Past is Prologue

Clint Schemmer writes about history, heritage preservation and the American Civil War.  On Facebook: Past is Prologue  On Twitter: @prologuepast  ContactEmail Clint or call 540/374-5424.

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C-SPAN’s ‘Cities Tour’ samples history, culture of Fredericksburg area

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If you care about your nation’s government, history or good nonfiction reads, there’s a good chance you’ve watched some of C-SPAN’s offerings.

If you’re a bit of a geek (I plead guilty), those chances rise exponentially.

Which makes a C-SPAN team’s recent visit here in Fredericksburg a big deal. That team’s hard work, and the contributions of many people throughout our region, are already bearing fruit online — and will hit America’s cable-TV lifelines this weekend.

Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw’s segment kicked it off Friday morning, airing on C–SPAN’s popular “Washington Journal.”

Content will appear throughout the weekend on the respective C-SPAN networks, but AHTV and Book TV will have blocks where all of their Fredericksburg-area pieces will air, said Deborah Lamb, coordinating producer for C–SPAN’s Local Content Vehicles’ “Cities Tour.

In comments late Friday, Lamb expressed her pleasure at touring Fredericksburg, saying you “see history all around you” and calling that ”pretty unique” among the American cities she and her production team have visited.

C-SPAN’s Local Content Vehicles team: Mark Farkas (left), Tiffany Rocque, Adrienne Hoar and Deborah Lamb.

C-SPAN launched its Cities Tour in May 2011. At that inception, C-SPAN co-CEO Susan Swain said the project had two primary goals.

“The first is to more systematically go beyond the Washington beltway for our nonfiction book and history programming and highlight for our national audiences some of the unique culture and history of the cities we visit<” Stein said. “No other channel is making this kind of extensive effort to tell the literary stories and history of America’s small- and mid-size cities, complementing our coverage of Washington’s political process.

“Secondly, with our LCV project engaging the grass-roots, we are continuing our long tradition of partnering with affiliates in their communities, with schools, elected officials, and the general public.”

Starting with Julie A. Perry, manager of the city Visitor Center, the Fredericksburg area’s contributors to C-SPAN’s visit have waxed enthusiastic about the experience.

“Having the team from C[SPAN in the city of Fredericksburg has been a wonderful opportunity and we, at the Department of Economic Development and Tourism are grateful to all those who worked to make it possible,” Perry, leader of the regional crew that welcomed the cable-TV team here, said Friday.

“We regularly work to host media from a variety of outlets in the City of Fredericksburg and the region. It’s exciting when a high-profile organization such as C-SPAN is able to work us into their programming. We believe we will see long-term benefits from this exposure and hope that locals and potential visitors alike will learn something new from this weekend’s coverage.”

Lamb expressed delight that within a short distance, visitors could find exhibits and artifacts from two important early presidents–George Washington and James Monroe, who both lived here.

At the James Monroe Museum and Library, Director Scott Harris led C–SPAN’s team through its exhibits and discussed the life of the fifth U.S. president from his time as a student at William & Mary, to his role as secretary of war during the War of 1812, and his presidency.

Viewers will see the desk where he penned the Monroe Doctrine, which set America’s stance on European colonization of North America and South America in the early 19th century.

Monroe scholar Dan Preston was also interviewed, discussing his years-long effort to analyze and publish Monroe’s papers and correspondence, including letters to his daughter.

“The James Monroe Museum is pleased to be featured in one of the CSPAN segments highlighting Fredericksburg,” Harris said. “We hope this coverage will raise awareness of James Monroe, the museum and our historic city.”

At Ferry Farm, George Washington’s boyhood home in Stafford County, C–SPAN interviewed archaeologist Laura Galke about artifacts excavated at the site over the past decade. Viewers will see some of the items the family left behind that illuminate young Washington’s story.

At Historic Kenmore Plantation in the city, the videographers stepped inside the Georgian-style mansion built by George Washington’s sister, Betty and her husband, Fielding Lewis, to learn how the American Revolution changed their lives.

Lewis, a trans-Atlantic merchant and shipping owner, sacrificed much of his family’s wealth to aid the Continental Army’s war against British rule.

Book TV will air a piece on the late James Farmer, a popular University of Mary Washington professor who was one of the “Big Six” civil rights leaders, along with Martin Luther King Jr.

Farmer was one of the early proponents of the nonviolent beliefs that made post-World War II civil rights protests—like the lunch counter sit-ins—so effective. UMW professor Tim O’Donnell discusses Farmer’s accomplishments and his impact he had on the movement.

C–SPAN also spent time learning how Fredericksburg civilians endured the Civil War and dealt with the city’s occupation by Union troops.

UMW history professor Jeff McClurken, author of “Take Care of the Living: Reconstruction of Confederate Veteran Families in Virginia,” explains the terrible difficulties that thousands of Virginia families faced once their loved ones returned from the fighting.

And UMW political science professor Stephen Farnsworth is interviewed about “The Nightly News Nightmare,” his book examining news coverage of presidential nominations and election campaigns from 1988 to 2008.

Altogether, C-SPAN’s “Cities Tour” visit features four UMW faculty members, as my colleague Lindley Estes reported earlier this week.