WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — The First Baptist Church in Williamsburg was founded by slaves back in 1776. The church was given a bell as a gift nearly 100 years later. The bell was moved into another building in 1956 where it soon fell silent due to structural damage.
Fast-forward to earlier this year, when it rang for the first time in decades thanks to a restoration project from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Now, the bell from the church founded by slaves is headed to D.C.
Reverend Reginald Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church, says he’s thrilled the bell was selected to ring during the opening ceremony of the National Museum of African American history and culture.
“We had no idea that this bell would take on such national attention, especially to be rung by the president of the United States,” Davis told 8News Reporter Mark Tenia. “We want to help heal our nation of the racial divide, we want to help continue the onward march of making our nation a more perfect union,” said Davis.
“It’s a fitting thing for this bell, this church, and this president,” added David Blanchfield with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, who helped restore the bell and was in charge of its removal Monday. “This is a whole different level, if you know what I mean, and having it associated with the new museum, the new Smithsonian is a great thing, we’re pretty excited about it.”
As for the idea of the first African-American president ringing a bell from a church founded by slaves, Davis says it makes the work the slaves did worth it.
“It gives legitimacy to the slaves and their humanity, that their work and their efforts were not in vain,” said Davis.The Bell will make its way back here in October as the congregation celebrates its 240th anniversary.
The bell will make its way back to Williamsburg in October as the congregation celebrates its 240th anniversary.