By trolley, car, or foot, Staunton Guided Tours can offer an insider's view of the Queen City and its proud past. The newest tour gives a glimpse into the city's parallel history in the African-American community.
Staunton's own William Green flew more than a hundred missions during World War II, as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen. A memorial stands in Gypsy Hill Park, which at the time of his service, was open only one day a year to his fellow African-Americans.
That's just one of the true stories on the guided tour.
Rita Wilson certainly knows her Staunton history, and even lived plenty of it. She was among the parents who helped integrate the city's schools.
"I just went over to Bessie Weller like I didn't know any better and just said, ‘I came to enroll my children in school'. They said 'they don't come here,' and I said 'oh yes they do. My next-door neighbors come here, and another family did the same thing,'" Wilson stated.
Decades later, Wilson volunteers with Staunton Guided Tours, and is the driving force behind its new African-American History Tour. The trip hits well-known sites like the Booker T. Washington Community Center, the birthplace of President Woodrow Wilson, and the Cabell House. But this tour brings the prominent places, dates and names to life, with first-person stories.
Wilson came from a long line of men and women in "the service," as she calls it - domestic workers for white families. "As we worked in homes, you were sort of qualified by who you worked for," she said. "I'm not going to just work for anybody. I work for so and so and so and so."
Wilson can answer just about any question about the Queen City, which she served for 16 years as councilwoman. "This is probably the only town that you can be the help, and wind up on city council," she stated.
Staunton Guided Tours range from an hour to three hours, some of them featuring Civil War sites, historic homes, and arts and culture. Click here for more details.
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