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Joseph McGill

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Hidden in Plain View ~ Slave Dwelling Project Overnights at Two Urban Slave Quarters

College of Charleston
Joseph McGill Visits Former Slave Dwelling at 16 1/2 Glebe Street
Joseph McGill in Doorway of 16 1/2 Glebe Street
16 1/2 Glebe Street, Former Slave Dwelling
Property Now A Guest House
Interior of 16 1/2 Glebe Street
Interior of 16 1/2 Glebe Street
Modern Amenities in Former Slave Dwelling
Interior of 16 1/2 Glebe Street
Interior of 16 1/2 Glebe Street
Interior of 16 1/2 Glebe Street
16 1/2 Glebe Street
16 1/2 Glebe Street
16 1/2 Glebe Street
Slave Shackles
Interior of 16 1/2 Glebe Street
Terry James
Glebe Street, Charleston, SC
Terry James in Doorway of 16 1/2 Glebe Street
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#FFCC00fadetrue

The weekend of August 30 – 31, 2013 was intense for the Slave Dwelling Project for I would find myself spending the night in two different slave dwellings in two nights. Both locations, 16 ½ Glebe Street and 25 Longitude Lane are located in the city limits of Charleston, SC.

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Before the first stay, I had to take a detour to Randall Hall on the campus of the College of Charleston to be one of three panelists to speak on the subject titled “Charleston: Holy City and/or Slavery Central?” Also on the panel were Professor Joe Kelly of the College's Department of English whose book America's Longest Siege: Charleston, Slavery, and the Slow March toward Civil War has just been published, and Mark Berry, of the College Publications team, whose article on College of Charleston alum Colonel John C. Fremont appeared in the College of Charleston Magazine last year. The panel addressed one of the most important paradoxes in American political history—how a nation founded on the universal principle that all men have the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness could have remained a slave-holding nation for nearly a century after the Declaration of Independence, until the end of the Civil War.

16 ½ Glebe Street

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Three years into the Slave Dwelling Project and until Friday, August 30, 2013 I had only spent the night in a former slave dwelling on the campus of one institution of higher learning. That institution was Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Virginia. 16 ½ Glebe Street located on the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina would be my second on a college or university campus. The dwelling is currently used as a guest house by the college so surprisingly prior to the stay, I talked to at least two people who had stayed in the dwelling before with no knowledge that it was a former slave dwelling and I am willing to wager that 95% of the people who have stayed there did not know that the dwelling once housed slaves.

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When I saw the dwelling, it was obvious to me that it indeed once housed slaves. The location alone (behind a “big house”) was enough for me to make that determination. I also concluded that despite the dwelling not presently having a chimney, it served as a kitchen / living quarters for slaves. The dwelling was well adapted to its current use as a guest house, fully equipped kitchen, living room and half bath downstairs and bedroom and full bathroom upstairs. With forty six stays in former slave dwellings prior to this one, I had stayed in some that had been adaptively reused in similar fashion but none could compare to this one. A flat screen TV and wifi made for an environment where I could get caught up on some work and communicate with followers of the project but before any of that happened, I could not help but take a walk through the streets of Charleston.

My destination was Wild Wings restaurant on Market Street which turned out to be farther away than I thought but the walk, meal and adult beverage were well worth it. During the walk, I could not help thinking about the slave labor involved in all of the antebellum buildings along the route that I took, making the bricks and erecting the buildings requiring slave tags in order to carry out those tasks.

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When I got back to the dwelling, I finally started to enjoy the amenities. The adornment of the structure made it difficult to imagine the lives of the slaves who once lived there. Were they there to service the house located in front or were they part of the population of enslaved people who serviced the College of Charleston. Paul Garbarini who is an avid researcher who experienced a night stay in the slave dwelling with me at Heyward – Washington House in Charleston is doing that research.

Having wifi provided a unique impromptu opportunity. After broadcasting photographs of the dwelling on my facebook page, the comments started to come in hot and heavy. Wifi and a laptop made it possible to respond to the comments immediately. I had tried this concept before (minus the pictures) with some success and some failure but those experiences were forecasted therefore the audience anticipated the interaction. This spur of the moment experience gave the participants one of the best opportunities yet to interact in real time with the project.

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As promised, Terry James showed up for the stay. Like me, he marveled over the amenities in the dwelling. Terry’s last two stays were the Old City Jail which had concrete floors and the cabin in Simpsonville, SC which had a dirt floor. After directing Terry to the bathroom upstairs, he then discovered that there was a half bathroom down stairs neatly tuck under the steps that led upstairs. That night Terry would take the couch downstairs and I would take the bed upstairs. Like clockwork he would again sleep in the slave shackles.

