CRRL History: Ruth Coder Fitzgerald
Annotation:Ruth drew from her book, A Different Story, to create a walking tour brochure for downtown Fredericksburg which is available at the visitors' center and here online. Also assisting in its writing were Janice P. Davies and Jervis Hairston.
Annotation:Spotsylvania's tie-in to Alex Haley's Roots makes it of particular interest to travelers, but its prominence in the Civil War and the lives of its freedmen--their businesses, schools and churches--is really quite noteworthy. This historical brochure was written by Ruth Fitzgerald with assistance from members of the black community.
Annotation:This "The Way It Was" column features white women Lucy Landon Minor and her daughter, Mary Minor Blackford who, in the 1830s, worked for the Freedericksburg branch of the American Colonization Society. Fannie Richards, born to free blacks on Sophia Street in 1840, moved with her mother to Detroit in 1850, where she had a ground-breaking career in education. Also mentioned is Sophia Hatch, a white woman from Ohio who began a private school for blacks in Fredericksburg after the Civil War as well as local activists who spoke out for women's right to vote.
Annotation:Describes the service of local blacks in the American Revolution, their service--including on such ships as the Tempest, the Dragon, and the Revenge--and a bit on how some of their lives went after the war. (Free Lance-Star, February 24, 1996)
Annotation:Tells of Fredericksburg-born Matthew McKinley Garnett who enlisted as a "Buffalo Soldier" in 1876 and was honorably discharged on July 25, 1881, at Fort Davis, Texas. Afterward, he moved back to Fredericksburg where he became a leader in the community. (Free Lance-Star, April 9, 1994)
Annotation:Fredericksburg residents remember Christmas days of long ago. (Free Lance-Star, December 18, 1998)
Annotation:A husband and wife, though on opposite sides of the Rappahannock, worked together to spy for the Union forces. (Free Lance-Star, March 13, 1999)
Annotation:Ruth Coder Fitzgerald's major work on local black history covers through the Civil Rights era.
Annotation:An article from the March 22, 1980, issue of the Free Lance-Star examines why Ruth Fitzgerald wrote "A Different Story" and how she went about doing it.
Annotation:An engaging article written after Ruth's death tells of her community involvement in recent years and historical legacy, with quotes from Bill Beck, former mayor of Fredericksburg. (Free Lance-Star, April 15, 2013)
Annotation:Ruth and Barry Fitzgerald were a team who had spent their lives together since college. Barry was a reporter and photographer for the Free Lance-Star who worked previously as a Peace Corps volunteer where he taught elementary school and helped start a community newspaper in the Philippines. (Free Lance-Star, September 3, 2007)
Annotation:Her official obituary, published April 16, 2013.
Annotation:Tells of Ruth's determination and the process to get the "In Memory" plaque installed next to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington.
Annotation:The story of Noah Davis, once a resident of Fredericksburg, who wrote a book in 1859 to make enough money to free his last two children from slavery. (Free Lance-Star, February 5, 1994)
Annotation:In the 1890s, black citizens of the Massaponax area of Spotsylvania County came together to debate questions of the day at the Rock Spring Lyceum. One of the leaders was John J. Wright, a well-known educator. Some of the topics of debate are mentioned in the article. (Free Lance-Star, January 17, 1998)
Annotation:Describes Fielding Lewis' (George Washington's brother-in-law) involvement with the establishment of a slave school in Fredericksburg from 1776-1770. (Free Lance-Star, July 6, 1996)
Annotation:An archive on how the In Memory Plaque came to be.
Annotation:An interview with Ruth Coder Fitzgerald and Barry Fitzgerald on the project to create a plaque for the many postwar casualties not eligible for placement on The Wall.
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Local writer and historian Ruth Coder Fitzgerald contributed hugely to our knowledge of black history and is also to be lauded for her efforts in establishing the "In Memory" plaque at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. Here are some of her stories from the Free Lance-Star and links to other writings and information about her.