Scholastic Kids Press Corps
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A Trip Back in Time

Re-enactors bring history to life in Colonial Williamsburg

By Chanta Johnson | April 30 , 2007

Chanta and Jamestown re-enactor
doctor from 17th century Willliamsburg, Virginia, stops to talk to Scholastic Kid Reporter Chanta Johnson in November 2006. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)

On my visit to Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, I felt as if I had gone back in time 300 years.

I listened as revolutionaries read aloud the Declaration of Independence, stirring colonists to fight for their liberties.

I heard firsthand when war was declared against England.

And I walked through a town straight out of the 1700s to see how people in those times made their tools, printed their books, and sewed their clothes.

After a day with the re-enactors of Colonial Williamsburg, I realized that these people are more than actors. They are many different kinds of people who have dedicated their lives to bringing back American history.

Two book makers
Two book makers explain their trade to visitors at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)

Many of them spoke to me in character as if we were standing in the colonial village of Williamsburg 300 years ago. They made me believe they once lived during that time by the way they dressed and acted.

The clothes, shoes, wigs, and even the glasses the interpreters wear are all made in Williamsburg by the craftsmen. Everything is authentic!

I spoke to Christine Diffell, a 25-year-old actor-interpreter who portrays Susannah Randolph in 1774 Williamsburg. She talked about her training and research. Her main job qualification is as a historian rather than an actor.

“When I got the job I had already done a lot of research on Susannah’s brother Edwin Randolph,” Diffell said. “Other people who have portrayed her parents in the past have given me a lot of information.”

Christine Diffell teaches Kid Reporter Aubrey Hodges how to bow
Christine Diffell, who portrays Suzannah Randolph in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, shows Scholastic Kid Reporter Aubrey Hodges how to bow the 17th century way. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)

Diffell and other interpreters take classes in deportment, which is how to conduct themselves in the mannerisms and movements of a certain time period. She showed me how to curtsey and bow the way women in the 1700s did.

“Sometimes I forget that Christine Diffell was not born in 1755,” Diffell said. “As a character, you’re acting, but at the same time it’s a part of you, too.”

There’s no forgetting you are in a different time and place in Williamsburg.  All the buildings in Colonial Williamsburg are true to the time.

None of the buildings have appliances, plumbing, or electricity. Even the general store, which sells modern souvenirs and snacks, has no electricity. When the sun sets, everyone lights candles for illumination. The general store sets candles in the windows.

Being a spectator of history that day I realized what my ancestors went through for me to enjoy my freedoms today.

Celebrate Jamestown

Commemorate the 400th anniversary of Jamestown with Scholastic News Online.

About the Author

Chanta Johnson is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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