New Historical podcast series to share stories of Lynchburg individuals and events
At least eight people were killed during a panic at Court Street Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, when a fire was reported in the building on Oct. 16.
More than 2,000 people were packed into the single-exit church for a wedding and religious service, and many were trampled or smothered to death as they scrambled out of the building. Maria Wilson, a 17-year-old African American girl, leapt to her death from an upper floor, attempting to escape the church.
Despite the panic, the church was not in danger that evening in 1878. However, eight women lost their lives because of what many publications called “The Lynchburg Calamity.” Their names are memorialized on a stained-glass window in the current Court Street Baptist Church building.
Wilson’s story is told in the first episode of “Little Did They Know,” a new historical podcast series created by the Lynchburg Department of Economic Development and Tourism and the Lynchburg Museum System, which launched in January.
“If you just look at local history, there are hundreds … and thousands of stories of individuals and things that happened here that are fascinating and have lots of interesting dimensions that make it relevant today, that have never been explored,” Lynchburg Museum System Director Ted Delaney said. “I think this podcast is a way to … help bring those (stories) to light.”
“Little Did They Know” was created in partnership with and funded by American Evolution, an organization dedicated to commemorating the 400th anniversary of key events in Virginia’s history.
“(My job) was working with American Evolution and understanding what they were wanting and how we could make that connection with them,” Krista Boothby, the marketing and public relations coordinator for the Office of Economic Development and Tourism, said. “As far as I know, no one else is doing this kind of thing for the American Evolution project.”
The American Evolution project will be partnering with organizations throughout Virginia in 2019 to host events, exhibitions and programs to “inspire local, national and international engagement … and to reinforce Virginia’s leadership in education, tourism and economic development,” according to the project’s website.
Delaney explained that each of the podcast’s five episodes will share stories of Lynchburg’s history, some with impacts on the state, others with marks on the nation.
“To me, local history is such a big part of our identity as a community,” Delaney said. “If you’re someone who cares about Lynchburg, and you want what’s best for Lynchburg and want to have pride in the place where you live, it’s really important to know the history about it. … It explains so many things about why Lynchburg is the way it is, and it’s really part of our identity and character.”
Each episode features three main components: narration, interviews and a monologue. There are two interviews in each episode — one with a local historian, and the other with a Lynchburg resident who was either an eyewitness to the topic or is closely tied to the theme of the episode.
The monologues, on the other hand, are dramatizations of true stories based on the lives of late Lynchburg residents. All the stories were created by Lynchburg historic site Old City Cemetery for its annual Candlelight Tours event, which features actors in period dress delivering monologues. Many of the Candlelight Tour actors also served as voice actors for the podcast.
“The podcast is really just a practical way to take better advantage of those incredible stories and great content that’s created (at Old City Cemetery),” Delaney said. “It’s always been a shame, we thought, that so few people are able to experience that.”
Episode 2 will be released within the first two weeks of February, and episodes are slated to be released once a month. 434 Marketing is producing the series, and Delaney said the final three episodes are in the production process.
“Time has been a big issue,” Boothby said. “I mean, everybody involved, of course, has their own work world they’re in, so getting it all melded together so that everybody can do their part within their time allotted — that’s been a real challenge.”
Despite having “more moving parts and pieces” than they imagined, according to Delaney, the podcast creators intentionally chose the audio platform because it reaches a younger audience.
“Especially young people really take advantage of (podcasts). They like them,” Delaney said. “So, we want to take advantage of that technology and reach the audience who likes podcasts. That’s maybe a nontraditional audience for history, but as a public historian, we always want to try to reach every segment out there, whether you think you like history or not.”
American Evolution is only partnering with “Little Did They Know” for 2019, and the podcast creators are looking for sponsors or partners for future seasons. Because the departments involved believe deeply in the mission of sharing stories of Lynchburg’s past, Delaney said he would like to continue making more seasons of the podcast.
“As the city museum, it’s kind of our mission and our role … to help spread (local history), to be the voice for that. There’s nobody out there who is really doing that on a city-wide scale,” Delaney said. “So, I feel a real responsibility for making sure that those stories are being captured, documented and being put out there in various ways.”
The podcast is available online at www.littledidtheyknow.com or on Google Play and iTunes. New episodes will be announced via the Department of Economic Development and Tourism’s social media pages: Facebook — @visitlynchburgva, Twitter — @visitLYH, and Instagram — @lynchburgva.