The next morning, when Terry and I stepped outside so that Terry could apply his skill of photography. Terry impressed me because he now has a discerning eye for former slave dwellings. We both noticed that 16 ½ Glebe Street was the only slave dwelling left of the many that were once behind all of the houses that fronted Glebe Street. It was evident that the footprint of a huge commercial building belonging to the College of Charleston would not let the slave dwellings coexist, but my limited knowledge of the situation cannot allow me to say that the building was the demise of the dwellings because they could have been demolished long before the commercial building was placed there.

We left 16 ½ Glebe Street, but little did Terry know that the slave dwelling that we would stay in that night would be just as luxurious.

25 Longitude Lane

Susan E. Heape, Owner of Former Slave Dwelling, 25 Longitude Lane
Courtyard of 25 Longitude Lane
Courtyard of 25 Longitude Lane
25 Longitude Lane, Former Slave Dwelling
25 Longitude Lane
25 Longitude Lane
25 Longitude Lane
Interior of 25 Longitude Lane, Now A Private Residence
Old Hearth in Former Slave Dwelling
Terry James and Susan E. Heape
Mary Ellen Morehouse
Hospitality ~ Susan Prepared a Delicious Stew
Terry James Customarily Sleeps In Slave Shackles on Overnight Stays
Interior of 25 Longitude Lane
Interior of 25 Longitude Lane
Interior of 25 Longitude Lane
Interior of 25 Longitude Lane
Courtyard of 25 Longitude Lane
Courtyard of 25 Longitude Lane
Courtyard of 25 Longitude Lane
Courtyard of 25 Longitude Lane
Courtyard of 25 Longitude Lane
Courtyard of 25 Longitude Lane
Courtyard of 25 Longitude Lane
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#FFCC00fadetrue

I gave a Slave Dwelling Project lecture before my stay at the Heyward – Washington House in Charleston, SC,. In the audience was Susan Heape, the owner of the former slave dwelling at 25 Longitude Lane. The next week when I was in Jacksonville, Florida Susan called me with a major concern. It appeared that in my presentation, I did not address the category of owners of former slave dwellings of which she is a part. Susan bought the dwelling for the purpose of using it as her primary residence. She insisted that I come over for a visit.

The visit proved to be quite worthy. I awed at the meticulous work that she personally put into making the dwelling what it was. She excitingly expressed all that she did to ensure that she maintained as much of the historical integrity of the dwelling as she possibly could. Knowing that this was her personal space, I still had to ask that question, “When can I spend the night.” To my surprise, the answer was anytime. As time passed, we collectively decided that doing the stay on the same weekend as the College of Charleston stay was highly appropriate because it would be my opportunity to highlight those dwellings that are hidden in plain view.

 

Hours before the stay, Terry James and I gathered on the Battery in Charleston in our Civil War uniform. As you would guess, the conversations and interactions there were quite interesting. It got more interesting when we would explain to the inquirers that we would be spending the night in a former slave dwelling in walking distance from the Battery. We further explained that there were several extant slave dwellings within the vicinity of where we were.

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On the walk from the Battery to 25 Longitude Lane, Terry again used his discerning eye to spot all of the former slave dwellings that were visible from the side walk. A tour guide in a horse drawn carriage slowed his tour enough to inquire of our purpose, when we responded that we would be sleeping in a former slave dwelling on Longitude Lane, he seemed a bit surprised. When we got to the dwelling, Susan greeted us both with big hugs, she had forewarned me that she had assembled an outfit specifically for the occasion. Her special stew was on the stove in the last stages of preparation. As she gave Terry a tour of the dwelling, I went outside to start taking my pictures for I have learned in this project to start taking pictures immediately so that I would not have to be rushed the next morning or take the chance that it might rain.

The three of us headed back to the Battery. Susan had salvaged some flyers from the lecture that was given the previous day at Randolph Hall on the campus of the College of Charleston. On the walk to the Battery, Susan enthusiastically engaged all of whom she came into contact by giving them a flyer and starting the conversation about the Slave Dwelling Project. Terry and I took it from there. Unfortunately we had to break up the team because Susan had to head back home to meet a guest that she was expecting.

