Colonial Williamsburg has moved away from the reenactments in the streets towards telling specific stories about specific people. This allows them to tell more stories than just the figures represented by the history books. I chose to learn more about people of color in 18th-century Williamsburg. I attended an audience with Caesar Hope, barber.
Caesar Hope tells his story. He is quite the character and writing down his story doesn’t do him justice. He started by critiquing the choice of an older man in the audience to wear a beard and the man kept trying to justify his choices rather than play along with the reenactment allowing Caesar to give him fashion advice and explain what he can do for this man.
Born in Africa and kidnapped as a small boy, he was sold into slavery in Virginia. As an adult he was manumitted and took up the profession of barbering, something he had learned from his first owner.
Caesar serves the most elite gentlemen in Williamsburg. He is known more for his conversation and wit than his barbering skills!
Caesar is working hard to save money for his wife and son. He and his wife agreed he would first free their son and then Mrs. Hope if he could. Sadly, it will take him many years to save up to buy his child and probably his whole life before he can afford his wife. Even then, they will still legally be slaves, as his property according to the law.
The audience mainly wanted to discuss this last point, about how much money Hope’s wife would cost to buy and the intricacies of slavery at this time. I was more interested in Caesar’s Hope’s personal story and his job but there wasn’t ample opportunity for my to ask more questions.