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Red Hill's new director of community engagement hopes to educate broader audience

Takisha Fowlkes is a self-proclaimed history buff. There is no hesitation in her voice when she says it.

And there aren’t many better places for a history buff to be in Central Virginia than Patrick Henry’s Red Hill in Brookneal, about a 50-minute drive south of downtown Lynchburg. Red Hill is known as the final home and burial place of the famous Founding Father.

“It’s history right here in our backyard,” Fowlkes said about the property. “And to be able to be a part of something with this much history, it’s such a great opportunity.”

Fowlkes was hired last month as the director of community engagement at Red Hill on Oct. 11. Going forward, she is hoping to bring her knowledge of history, as well as her self-described “approachable and bubbly” attitude, to the position to educate as many people as possible about the property.

Although Fowlkes is a Virginia native who holds a degree from Southside Virginia Community College in business administration, and a bachelor’s from Liberty University in strategic communications, she had never heard of Red Hill until she saw the job posting for the position.

But through the process of researching the property, interviewing for the position, and being on the grounds, she “fell in love with” the history on the grounds.

“A lot of people don’t know that it’s here,” she said. “Patrick Henry is one of the pillars of Virginia. You learn those things in elementary school, but back then I wasn’t as interested in history as I am now. But you appreciate it more now.”

Henry is known most famously as one of the Founding Fathers of America, as well as the first governor of the commonwealth. His skills as an orator were among his strongest, being known for the famous quote, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

Melissa Carwile, director of operations at Red Hill, said the team was “very excited” to welcome Fowlkes on staff last month.

“Takisha is very outgoing and full of energy and we believe that she will be a definite asset to Red Hill in engaging the community and bringing in new audiences through her engagement and new programming,” Carwile said.

“Takisha has quickly become a valuable part of our Red Hill family.”

After one month on the job, Fowlkes and the rest of the staff are working on a more focused approach to get the word out about all the good things going on at the first Governor’s final home.

“The main thing is that we try to engage people in the community just to let them know we are here. We have been reaching out to see if we can find descendants of the enslaved people that lived on the property, as well as educate them on Patrick Henry and what he did here,” Fowlkes said.

Through an event that was held over the summer, the Quarter Place dedication ceremony, they were able to identify 40 of the enslaved graves on the property, an important step in working to identify descendants of those people.

Events such as that allow the community to learn more about the history of the property, but they also are hosting more casual events, including the recent Barbecue, Bluegrass & Brew Festival, which was Fowlkes’ first event in her new role that had a turnout of more than 1,000 people.

Red Hill also will host a Christmas Open House on Dec. 5, where it will have apple cider, stew, and a “chance to get into the holiday spirit with the community,” Fowlkes said.

Fowlkes is hoping community events will help people learn about the property, and get them to want to come out to learn more about the historical nature.

“That’s how we can get them interested in exploring the grounds and seeing what we have to offer. We want them to get know Patrick Henry as the great orator that he was and not just specifically a slave owner.”

Although Red Hill’s staff mostly covers the day-to-day operations, Fowlkes said they are always looking for more volunteers to help continue the mission on property by helping during events like the Barbecue, Bluegrass & Brew Festival.

“We couldn’t do it without our volunteers. We’ve got an amazing team and we’re always looking for more amazing people,” Fowlkes said.

For more information on Patrick Henry’s Red Hill, go online to: redhill.org.

"Takisha [Fowlkes] is very outgoing and full of energy and we believe that she will be a definite asset to Red Hill in engaging the community and bringing in new audiences through her engagement and new programming."

— Melissa Carwile, Red Hill director of operations 

Melissa Carwile

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