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When Terry and I got back to Susan’s place her guest Mary Ellen Millhouse had arrived. She attended the lecture the previous day and had asked the interesting question about how many slaves stayed around after they were freed. Mary, armed with her camera, expressed that she regretted not being able to go to the Battery with us and hoped that we would go back but Susan had already changed into more comfortable clothing and was now concentrating on serving the meal. It turned out that Mary owns a house in Beaufort, SC that once housed slaves. This was interesting, because since I started the project, I had been trying to identify extant slave dwellings in Beaufort, to no avail. It was as if Beaufort was in denial of its slave holding past. The result of the conversation with Mary was that a stay at the property will occur but we have to determine the right date in order to maximize its effectiveness.

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The conversation would continue over Susan’s specially prepared tasty stew. When Susan was convinced that she might lose sleep because of Terry, me or both snoring and that our interest was waning from the subject of extant slave dwellings to that of a football game, she made a firm decision to relinquish the space to Terry and me. She went to her second home on Edisto Island to spend the night. Terry and I were both satisfied with the outcome of the football game although Terry only saw portions between bouts of sleep.

For sleeping, I took the couch while Terry spread his sleeping bag on the kitchen floor. Terry again donning the slave shackles before going to sleep. The next morning, Terry mentioned that his sleeping experience was not comfortable. I jokingly speculated that it was because he slept over the cellar but neither of us believed that for a moment. Terry was still in awe of the intricate work that Susan put into the dwelling. He was also impressed that she would trustingly leave the space in our possession. I told Terry that what Susan did was not a first and it was the power of the Slave Dwelling Project that warrants such acts.

After a session of Terry taking intricate pictures, we both went our separate ways. Terry going home to Florence, SC and me, to toil at my place of employment, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens on Labor Day, the irony.

Before I Met Joe McGill: A Slave Dwelling Project of My Own

By Susan E. Heape

"So, you might ask, 'How can you love a slave house? How can you live there, knowing that enslaved people once were forced to live and work there?' The answer is that I see myself as a steward of this property, with the duty and honor of preserving and maintaining that which someone else might destroy or deny."

Susan E. HeapeOwner, 25 Longitude Lane

In 2004, a terrible thing was about to happen: my seven cousins and siblings all agreed that it was time to sell Grand Daddy’s farm. I was the only one of this small group of heirs with any real connection, love, familiarity, use, or desire to preserve a tract of land that had been in my family for many generations. All of them, even though raised in the South Carolina Lowcountry, had turned into city slickers or plain old mercenaries or folks with a disdain for all things Southern! The thought of a pile of money was far more attractive to them than grand oaks, sandy trails through palmetto swamps, and gently rolling acres of sweet-smelling pines. Even the McKewn Branch, a flowing creek which once helped supply Charleston with drinking water, was not enough to warrant preservation.

Meanwhile, I had turned into a regular woods-child, with a 4x4 pickup and a 27 speed off-road bicycle, both designed to take me anywhere I wanted to go on this property. If you get the idea that this place was close to heaven for me, you are correct. I found a peaceful sense of being home, knowing that many generations of my family had lived here, grown their own food, cut this timber to build homes, and hunted these woods for deer and other wild game. I held out for over a year, trying to convince family members that it was a sacrilege to sell this land. They thought I was silly. Then they thought I was crazy. Finally, they thought I was just plain annoying, and decided to sue me so that the developers could have their way with our property! Having heard horror stories regarding the way courts dispose of heirs property (typically devaluing the land and depriving the resistant family member of equal restitution), I had to capitulate to the sale. The developers were ruthless in requiring all of the property, or not buying any at all. After months of negotiating, the deal was concluded in early 2006. I was literally, physically sick from this experience! Not only was the property gone, but also family relationships. I had become “the outcast who almost prevented the sale; the troublemaker; the tree-hugger.”

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I resolved to use my proceeds to buy another treasure in the Lowcountry. I decided that having a special place here would be an ideal way to stay connected to my origins, and give me a sense of using my resources for a good purpose. I began shopping online as well as with a local realtor, with the goal of finding a historic property that was in need of love and restoration. From the first moment that I saw pictures of my house, I knew it was the one for me. Even though it was evident that a lot of work was needed, I could see the potential in these stout brick walls. I have known of this house my entire life, and can even recall what it looked like when I was a young girl---rather dreary with dark shutters, overgrown vines, and messy mulberry trees in the rear entry way!

