Statement by the Board of Trustees of the Old Stone House Museum on Black Lives Matter
As an institution committed to celebrating the life and legacy of Alexander Lucius Twilight, the Staff and Board of the Old Stone House Museum stands in solidarity with the recent Black Lives Matter protests. We believe systemic racism, built on the backs of each succeeding generation of African Americans, has no place in our society.
To this end, we plan programs and exhibits on our campus and online that underline not just how much black lives matter now but how much they have always mattered. At the core of our institution surges a tide to reverse societal racism. The Old Stone House Museum provides a gathering place for our Northeast Kingdom community to connect with its history and inspire future generations. Our mission of preservation, education, and inspiration embraces this moment and what lies ahead of us all. We believe our community must educate itself about historic injustice, systemic racism, and pervasive inequalities.
We need look no further than the hero of our museum’s history to see the potential of this moment to chart a path forward that ends the pervasive inequalities that persist in our society today. Mr. Twilight, one of Vermont’s earliest and most noteworthy African American leaders, provides a progressive example of our history and a guiding light during these trying times. We believe his contribution exemplifies the enormous and important contributions African Americans have always made to our nation’s history.
Of racism, he preached on July 10, 1853 that the “barbarism, ignorance, and cruelty” of antiquity caused American slavery but that it was “so much detested now by enlightened nations, as knowledge has so much increased.” Perhaps presciently, he added “that such remains of the past should be found on the present day, rests upon this fact that men do not advance alike or upon the same subjects at the same time, owing more to circumstances than any other cause.”
This moment provides a chance for us to further emphasize the values and ideals held dear by Mr. Twilight. Born September 23, 1795, Mr. Twilight led a life devoted to education and faith. As the first African American to gain a college degree in the United States (from Middlebury College in 1823), his often-noted strong will and dynamic leadership made Historic Brownington Village what it is today.
In 1829, he was hired to be headmaster of the Orleans County Grammar School and was minister of the Brownington Congregational Church. Under his leadership, the Orleans County Grammar School thrived as a co-educational institution attracting boys and girls from throughout New England and Southern Canada who came from as far away as Boston and Montreal. Between 1833 and 1836 Mr. Twilight designed and led the construction of the four-story granite dormitory he called Athenian Hall—now our Old Stone House Museum.
Mr. Twilight became the first African American to serve in the state legislature in 1836 after his election to the Vermont House of Representatives. These achievements distinguish the character of Mr. Twilight who began his life indentured at a neighboring farm at the age of eight. He chose a path of education, while still performing farm labor, by reading and studying mathematics at Randolph Orange County Grammar School before continuing to Middlebury for a college degree.
The Old Stone House Museum Board of Trustees stands with those protesting today. Furthermore, we recognize that the concurrent Covid19 pandemic poses a more serious threat to many communities of color because of systemic inequalities in their access to healthcare and their needs for essential services. We call upon our nation, state, and local authorities to bend the arc of justice to a course Mr. Twilight set 150 years ago in Brownington, Vermont. This is a course that will make us proud of the history we have yet to write.