Prickett’s Fort hosts event to show the African American experience on the Western Virginia Frontier


FAIRMONT, W.Va – Shiela Arnold travels around the world, spreading the knowledge of what it was like to be a slave in the 18th century.

“Really slavery in the 18th century, there were no options for running, but there was also different era as far as when slavery you can learn how to read and write, people will learn that today. People will learn about my family being able to go to school and most of the time they are very shocked about that,” said Arnold.

Arnold, known by her peers as “Ol Bess,” shared her story at Prickett’s Fort about what it was like being a Tavern Slave in Williamsburg Virginia. Now adapting to her environment in the Western Virginia Frontiers, Arnold said she enjoys re-enactments because it allows her to bring allow guests to see the human side of the struggle that all can relate to.

“The biggest thing that I want people to walk away with is the concept that the slaves were human and to really get a taste, and a touch and a feel of that humanist. It’s so easy to read something and kind of brush it off and run past that face, when if we can really take that time and humanize people maybe it can help humanize all of us,’ Arnold said.

Through the struggles, adaptation, loneliness and other factors Arnold feels everyone can take away a message, just like those that came before us.

“What are they doing that’s finding their humanist? There are reasons they sang, and told stories and they danced. Why would you that and what I think is relevant today is people are hurting and some people are really hurting and they are trying to really find their way of ‘how do I survive this?’ and I think the great hero for them are the people called slaves because they found a way through oppression to still leave a mark that last on our country until this day,” said Arnold.

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