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After submitting numerous offers to the seller, and being turned down, we finally were able to come to acceptable terms in April 2006. I was absolutely determined to buy this house, because it needed me and I needed it! When I say “it needed me,” I mean that there had been ongoing attempts by previous owners to transform this house into something modern, slick, and inauthentic to its slave dwelling origins. My mission, right from the start, was to acknowledge the truth about this structure and to honor that truth by restoring and preserving it, not hiding it. Over the years, I have removed modern plastic light fixtures, revealed interior brick walls once covered by gloss paint, installed heart pine floors identical to the few remaining original ones, and utilized historically accurate colors and fabrics throughout. I have also researched, designed, and installed a traditional African-American folk art garden. There are heirloom plants, natural elements such as seashells, and antique farming tools such as would have been used in bygone times. It has been strictly a labor of love, and I have personally done most of the work myself--- except for that beyond my abilities, such as plumbing and electrical. I love this place, and feel very protective of it.

So, you might ask, “How can you love a slave house? How can you live there, knowing that enslaved people once were forced to live and work there?” The answer is that I see myself as a steward of this property, with the duty and honor of preserving and maintaining that which someone else might destroy or deny. While it has not been easy or inexpensive to own and restore this structure, I am so glad that I have been able to do so. These walls speak to me, and I hope to others, about a time in our shared history. While many lessons about the Civil War have been recognized and learned, there are so many other facts about this era that are yet to be acknowledged and explored. Hopefully, the identification and recognition of all historic structures, not just large or ornate ones, will serve as inspiration for ongoing discussions, discoveries, and understanding.

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The Campbell Family Reunion: Connecting the Dots

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#FFCC00fadetrue

I was once told by a genealogist early on in this project that “you concentrate on saving the places, we will put the people there.”

Since the Slave Dwelling Project started in May 2010, unexpected liaisons have been formed. At the Bush Holly House in Greenwich, Connecticut, I spent the night in the slave dwelling with two descendants of slave owners and the descendant of a slave owner and one of his slaves. At Bacons Castle in Surry, Virginia two African American sisters, whose great - great aunt was enslaved there, spent the night and they are now interacting with the property because of the project. In the dwelling on the campus of Sweet Briar College, one of the participants was the granddaughter of the last person who stayed in the cabin.

Along the way, I have had the privilege to address many family reunions. The locations of those addresses were usually in a banquet room of a nice hotel. My address to the Campbell family reunion would be the same but first let me set the stage.

When the project was in its infancy, I attempted to stay in the slave dwelling at Laurelwood Plantation in Eastover, SC. The dilapidated condition of the dwelling dictated that sleeping in the dwelling was not an option, however, in an effort to remain true to the project, I slept on the porch of the big house which also needed to be restored. New owners Jacqueline and Jeremy Thomas who at the time of purchase were living in England vowed to restore the cabin. Being true to their word, I returned in April of this year to spend a night in the newly restored cabin. I was joined by two Richland County high school students and their history teacher; Prinny Anderson, descendant of President Thomas Jefferson; Terry James, fellow Civil War reenactor who sleeps in slave shackles; and Jeremy Thomas, owner.

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#FFCC00fadetrue

While at work, I got a call from Michelle Dawson. Once we verified that I was the person that she was looking for, she explained that she was doing research on her family tree and had traced her enslaved ancestors to Laurelwood Plantation. Through my blogs written about Laurelwood, she had tracked me down. She explained the challenge she had finding the physical location of the property and upon finding it, locked gates denied her access. Her true emotion was felt through the phone when I agreed that I would come to Myrtle Beach to address her family reunion. I stated that I could not make any promises but I would try to get them access to the property. A call to Jeremy a few days later confirmed that not only could the family have access but he would be at the property to greet them when they arrived.

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Slave Dwelling Project ~ 150th Battery Wagner Commemoration, Two Nights in Jail

150th Anniversary Commemoration, Assault on Battery Wagner

By Joseph McGill

"Approximately 200,000 African American men served in the Union Army and Navy during the American Civil War. For this particular stay, it was not much of a stretch for the Slave Dwelling Project and my Civil War reenacting to come together."

Joseph McGillFounder, Slave Dwelling Project
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#FFCC00fadetrue

For the followers of the Slave Dwelling Project, you have become accustomed to the blog that I write after every time that I spend the night in a slave dwelling. You may also be aware that I am a Civil War reenactor so making history relevant is what I love. Our reenactment group is Company I, 54th Massachusetts Reenactment Regiment. Historically, the group was the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Approximately 200,000 African American men served in the Union Army and Navy during the American Civil War. For this particular stay, it was not much of a stretch for the Slave Dwelling Project and my Civil War reenacting to come together.

