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Orange County Historical Society Receives 2024 Commonwealth History Fund Grant



Orange, VA – The Orange County Historical Society is delighted to announce that it is one of fourteen organizations chosen to receive a grant from the Virginia Museum History & Culture’s (VMHC) Commonwealth History Fund. The Orange County Historical Society has been generously awarded $6,000.


The VMHC, in partnership with Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources (DHR), awards grants to history organizations and projects throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia through its Commonwealth History Fund. There are several key selection criteria to be considered for the grants, including the significance of the project or resource, its impact on its community and the Commonwealth, the focus on historically underrepresented topics and communities, and the need for funding and urgency of the project.


One of the largest initiatives of its kind, the Commonwealth History Fund is expected to award up to $2,000,000 over its first five years. In 2023, the VMHC awarded $401,206 to fellow history organizations. Funds can be used for a variety of purposes including preservation, publications, artifact acquisition, research, conservation of artifacts and educational programming. Eligible recipients include Virginia non-profits, educational institutions, and state recognized Virginia Indian tribes. The Fund was made possible through the generosity of Dominion Energy and others.


“The Commonwealth History Fund continues to exceed our expectations in supporting a wide range of historic preservation projects and initiatives across the state,” said VMHC President and CEO Jamie Bosket. “We remain committed to reaching more Virginians with this wonderful opportunity to invest in Virginia history.”


The Orange County Historical Society (OCHS) plans to use funding to conduct research and compile an inventory of free Blacks in antebellum Orange County, 1734-1865. Orange County free Blacks have been little documented, yet evidence exists of a diverse population with a variety of backgrounds, skills, and family/social connections within the county and surrounding region. This group included individuals who were free-born, emancipated, and who purchased their freedom. Their skills ranged across domestic work, agriculture, and skilled crafts (e.g. shoemaking, blacksmithing, building construction, etc.).


Missing portions of the Orange County register of free Blacks have recently been identified in county records. The OCHS plans to build on this information, and other research material pertaining to free Blacks, to organize the data on the county’s antebellum free Black population. This initiative will utilize primary/secondary sources to bring evidence of their lives, families, and livelihoods into focus.


We anticipate that the project will potentially connect modern descendants/descendant communities to their own history in Orange County. As a result, the lives and experiences of these people can be told (and understood by students, scholars, and the public) in a more meaningful way, and a more substantial social and historic context from which to interpret their lives and analyze their experiences can be shared.


Visit the Orange County Historical Society at https://www.orangecovahist.org/ Questions can be directed to Ray Ezell, president at ocvahistorical1965@gmail.com

More information on The Commonwealth History Fund can be found at VirginiaHistory.org/HistoryFund.

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