BROWNINGTON — Although the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed into law in by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863, it was not until June 19, 1865, a full 2 1/2 years later, that some 250,000 enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, learned they were free.

That is how the date of June 19th has now become a federal holiday and a day remembered and celebrated.

On Sunday, about 50 people gathered in the chilly morning on Juneteenth - also Father’s Day - at the Old Stone House Museum in Brownington to mark the holiday and the opening of a new exhibit, Different Hue: Race and Representation.

The exhibit features a few interactive elements where people are invited to use red and green markers on a white board to cast their opinions about topics of race – such as whether sports teams should continue to use Native American mascots – all the answers early into the opening were no.

Kristal Wood, the museum’s Associate Director of Public Events, welcomed the group of visitors to the museum and began by saying that often Juneteenth is misunderstood to be the date that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

This Juneteenth is the second year that June 19 has been a federal holiday.

The exhibit was introduced by Dr. Spencer Kuchle, the museum’s Associate Director of Collections and Interpretation who curated Different Hue: Race and Representation. He holds his Ph.D. in African American Studies from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

He explained how items from the museum’s collection including some donated by local people and a local business, the East Side Restaurant, led to the creation of the exhibit, and he invited those attending the Juneteenth celebration event to explore the new installation to learn more about the abolitionist movement in Vermont and in Orleans County. One of the Black rag dolls on exhibit was believed to have come from a stop along the Underground Railroad, explained Dr. Kuchle.

While the museum invited people to enjoy the new exhibit and the museum on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at no charge, donation buckets saw those in attendance contributing toward the museum’s mission.

In the invitation to the event, the museum noted, “We are dedicated to celebrating the life and legacy of Alexander Lucius Twilight, the nation’s first African American college graduate and legislator in the United States.”

“Our collections team used artifacts found at the Old Stone House Museum & Historic Village as a portal for deeper exploration into issues of race and representation,” the Juneteenth event information went on. “Our new exhibit examines the themes of politics, narrative imagination and racial stereotypes in relation to Orleans County history. In the process, it offers a broader context for understanding the complexities of shared memory and meaning making—especially in times of political polarization and partisanship when there are no agreed-upon facts.”

Also on the grounds of the Old Stone House Museum over this past weekend, The Vermont Gas and Steam Engine Association had engines on display.

“The new exhibit offers a broader context for understanding the complexities of shared memory and meaning making — especially in times of political polarization and partisanship when there are no agreed upon facts,” the new exhibit’s explanation states.

Old Stone House Museum Board Chair Carmen Jackson said to tie together the new exhibit and celebration of Juneteenth with the museum’s mission to educate people about the life and work of Alexander Lucius Twilight, who was the principal of the Orleans County Grammar School and oversaw what is today the Old Stone House Museum, is a fitting tribute.

She said some of the artifacts included in the new exhibit, including a barn board advertisement for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, can now be understood with explanations about why they are included, how the museum acquired them and how they relate to the story about the history of the time and Orleans County in Vermont.

“Spencer has done so much research,” said Jackson. “The new exhibit is wonderful.”

Twilight, whose life is also featured in the new exhibit, was born on September 23, 1795, and when he graduated from Middlebury College in 1823, he became the first African American graduate of any United States college or university. According to the museum, in 1829 he was hired to be principal of the Orleans County Grammar School and was minister to the Brownington Congregational Church.

The museum notes that in 1836 Twilight was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives, becoming the first African American to serve in a state legislature, the museum noted. Under his leadership, the Orleans County Grammar School thrived as a co-educational institution attracting both boys and girls from throughout New England who came from as far away as Boston and Montreal. Between 1834 and 1836 Mr. Twilight designed and built a four-story granite dormitory, which he called Athenian Hall.

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