Home News Local news Folklife Festival Brings History to Life for Students

Folklife Festival Brings History to Life for Students

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Feb. 22, 2008 — Julius E. Sprauve School third graders had the answers — many of them correct — when quizzed on what they were learning at the 17th annual V.I. National Park Folklife Festival.
"You can learn about slaves and how they got out of slavery," Elica Marcellin, 8, said.
She and several other students said slaves swam to freedom on nearby Tortola.
The Folklife Festival kicked off Thursday at Annaberg Plantation on St. John. It continues from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Sprauve students were busy exploring what remains of Annaberg's slave quarters. Kemisha Hoheb, 8, said she was learning about the island's culture.
Delsa Ashly, 8, said she learned how houses were built out of cow dung.
"And we looked at the view of the ocean," she said.
The student's teacher, Lucinda Parsons, said the students were on a walking tour of Annaberg to gather information.
"It helps them get a better understanding of the events that took place here at Annaberg," she said.
She said that many students, although they live on St. John, don't get the chance to visit Annaberg unless they come on a school trip.
St. Thomas attorney Tregenza Roach, one of the featured speakers, discussed the life of St. Thomas-born Edward Wilmot Blyden with a group of Bertha Boschulte seventh and eighth graders who came over from St. Thomas for the festival.
He told them that while most of the black people living in what was then the Danish West Indies were slaves, Blyden was born a free man.
"He could read and write. That was very unusual for that time," Roach said.
He said that Blyden left St. Thomas in 1850 to attend Rutgers Seminary in New Jersey, but was denied entrance because he was black. Blyden went on lead the movement to repatriate blacks to the African nation of Liberia.
The students had to do some figuring to determine that if Blyden was born in 1832, he would be 176 in 2008. Their teacher, Carol Callwood, said students needed some more math training since it took a while for the correct answer to surface.
"What was the name of the territory when he was born?" Roach asked.
After a number of wrong answers, including the British Virgin Islands, one student came up with Denmark as the owner of the territory.
While the students were getting their history lessons, vendors were busy selling their wares. St. Thomas resident Gwendolyn Harley had a display of hand-crafted dolls decked out as quadrille dancers as well as a table full of other toys.
St. John resident Pat Walters was busy selling carrot cake, cinnamon rolls, pound cake, and ginger bear.
"My grandmother taught me to bake," she said.
Delroy "Ital" Anthony had hand-crafted toys among his wares. He said the rah-rah, made of a calabash, locust seed and wood, was a typical toy children played with back in the early 1900s. It worked like a top.
St. John resident Yolanda Morton had bird feeders made of polished coconut, mobiles with people made of coconut leaves and other items.
"And I made my dress," she said, showing off her madras skirt with white ruffled blouse.
She explained that madras was the only fabric available to island residents after slavery ended because it came on merchant ships from India.
Morton said that she enjoys setting up her wares at Annaberg because it connects her to the island's past.
"When I come here, I get a feeling about what they went through," she said.

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