Week 7 Blog Post

In this entry, I’ll be discussing my visit to the Virginia Holocaust Museum in downtown Richmond. The main purpose of this post is to go over some of the artifacts and anecdotes displayed at the site and also go over some of the more subtle features of the building that capture the dreary and solemn nature of the Holocaust.

Perhaps the most remarkable pieces of history there were the clever escapes of the imprisoned Jews and how people from various cultures assisted them in doing so. One such man from Japan, Chiune Sugihara, helped Polish Jews escape into Eastern Asia by issuing them transit vistas before they were captured and sent off to concentration camps. This was especially dangerous for not only the escapees, but Sugihara as well. Knowing that Japan and Germany were allied at the time, he likely would have been executed if caught assisting the fleeing Jews. Another man from Denmark, Arie van Mansum, helped runaway Jews find hiding in vacant or damaged homes or businesses and provided them with ration cards while he worked with the Dutch underground. Reading these accounts provide us with the idea that the world saw the dehumanization of an entire culture and people of many different background sought to help them escape such cruel torture. I appreciated the fact that the museum included such stories as it changed my initial thoughts about the outside world (at the time of the Holocaust) and Nazi Germany. I had always believed for the longest time that most people chose to ignore the brutality going on in the concertation and death camps, and dismiss the problem of Jewish people being sent off to work camps and trying to get out of them. Reading the stories allowed me to understand that people all across Europe and Asia sought to take action to help Jews escape dehumanization, even if it sometimes put both parties’ lives at risk.

A subtle feature of the museum that I didn’t notice until after I went there was the structure and size of the museum and how it tied into the overall vibe of the Holocaust. Most of the museum is devoid of light and the small patches that are present are illuminating only the artifacts and display items; it wasn’t really lighting up the entirety of the building. This was clearly meant to capture the obvious solemn feelings of the Holocaust; however not many seem to notice the gradually shrinking size of the door ways and rooms at first glance. As I was progressing through the exhibits, I noticed that the doorways were becoming smaller and smaller and I was ducking a lot more than usual to avoid them. Even the walk ways became increasingly narrow as I neared the end of my trip. I brought it up to a family member, and he said that it was designed that way to capture the feelings of the transportation train cars used to haul prisoners to the camps from the ghettos. These prisoners were usually packed shoulder and were given no personal space whatsoever.

Going this historical site not only captured the gravity of the dehumanizing nature of the Holocaust, but also paid tribute to the numerous lives lost and lives that fled to Virginia and other states in the US. Reading the accounts of outside countries assisting runaway Jews and analyzing the intricate building designs help to enhance the disturbing, yet fascinating and important nature of a terrible event in human history.

Week 11 Blog Post

Stepping into new environments is something that has never come easy to me, yet I seem to overcome it every time it comes about. I came to Mary Washington knowing I would have a core group of guys to bond with(baseball team), but I didn’t realize that they would almost instantly become a second family and have my back in times of trouble.

Having a group hobby is a great way to enjoy and work together with people of your interests, but sports teams seem to offer more than your average club. The baseball team welcomed me and the other incoming freshmen with open arms treated us like we belonged and had been there all along. I was in an environment that was going to push me my mental and physical limits to their maxes, and that made everything from lifting to intersqauds very competitive. The competitive nature of college baseball is what makes this team a team; and UMW exceeded my expectations. I had the chance to not only play for a galvanizing group of ball players, but to represent my school and further my athletic career.

One of my biggest childhood dreams was to play baseball in college and represent the school I’d study at. Becoming a college student-athlete was something professed by many if my high school and travel coach that hooked me in, immediately. This was an integral decision to my collegiate career because I did not want to stop playing this sport and felt like I had the drive to play and get better more then ever. This was something I picked up in other players as well. Many Division III athletes know that they may not be as talented as players from bigger D1 schools, but still retain that ambition to compete and outwork their opponents and teammates. UMW Baseball provided me with the tools and teammates to continue what is not only my sport, but also my life-long passion.

COVID-19 has definitely impacted the scheduling and our resources for baseball, but it did not discourage our team or dissuade us from chasing after championships and the shiny hardware that comes with it. The aforementioned virus had affected out lifting schedule and the types of team lifting that we do. We could no longer used a traditional indoor gym and instead had to practice outside on a turf practice field in frigid conditions. I thought the competetive nature of this team would wane with the change in lifting style, but that could not be further from the truth. COVID has only challenged my teammates and I to dig deeper and fight harder to achieve our goals of becoming better ball players; something that has made the “grind” even more satisfying.

This community if baseball players has been nothing short of exceptional and has far exceeded my expectations of a college sports team. These next four years will be filled with great memories and valuable lessons that will shape me into the person I want to become.

Week 5 Blog Post

The main subject I would like to discuss in this post is the numerous artifacts recovered from the slave quarters at the Washington’s property. The idea is to analyze the object’s context and history and make predictions as to what purposes they might have served or how they ended up where they were found.

The first and main artifact that I would like to bring up is the red gem/bead that was recovered. In the caption of the pictured bead, it stated that it originated from African culture and was thought to be worn by individuals possessing notable amounts of wealth and political power. Knowing this and some background information about European slave trading, I found it quite shocking that a precious gem from African society made its way into Colonial America. I had learned from previous history classes that Africans with this higher level or social power tended to be the people selling the “commoner” Africans to the slave-trading Europeans as slave. These more common and lower class Africans would likely not have this gem on them while being packed into the ships for trading. I have theorized two possible explanations for how this gem may have gotten to the colonies and eventually the slave quarters at the Washington property:

My first inference is that the gem may have come from a commoner African who smuggled it onto the trading ships. It may have also just came from an African with the notable wealth and political power associated with this gem. However, I do not really see how or why the slave traders would enslave people of this power if they are the same people selling them the slaves in the first place. Once it made it to the colonies and the slave quarters, I feel that the gem was stolen and re-stolen again by the African slaves from the owners at the property. It would make sense that the owners would acquire any items or notable or exceptional wealth from the Africans slaves and either cherish the goods in their homes or profit off of them in a jewelry market. But since the bead was recovered from the former slave quarter, I have to assume that the slaves got good at hiding it from the owners or reasoned with them to keep it. Overall, it was still unique to see remains of Africans in 1700/1800’s Virginia and see it survive to modern day.

Another smaller subject I wanted to tackle was the practice of letting slaves consumer what was deemed to be “inferior” tobacco by the owners and buyers/sellers. It seemed odd to me at first and learning that the owners would do something “thoughtful” like that. I had always had learned about slave owners as brutal, merciless, and dehumanizing. But seeing slave be give the chance to consume tobacco just felt off to me, even if it was of a lower grade. Maybe it would have incentivized slaves to harvest more of the lower grade tobacco to have more for themselves. Overall, this topic still seems a bit unclear to me.