Community walks to remember children of Mitchelville

rlurye@islandpacket.comApril 12, 2014 

Domonique Jones was dressed for a race Saturday morning, from her black and yellow sneakers and crinkled bib number to the name written on her T-shirt.

That name, however, wasn't her own. It read Jane Gizzard. That's who 3-year-old Domonique represented as she walked -- and was carried -- through the first Historic Mitchelville 5K Run/Walk, organized by the Mitchelville Preservation Project. The race wound from the Fish Haul Creek Park on Hilton Head Island to the Mitchelville Beach Park and back.

About 150 adults and a dozen children wore the names of students who lived and learned in the 1860s in the first self-governed freedmen's town. At the time, just a few years after the creation of the town on the former site of plantation cotton fields, more than 260 children called Mitchelville home.

"These children were taught arithmetic (and) reading, which was a thing unheard of in the 1800s, so we are running a historical race this morning," said Cora Miller, a preservation project committee member.

Many of those children's names were called out before the 5K began Saturday while Miller pointed from one runner to the next.

"Who are you running for?" she cried out. "John! Lily! Mary!"

A few minutes later, the runners took off, followed shortly after by the younger attendees running a shorter race. Mitchell Travis, on his last day of vacation on Hilton Head Island, came in first place.

The 11-year-old thought it was cool he shared a name with the historical town, mom Kim said. He also shared the name with his Mitchelville counterpart, Thornton Mitchell, which organizers said was a happy coincidence.

Hilton Head Islanders Derrick Chisolm, 7, and Naomi Cohen, 4, came in second and third place.

Miller said she hopes to see an even larger turnout in 2015.

"Next year is your turn," she said to the larger Hilton Head community. "Let your feet run on freemen's land."

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

Related content:

Mitchelville supporters fight to preserve 'an American story', May 12, 2012

Mitchelville exhibit's images, artifacts give form to freedom, August 3, 2013

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