The Assault on Battery Wagner occurred on July, 18, 1863. This was the battle portrayed in the 1989 award winning movie Glory featuring Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington. Although other Black regiments preceded and followed the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, because of this movie, this group is best known. For the past 10 years, Company I has been going to Morris Island, SC, the site of that battle to commemorate the men who fought, died and were captured there. This year would be different. Since this was the sesquicentennial or the 150th anniversary of that battle, we had to do more and do more we did.

On Sunday, July14 members of the local Civil War reenactment group worshipped at Mt. Zion AME Church in Charleston, SC. It is documented that historically, men of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry worshipped at this church. After the service, the members proceeded to the Friendly Society Cemetery to place a wreath on the grave of Lt. Steven Swails who was one of only three Black officers commissioned in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. This is important because at the onset of the war one could count the number of Black officers in the Union army and navy on one hand. After the Civil War, Lt Swails who was originally from Cooperstown, NY, stayed in South Carolina and became a State Senator, lawyer and the Mayor of my hometown of Kingstree, SC.

Fort Moultrie 1

On Monday night a small contingency of the local Civil War reenactment group gathered at the Seashore Farmers Lodge to view the movie Glory. The lodge was built about 1915 by local black farmers. Their organization provided insurance, advice, and burial assistance to members. The newly restored building fell into disrepair and was almost lost to demolition by neglect before concerned community organizers stepped in and saved it. Unfortunately, technical difficulties would not allow us to show the movie on a large screen. Fate would have it that only about five people showed up so we wound up showing the film on a computer screen which worked out just fine.

The next day we would find ourselves back at the Seashore Farmers Lodge for a day of living history. It was on this day, July 16, 1863 that that the 54th Massachusetts got its baptism of fire. The historical marker at the lodge states “During the Civil War (1861-1865) Sol Legare Island was the site of several camps, artillery positions and battles. On this date, one of America's first African American Army Regiments, organized in the North and led by Union General Alfred Terry; bravely gave their lives to win the freedom of enslaved Africans who were held in bondage here and on plantations throughout the south. 5,200 Federal Troops occupied this Island. The 54th waged a gallant battle but lost 14 men, 17 were wounded and 12 missing. It is with great pride and humble gratitude that we honor their unwavering courage and sacrifice for a moral cause. The lodge is located on the grounds of where Union forces camped before they engaged in the Battle of Sol Legare Island.” The day was filled with living history demonstrations and storytelling with a good mixture of community, state and national visitors.

Wednesday, July 17th would find us at Trident Technical College. By then, the Civil War reenactors from out of town began to show up. The guys from Company A in Boston were there. These were the guys who allowed me to fall in with them at the last two inaugural parades of President Barack Obama. The guys from Company B out of Washington, DC were there. Company K out of Atlanta showed up. Others representing Civil War United States Colored Troops (USCT) showed up from New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina. The evening event had a sparse turnout and we got all of the activities in before the rain started. We then went to the world renown Gullah Cuisine Restaurant in Mt. Pleasant where the famous chef Charlotte Jenkins did not disappoint with a spread of baked chicken, collard greens, okra stew, rice, yams, bread pudding and a side salad. A formal introduction was given to the group by me with a question and answer period that followed. Bringing all of these groups together was a little contentious but nothing that could not be easily overcome. It was revealed that in the room we had a descendant of one of the drummers of the 54th, a descendant of William Carney the Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from the 54th, and several men who acted in the movie Glory.

54th Mass Company I Fort Moultrie

Thursday, July 18th found us at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, SC. The history of the fort spans the Revolutionary through World War II. It was from this fort on the night of December 26, 1860, under the cover of darkness, Major Robert Anderson would spike the guns and proceed to Fort Sumter. He would hold his position at Fort Sumter until after a 34 hour battle which started on April 12, 1861. As typical with the National Park Service, the rules were strict but we gave the public a great show that included lectures, storytelling and musket firing demonstrations. Putting all the guys in one formation was not as problematic as I anticipated. We even had a contingency of Confederates who participated in the Fort Moultrie event.

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#FFCC00fadetrue

Above: 150th Commemoration, Photos by Herb Frazier

At 2:30 pm we began to board the boats that would take us over to Morris Island. The transport to the island was completed without a hitch although I was receiving calls for a seat on the boats up until the time we left the dock. The event on the island was carried out flawlessly. My only regrets were that high tide did not allow much beach to conduct the activities and we did not have enough time at the end of the program for people to reflect. We proceeded back to Fort Moultrie where we were fed and the activities continued. The evening culminated with a presentation by Lt. Governor Glen McConnell who is himself a Civil War reenactor. We ended the event by lighting luminaries that represented each man killed during the Assault on Battery Wagner.

