smithfield house and the quarters where the enslaved worked and lived.

Additionally, West African art and artifacts from the region where the enslaved at Smithfield originated will be on display, as well as presentations detailing the Yoruba religion of that region and the True Blue vessel that brought the enslaved from West Africa to the plantation.

Dr. Kerri Moseley-Hobbs, a member of the Smithfield-Preston Foundation board of trustees and a descendant of a former slave at the plantation, and museum director April Danner will co-host the tour, which kicks off Saturday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

The Smithfield plantation was founded in 1774 by William Preston, whose family was the wealthiest in Virginia at the time. The last heir to the Smithfield house was William Ballard Preston, who served as a Virginia state senator and U.S. naval secretary.

There are three plantations of the Prestons that still exist — Smithfield, Solitude (property of William Ballard’s younger brother, Col. Robert Taylor Preston) and Whitethorn (property of brother James Francis Preston, commander of the 4th Virginia Infantry) — but are not open to the public.

The Smithfield plantation’s main house where William Preston lived with his wife Suzanne Smith is still there at the museum, which is adjacent to the Virginia Tech University campus along with Solitude.

The grounds of Solitude were donated to what is now known as Virginia Tech by Robert Preston. Recently a foundation was established by the university to oversee the operations of the plantation situated on the grounds of the campus.

Thanks to that donation by the Prestons, over 33,000 students attend the college each year.

To learn more about the tour, go to www.smithfieldplantation.org.

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