The mission of St. John’s Church Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, is to ensure the historic preservation of St. John’s Church, a National Historic Landmark in recognition as the original location of Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech, and to provide educational programs, tours and reenactments.
What St. John’s Church Foundation Does: Education and Preservation
St. John’s Church Foundation was founded in 1938 and we were proud to celebrate our 75th anniversary year in 2013. Since 1938, St. John’s Church Foundation (SJCF) has preserved the historic property as a powerful setting where we engage a broad public audience with the personalities and founding principles of our nation. More than 40,000 students and adults from across our nation and around the world travel to St. John’s Church annually. Our programs include guided tours (translated into the six most common languages), dramatic reenactments of Henry’s speech, classroom lessons aligned to Virginia Standards of Learning, free programs for Title I schools, a summer camp for children, a historical exhibition and the Liberty Lecture Series, a scholarly lecture exploring Virginia’s history in the context of national events. Our television program, Liberty or Death, aired nationally on American Public Television. St. John’s Church Foundation is not involved in and does not provide funding for the religious activities of the church. We do not receive church funding for any of our operations or programs.
The historic St. John’s Church powerfully engages students and adults by placing them in the very location where our forebears‚ including Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington‚ discussed the issues and enacted the deeds that led to the founding of America. Virginia’s support of independence prevented the Revolution from becoming a regional conflict.
The graveyard surrounding the church was the first public cemetery in Richmond and it holds significant historical interest. Many people important to Richmond and Virginia are buried here, including George Wythe, who not only signed the Declaration of Independence, but also taught the law to Thomas Jefferson, Chief Justice John Marshall, and Henry Clay.
St. John’s Church is an irreplaceable treasure as a tangible connection to our founding fathers and as host to a defining moment in our nation’s history. Here, Patrick Henry delivered his famous “Give me liberty” speech at the Second Virginia Convention of March 1775. Our educational programs bring to life the events that led to the American Revolution and are aligned to the content of the Virginia Standards of Learning for elementary, middle, and high school students, as well as for students on a national scope. Our educational programming benefits the Greater Richmond community and our free tours for Title I schools contribute to closing the achievement gap often experienced by our most vulnerable and needy students. A teacher recently described the experience of her field trip as‚”When the tour guide told the students that they occupied space that Patrick Henry, (Richard) Henry Lee and other famous Americans (occupied), the students were in awe!”