Casualty List of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment from the Assault on Fort WagnercroppedAbove: List of USCT Soldiers Missing After the Assault on Battery Wagner. With Kind Permission of Fold3.

My Trip to South Carolina

By Kharson McKay, Age 11, Descendant of David Miles Moore, 54th Mass. USCT

"Everyone slid out of the boat and we stepped out onto the sand. It took my breath away. This was the Island where my ancestor David Miles Moore stepped into history!"

Kharson McKay, Age 11Descendant of David Miles Moore, 54th Mass. USCT
photo

Above: Kharson McKay (Left). Photo by Herb Frazier

My name is Kharson McKay. I am 11 years old from Austin, TX. I love the Civil War. When my dad Bob McKay told me I had been invited to participate in a civil war re-­‐ enactment, I was so excited to do it. My mom made me a costume (that apparently wasn’t very authentic) but it was still a great costume and I love it. Here’s the story of my trip to South Carolina. On Sunday, July 14 my dad and I drove 9 hours to my Sister’s house in New Orleans to pick up my 9 year old Nephew, Quinn McKay. We stayed for a while but we had to get back on the road. From there we drove to Olustee, FL to see the battlefield where my ancestor David Miles Moore, The drummer boy for the 54th Mass Company H. fought his final battle before he mustered out of the civil war in 1865.

It had closed just a minute before we got there at 5:01 so we went over the gate and took a couple of photos and videos and got out quick. After that we drove to Jacksonville, checked into a hotel right by the beach and swam in the ocean for a while. We tried swimming against the waves, but every time the tide came in it threw us back to the shore! Soon it got dark and we had to go back to the hotel. The next day we stayed for a while longer at the beach then had to get back on the road. We finally got to South Carolina and checked into our hotel. We heard there was a meeting at a university, and that got switched around but we finally got to the park where we saw everyone in uniform talking to each other and shaking hands. A few of the other re-­‐enactors greeted us and we met a lot of the local people. A couple of the men and women spoke about where they were from and how they got here, then they did an amazing living history skit.

Soon it started to rain and we all went to dinner at a restaurant with a great Gullah/Geechee buffet. Sitting down with our food we talked about the reenactment and information about what was going to happen the next day at Fort Moultrie. After 2 hours of eating and talking we all went home to get some rest for the big day. That day, Thursday, July 18th I took a shower, put on my uniform and walked out of the hotel to reenact one of the most important battles in the history of The Civil War. When we got to Fort Moultrie I was amazed by the Fort and the different costumes and gear people had! I wasn’t quite prepared, but the park visitors center let me borrow a drum and a couple of the men there helped me look more authentic.

After a few hours of gun checking, firing demonstrations, eating, and history talks, we all got on the boat to Morris Island. There, everyone slid out of the boat and we stepped out onto the sand. It took my breath away. This was the Island where my ancestor David Miles Moore stepped into history! We knelt down into the sand and a lot of blinding pictures were taken of us. We got up again, played a marching cadence, and marched to a spot on the island were we all got into ranks and fired the guns. The drummer boys played Battle Hymn of The Republic. I couldn’t play the drums at all so I just played the bass part of it. The men fired their guns into the air and we all got back onto the boat. I will never forget that moment when I first felt the sand. Thank you Mr. McGill for inviting me on this wonderful trip. I had a lot of fun and I am thinking about doing this again. Thank you.

Fort Moultrie 8 Fort Moultrie Group Photo

Stay at Old Charleston Jail

By Joseph McGill
Encampment Old Jail 11

The Old Charleston Jail was built in 1802 using bricks that were made by enslaved people along with their carpentry and masonry skills. My desire to extend the Slave Dwelling Project to the Old Charleston Jail was based on the fact that after the battle that was portrayed in the movie Glory, some of the Black soldiers who were taken as prisoners were held there. The American College of the Building Arts now holds classes in the jail and allotted me 15 slots for people desiring to share the experience with me. When I revealed to the public that I was going to spend two nights in the Old Charleston Jail, I immediately started to get responses about ghosts. While I don’t believe in ghosts, I do all within my powers to respect those that do.

I got to the jail at the appointed time of 6:00 pm to meet the tour guides who would be giving ghost tours in the jail. A prior meeting determined that we would interact only minimally with the tour groups. Nearly half of the people who signed up for the first night stay were no shows which at this point in the project did not surprise me but it turned out that nine Civil War reenactors, all males, would sleep in the jail that night. To my surprise, all of the reenactors were very anxious to interact with the tour groups. The tours started at our Civil War encampment where the visitors were presented with some story telling about how former slaves became Union soldiers. They then proceeded inside for their tour through the jail.

