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September 22, 2017

LFCC event will tell story of families linked by slavery

Contributed Photo
Betty Kilby Baldwin and Phoebe Kilby will tell their stories Saturday, Sept. 30, at LFCC’s Fauquier campus.
“A Common Grace,” an upcoming event at the Warrenton campus of Lord Fairfax Community College, tells the story of two women, one of African-American heritage, the other European-American, whose lives converged in ways over which they had no control.

In 2007, after learning that her family had once enslaved people in Rappahannock County, Phoebe Kilby began a search for those people’s descendants which eventually led her to Betty Kilby Fisher Baldwin.

Knowing nothing of Ms. Kilby until that time, Ms. Baldwin had earned renown as an infant plaintiff in the civil lawsuit that led to the desegregation of Warren County Public Schools in 1958 (four years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education), as well as the author of “Wit, Will & Walls” (published in 2002), which chronicles that experience.

Ms. Baldwin also is the subject of Shenandoah University’s short documentary, “Wit, Will & Walls: The Betty Kilby Fisher Story.”

> Video trailer at bottom of story

Although the two women enjoy a close relationship today, that is not how their story begins. Though originating and living in close proximity to one another, the two women grew up in very different worlds.

“A Common Grace” is a special discussion of that history. Ms. Kilby and Ms. Baldwin say that, in doing this work, they are answering the call of Martin Luther King Jr. for ancestors of slave-owning families and ancestors of the enslaved to come together to talk of their lives and to find peace and racial understanding. DNA testing has revealed that the two women are, in fact, related.

Ms. Kilby lives in North Carolina and Ms. Baldwin in Texas.

Debra Copeland, Mary Shapiro and the Rev. Dr. James R. Kelly, all of Fauquier County, and Melanie Hughes of Manassas form the committee bringing this event to Warrenton.

“There are many important historical aspects to ‘A Common Grace’,” Ms. Copeland said. “And while there’s no shortage of pain, suffering, and tragedy in Betty’s story, the shared story of both women has some interesting plot twists and their presentation leaves you feeling positive, happy, and uplifted at the end.”

A Common Grace is free and open to the public. It is being sponsored by Lord Fairfax Community College and Fauquier Chapter NAACP. It will be presented at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30, in The Barn on the local campus.

For more information, click here or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

> Trailer for documentary:

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