Let’s build bridges together

Published 3:03 pm Monday, January 30, 2023

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My favorite subject in school and college was history.  Mr. Horowitz, one of my college history professors often said good historians ought to be bridge builders to reconcile the past with the future, share the things we could learn from the past and do better for the future to benefit all of us.  From the time I heard that, I wanted to be a bridge builder.   My love of Washington’s history made me want to build bridges that would connect Washington’s people. I love sharing Washington’s rich history and that love has taken me down roads I would have never imagined.

While I have no advanced degrees in history, I am surprised how many people introduce me to their audience’s as ‘Dr. Leesa Jones.’ I immediately correct them because the only advanced degree I have is the degree of respect for how vibrant and strong Washington’s history is.  I get to share the hidden history I have uncovered through more than a decade of research.

I am also astonished where this love for Washington’s history has taken me. I have begun writing a series of children’s books about Washington and its role on the underground railroad. The name of the first book in the series, ‘Bright Ma-Day Clean- A Story About The Underground Railroad’ is available as an eBook through most online book sellers.  I wrote it for young people but there is so much adults can learn. And I’m currently finishing a book, ‘Black History In Washington NC From A to Z,’ which chronicles the achievements of many African-Americans in developing the amazing history of this town.

All this history has also afforded me an opportunity to develop eight historic walking tours of Washington.  One of the most remarkable achievements for me though, is the opportunity to share Washington’s African-American history with schools and universities via virtual classes and presentations around the country and a few abroad.  It’s a blessing to know how much people in so many places enjoy learning about Washington’s history.

 I am so grateful to God that He blessed with the gift of helping people to learn about our town. As an ordained minister, I fully appreciate the ability to help people reconcile the past and to be able to see the beauty of a wonderful future. I believe that is what a ‘repairer of the breach’ should do (from the Book of Isaiah, verse 58:12) and, it’s the work of a bridge builder.

For the month of February, known nationally as Black History Month. I will share some highlights from some of my walking tours so you can learn more about Washington’s African American history. The walking tours are free, except when I do some as a fundraiser for the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.  I hope learning about this history will build bridges across the area so we can celebrate together how special Washington is. Communicating Washington’s once hidden history, now uncovered, and what it means for developing a strong future for our town for future generations, can make it a wonderful tourist destination which could benefit all of us.

Extending beyond Black History Month, throughout the upcoming year, look for the special events that will feature dedications of new African American history tours and walking trails, legacy parks and historic markers, some from the City of Washington Human Relations Council and several from other community stakeholders.

Leesa Jones is a Washington native and the co-founder and co-executive director of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.