I tagged along on one of the ghost tours and enjoyed what I witnessed. Our drummer and youngest member of the Civil War reenactment group who was also scheduled to stay in the jail, went on one of the tours, as a result, we spent a great part of the night convincing him that everything would be fine inside the jail. 11:45 pm and the tours were over but for most of us who were to sleep in the jail, that time would have to come later. Some of the out of town reenactors wanted to hit some of the bars in town, while the rest of us just hung around outside engaging in conversation and enjoying adult beverages. Around 2:00 am we all found ourselves inside the jail to claim the spots where we would sleep. Despite all of the talk about ghosts, I found the night uneventful.

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We would find ourselves back at the jail on Saturday, at 3:00 pm for a period of living history for the general public. I had anticipated a respectable contingency of Confederate reenactors so that we could give the visiting public a feel for how both sides operated during the Civil War, but only three Confederates showed and that number included one lady. That turned out to be a good thing because the crowd was very sparse but they were treated to interpretation and storytelling. At 7:00 pm we had to once again switch into a mode for receiving ghost tour groups. The routine was the same as the previous night. Eight people would stay in the jail that night, five men and three women. The crowds for the tours were just as robust as the previous night which was an indication to me that this is a lucrative industry. After the ghost tours were completed, we again found ourselves chatting outside and drinking a few adult beverages. On this night we did not occupy the building until 3:00 am. To my surprise when I woke up the next morning, two of the young ladies who spent the night had already left. I am still adamant about not believing in ghosts, the fact that my van would not start that morning because of a dead battery and the fact that the battery in my watch died when I was in the jail was pure coincidence.

In March of this year, I attended a panel discussion at a conference in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on ghost tours. It was concluded that one can obtain more African American history on a ghost tour than on a regular history tour. Personally, I have a problem with that. Participating in the event at the jail is bringing me around to seeing things differently. When we interacted with the tour groups, through our interpretation and storytelling they learned how men of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry became prisoners at that jail, in other words, we hit them with some real history. To that end, I am willing to work with the American College of the Building Arts and the ghost tour company to address their groups in the same capacity in the future. There are times when you have to get in where you fit in. As for ghosts, I will spend several more nights in that jail if the opportunity presents itself in the future.

Related Reading

"My First Night In Jail," Part I, from the blog South Carolina Traveler
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Sleeping With the Past: Slave Dwelling Project Overnights at Hall House, Salisbury, NC

Hall House, Salisbury, NC
Another View of Hall House
Hall House Grounds
Carol Rathburn and Ray Barber of Historic Salisbury Foundation
Joseph McGill, Prinny Anderson and Terry James at Hall House
Joseph McGill Explores Hall House Grounds
Slave Dwelling and Kitchen
Joseph McGill and Prinny Anderson
Prinny Anderson on Steps of Hall House Kitchen
Interior of Slave Dwelling and Kitchen
Prinny Anderson in the Kitchen Area of Slave Dwelling
Hearth Where Meals Were Prepared
Joseph McGill Beside Slave Dwelling Hearth
The Public Program Was Well-Attended
Prinny Anderson Addresses Attendees of Public Program
Prinny Anderson Discusses the Slave Dwelling Project and Coming to the Table
Terry James Converses With Salisbury Community Members
Terry James Visits With Community Members
Ray Barbour Shows Terry James the Hall House Grounds
Hall House by Night
Peg and William Puza
Brian Davis, Executive Director of Historic Salisbury Foundation
Brian Davis Prepares the Fire
Preparing Breakfast ~ Fire is Ready
Preparing Breakfast in the Hearth
Breakfast is Ready!
Enjoying Breakfast Prepared by Brian Davis
Morning After Overnight Stay in Slave Dwelling
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As a field officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I have known Brian Davis, the Director of the Historic Salisbury Foundation in Salisbury, North Carolina since he was employed by the Galveston Historic Society in Galveston, Texas. Approximately one year into his current position and when the Slave Dwelling Project was in its infancy, while on a visit to Charleston, SC, Brian made the invitation for me to stay in the slave dwelling at the Dr. Josephus Hall House. At the time of the invitation, we billed it as an opportunity to commemorate Juneteenth because coming from Texas, Brian was quite familiar with the African American tradition of commemorating June 19, 1865 as the day of freedom from the institution of slavery.

