Travel writer who has crossed the globe visits the historic triangle for the first time – Daily Press

WILLIAMSBURG — These days, it’s rare for Jessica Nabongo to find herself somewhere she’s never been.

In 2019, the travel writer, author, photographer and entrepreneur fulfilled his mission to visit every country in the world. Over the course of 2 1/2 years, Nabongo, who has already been to 60 different countries, completed the list by visiting over 130 more.

So when she visited the Historic Triangle this week, it was a trip to remember.

“I’m not a big history person,” she said, “but history gets in there sometimes.”

During a whirlwind few days, Nabongo hosted William and Mary, where he learned about the Bray School and the Lemon Project, spoke to students and gave a lecture in the Tucker Hall Theater, speaking to a crowd of about 100 people Tuesday night.

The audience for the 2023 McSwain-Walker lecture included students and members of the public who heard Nabongo’s lecture, “Intentional Journey: How Education, Empathy, and Confidence Will Help You Create the Life You Want to Live,” which focused on her journey and what she learned from her experiences.

Before her speech, Nabongo said the goal of all her work is to “use my stories to help reduce bias” and expand people’s minds and horizons.

Among the lessons she has learned on her travels, Nabongo said that first and foremost, education comes in many forms, both inside and outside the classroom. Second, there is a lot of power in the power of positive thought.

“I hope people leave (the talk) feeling inspired and in control of their lives,” she said. “I was grateful to my parents who allowed me to start something and leave it all the time. It helped me to know that giving up is not the same as failure.”

Born in Detroit to Ugandan parents, Nabongo began her career in the corporate world. After realizing how unhappy she was with what she was doing, Nabongo decided to leave. After a stint in Japan – her 10th country – teaching English, she bounced around, going from the UK to Africa to Italy to countries in Central and South America over the next few years.

In 2017, Nabongo began his mission to visit every country in the world. Nabongo says she is the first black woman to achieve this feat – as is another American, Vonnie Spotts.

“I believed in the possibility,” Nabongo said. “It’s been a windy road, but I’m here now.”

Before this week, the closest Nabongo, who once lived in Washington, D.C., was to the historic triangle was for a concert in Richmond. Before coming to Williamsburg, Nabongo’s initial impression was that she simply wasn’t interested in learning more.

After seeing how Colonial Williamsburg and William & Mary partnered to tell a more complete story of the city’s history, she said she began to change her mind.

On Tuesday morning, Nabongo visited the Bray School Laboratory, located in the Travis House in the Historic District, where he learned more about the history of the school from Laboratory Director Maureen Elgersman Lee, Graduate Assistant Nicole Brown, Genealogist Elizabeth Drembus and Oral Historian Tonya Merideth.

The group also visited the Bray School site at the corner of South Nassau and West Francis streets, where work continues in preparation for the site to open to the public in 2024.

The Bray School Lab is part of the Bray School Initiative, a partnership between The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and William & Mary that seeks to uncover, document, preserve and disseminate the history and legacy of the Williamsburg Bray School.

The school was established in 1760 by The Associates of Dr. Bray, an Anglican charity based in England, on the recommendation of Benjamin Franklin and with the support of the President of William & Mary and the Rector of Bruton Parish Church, the Reverend Thomas Dawson. The school gave black children a “Christian education” – which included reading and eventually writing, but also encouraged them to accept slavery as part of God’s plan.

Nabongo called his visit to the school “incredible,” stressing the importance of inclusive history.

“If it’s not inclusive, it’s not a true story,” she said.

On Wednesday, Nabongo also got the chance to visit the Jamestown settlement, where he toured the museum with senior curator Bly Straube. During the tour, Nabongo saw how the three main cultures of the area at the time – English, African and Native – lived in the 17th century.

Nabongo stops several times during the tour to take a closer look, examining the museum’s exhibit, which identifies stolen African artifacts and a statue of Queen Njinga, who served as ruler of the Ndongo and Matamba kingdoms located in present-day Angola.

“There’s a lot here,” she said. “I want to go back and spend more time.”

Sian Wilkerson, [email protected], 757-342-6616

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