On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry delivered his famous “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” speech at St. John’s Church in Richmond, VA, at the second Virginia Convention.
In attendance were 120 delegates, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, Edmund Pendleton, and Peyton Randolph. Dozens of British sympathizers were in the audience.
They met in Richmond “to avoid the wrath of Royal Governor Lord Dunmore who resided in Williamsburg,” explains Charles Wissinger, the casting director and Richmond-based actor who, with a cast of nine actors, regularly reenacts a portion of the Convention. “Henry’s words not only articulated the concept of liberty as an essential right — a philosophy drawn from the writings of Enlightenment scholars — but also inspired support during a critical turning point in uniting the Colonies against British rule.”
It was a pleasure to interview Charles Wissinger and Sarah Whiting, the executive director of the St. John’s Church Foundation. Whiting sits at the helm of this National Historic Landmark, which in addition to weekly reenactments is home to Richmond’s first public cemetery — the final resting place of important figures in American history such as George Wythe (a signer of the Declaration of Independence), and Elizabeth Arnold Poe (mother of writer Edgar Allan Poe). “There’s perhaps no better place to get a taste of the revolutionary spirit that forever altered the course of the nation,” Whiting says.
And scroll down for more of our Q&A with Wissinger and Whiting. — David Bruce Smith, founder of the Grateful American™ Foundation, and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer