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Orange County Historical Society receives 2024 Commonwealth History Fund Grant

By Ray Ezell

The Orange County Historical Society (OCHS) is delighted to announce that it is one of 14 Organizations state-wide that were chosen to receive a grant from the Virginia Museum of History and Culture’s (VMHC) Commonwealth History Fund. The Society has been generously awarded $6,000.


OCHS will use this funding to conduct research and compile an inventory of free Blacks in Orange County from 1734 to 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 includes individuals who were free-born, emancipated, and those who purchased their freedom. Their skills ranged across a wide variety of occupations, from domestic work and agriculture to skilled crafts such as shoemaking, blacksmithing, and building construction.


Missing portions of the Orange County register of free Blacks have recently been identified in county records. OCHS plans to build on this information, and, using other research material pertaining to free Blacks, hopes to organize the data on the county’s antebellum free Black population.


This initiative will use primary and secondary sources to shed light on their lives, families, and livelihoods. This exciting project has the potential to connect modern descendants and their 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.


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. 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. More information on The Commonwealth History Fund can be found at Fund.


See the promotional video for the Commonwealth History Fund 2024 awardees here:


Questions can be directed to OCHS president, Ray Ezell at



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