Ida Freeman Elementary boys pulled on their breeches and put on their cravats and tri-corner cocked hats as the girls dressed in long dresses, aprons and bonnets or caps. They joined fifth-graders from across Oklahoma — 500 total — to listen to re-enactors and to learn the trades of Colonial men and women.
They were part of the 13th annual Colonial Day at Oklahoma’s Capitol Jan. 30 funded in part by a grant from the Oklahoma Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
In addition to Ida Freeman, schools from Crescent, Elgin, Oklahoma City, McLoud, Midwest City, Moore, Muskogee, Sapulpa and Shawnee traveled back in time to become part of America’s history in its early formative stage.
Oklahoma Christian School Media Center Director Janet Bass performed as Wyn Maybee, a secret agent for George Washington. Historical figures from Colonial Williamsburg and Mount Vernon joined her taking center stage with Oklahoma historical interpreter Stephen Smith. Smith portrayed Ben Franklin.
Highlighting this year’s Colonial Day were special appearances by Colonial Williamsburg historical interpreter Valerie Gray Holmes, who portrayed Lydia Broadnax, a slave owned by one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and Mt. Vernon historical interpreter Natalie Fairchild, who portrayed George Washington’s granddaughter Nelly Custis; Mt. Vernon’s Tom Plott, who portrayed Dr. James Craik, George Washington’s close friend and personal physician and one of America’s first female undercover operatives, Agent 355, portrayed by Teresa Potter.
Brooke Potter of Moore presented a program on revolutionary songs, while staff from the Oklahoma History Center led sessions on colonial dancing and soldier life.
The opening ceremony was highlighted by the students, all 500 strong, singing a song about the Bill of Rights in the House of Representatives.
Students also participated in teacher-led sessions including colonial dancing, revolutionary soldier life, tin-smithing, passing secret messages and colonial trades.
Oklahoma is the only state in the country to hold a Colonial Day at its State Capitol.
The event is coordinated by teachers who have participated in the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute through a fellowship program administered by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence including Jane Williams, a teacher at Centennial Elementary School in Edmond. It is presented in partnership with the foundation.
“Colonial Day is an engaging and action-packed day of learning that brings early American history to life for Oklahoma students,” Potter said. “By attending this event right in the legislative, executive and judicial chambers of our State Capitol, students also get to make connections between the founders of our Constitution and the freedoms and responsibilities we enjoy today as U.S. citizens.”