CAPE CHARLES: Online walking tour of town’s African American history launched

EASTERN SHORE POST/JIM RITCH Graduates of segregated Northampton County High School gather around the 1965 senior class photos, one of 10 on display at First Baptist Church, Cape Charles. The graduates and year of their graduation are, from left, Paul Bibbins, 1965; Juanita Brickhouse Godwin, 1956; Mary Johnson Thomas, 1970; Valencia Powell, 1966; Valentine Elliott Evans, 1965; the Rev. Felton Sessoms, 1965; Odell Johnson Collins, 1955; Dianne Davis, 1967; Richard Press, 1969; and Tom Godwin, 1955. Most of the graduates helped create the Invisible History Walking Tour by recording or helping record interviews about their lives in Cape Charles.

BY MATTHEW WELLS, Special to the Eastern Shore Post —

An online guide for a walking tour of Cape Charles’ notable places in African American history has been launched.

The Invisible History Walking Tour of Historic Cape Charles begins at the Mason Avenue railroad and ferry terminus, which sparked Cape Charles into a growing and prospering town.   

It continues to locations including Midwife Lottie Spratley’s House,  Gallup’s Court Apartments, and Cape Charles Elementary, the segregated school for  the African American community from 1929 until 1966.

Website coordinators and contributors gathered on Feb. 28 at First Baptist Church, Cape Charles, to celebrate the “soft launch” of the site.

The launch, timed during Black History Month, began a period of public review and refinement.

Organizers hope that additional photos and other materials might be contributed.

The official launch will be May 29.

The tour’s beginnings came in 2018 thanks to a chance meeting between Tom Godwin and Metty Vargas Pellicer at the Historic Palace Theater at the celebration of 100 years of the Cape Charles Memorial Library.  

Godwin is a born-and-raised Cape Charles resident. Pellicer is a retired psychiatrist who now resides in Cape Charles.   

Later they collaborated on a memoir about Godwin and his life in Cape Charles entitled, “Invisible History: Growing up Colored in Cape Charles, Virginia.”   

Published in 2020, the book also mentioned Cape Charles African American historical sites and landmarks.

It also prompted new attention on the sites, which led to the formation of the Invisible History Committee of the Rotary Club of Cape Charles. 

The committee hopes to bring together a generation of Cape Charles’ African Americans and preserve their voices before they are lost.

The tour highlights a period when about 40 African American owned businesses operated in Cape Charles. Today, there are two, said Godwin.

As artist Richard Press, who grew up in Cape Charles, said, “People can change, but history doesn’t.”  

Visit the online tour at

To add information or include a story call 757-303-0253 or email [email protected].

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