Coming alive: Monroe and friends at Ash Lawn

Sometimes, reading about history can be little dull for the non-history buffs in the world. But make a trip past Carter Mountain to Ash Lawn-Highland, and see history come alive in the person of Dennis Bigelow as President James Monroe.


On January 19, the home of the famous founder hosted a special "Freedom for All" tour to celebrate Martin Luther King Day. In addition to President Monroe, two historical residents (one real, one fictitious) of Ash Lawn were on hand.


The Reverend John Massey, portrayed by Stan Popin, owned Ash Lawn during and after the Civil War. Though he supported the South, he could foresee that the future of Virginia would depend on the "Negro" vote, and he was influential in creating an educational system and voting rights for freed slaves.


Russell Hubert portrayed fictional former slave Sam Washington whose take on his new freedom was ambivalent. Though he was a free man, he was not treated as an equal. Though he owned land, he had to sacrifice much of it for taxes.


The tour ended with Bigelow, as Monroe, summarizing his feelings. Monroe was aware that slavery was not good for the future of the United States. He supported the Missouri Compromise that banned slavery in new western territories. When he was president of the Virginia Constitutional Convention, he had a plan to phase out slavery, but the topic was too controversial at the time.


Ash Lawn's presentation provides a vivid understanding of our racial past. History is important, as it shows our mistakes and the lessons we should learn. These living re-enactments certainly make it more fun for our short-attention-span society.


Cynthia Alling speaking about the life of James Monroe


Happy gift shop workers K.K. Pearson and Barbara Hensley


Stan Popin has James Massey's hat fidget down pat.


That's not a wax statue. It's Dennis Bigelow... er, James Monroe.


Russell Hubert as Sam Washington