As the time for the stay grew nearer, I became a little nervous due to lack of publicity of which I have become accustomed. Brian revealing that he would not be able to attend the presentation because of a conflict was somewhat disconcerting. I was beginning to get the feeling that Brian in his new position had bitten of a little more that he could chew and may have over promised what could be delivered. What I thought I was dealing with I had seen before because there are people who are in positions to make decisions but there are always board members who have the final say. Moreover, I know that the purpose of the Slave Dwelling Project is not palatable to some because it takes them out of their comfort zones. Eventually, some information about the stay did indeed appear on the Facebook page of Historic Salisbury. Additionally, an article on the event did appear in the Salisbury newspaper five days before the event was scheduled to occur.

As a result of the newspaper article, my concerns were compounded when I got a phone call from an African American resident of Salisbury who shall remain nameless. In the nicest way that I can explain, this person was inquiring if I and the project were for real. I received a quick lesson on race relations in Salisbury and was informed that African Americans did not readily interact with Historic Salisbury or any of their activities. Although, I was satisfied in making my request for this person to attend and would be thrilled if this person would convince other African Americans to do likewise, I was not confident that there would be any African Americans at the presentation.

Hall House, Salisbury, NC

Its website describes The Dr. Josephus Hall House as follows: “Salisbury's landmark residence was originally an 1820 two-story Federal style double-pile frame house used by the girl's department of Salisbury Academy. In 1859, Dr. Josephus Hall (1805-1873) added a two-story front porch with cast iron oak leaf and acorn ornamental openwork, a gateway arch, and square-edged clapboard. The front windows were also lengthened. During the Civil War, Dr. Hall served as hospital surgeon and surgeon in charge at the Salisbury Confederate Prison. Between 1890 and 1910, the attic was enlarged with a high-hipped roof and dormers. Historic Salisbury Foundation purchased the home in 1972 from the Hall family, which had continuously occupied the residence for 113 years. The descendants donated the elegant period furniture to the foundation. A two-room detached kitchen, staffed before emancipation by enslaved persons, was carefully restored over a three year period and opened to the public in 2006. The Hall House is individually listed in the National Register for Historic Places.”

Hall House Grounds

When I arrived at the site on Friday, June 14 at the appointed time of 4:00 pm it was a beautiful sunny day which made it perfect for the picture taking that I needed to do. Nestled on a prominent corner well within the city limits of Salisbury, its deep setback from the street gave more than adequate room for its well manicured lawn. That lawn and the house provided many photo opportunities with every step I took onto the property. As I approached the house, the slave dwelling where I would spend the night came clearly into focus for it was located on the right side of the “big house”. Respecting protocol and avoiding the urge to go to the slave dwelling first, I reached the door of the mansion, rang the bell and knocked to no avail. As I was headed to the slave dwelling, I was hailed by someone on the street. The hailer was Prinny Anderson, a descendant of President Thomas Jefferson, who is a member of the group Coming to the Table which provides leadership, resources and a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States’ history of slavery. Since meeting Prinny in March of 2012, this would be her third overnight stay in a slave dwelling, her first two were Bacon’s Castle in Surry, Virginia and Laurelwood Plantation in Eastover, SC.

Prinny and I would experience the slave dwelling for the first time together. The red building, which appeared larger than most I had slept in to date, was locked so we had to admire it from the outside. The two front doors were an indication to me that the structure was designed for two families. My prior research revealed that the building was a kitchen for the big house plus living space for the slaves on the property. The building was also relocated from behind the big house to its current location. During its evolution it was once used as a garage. We were eventually met on the property by Carol Rathburn and Ray Barber who unlocked the building to give us access. Upon entering through the kitchen, I laid my eyes upon a table, chairs and accouterments necessary for cooking which made the space seem cluttered and overly adorned. The other side was more open but also adorned with materials which may not have been in the space when it was inhabited by slaves but, like the items in the kitchen, they could be used effectively for interpreting the lives of slaves. I took the stairs which led up to the attic to peer into the space. The attic spanned the entire length of the building so despite it being an A frame lots of people could spread a pallet and sleep there.

Slave Dwelling and Kitchen
Peg and William Puza
Joseph McGill and Prinny Anderson Outside Slave Dwelling
Prinny Anderson on Steps of Hall House Kitchen and Slave Dwelling
Prinny Anderson in the Kitchen Area of Slave Dwelling
Interior of Slave Dwelling and Kitchen
Joseph McGill Beside Slave Dwelling Hearth
Hearth Where Meals Were Prepared
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We then were taken on a tour of the big house. It became evident to the tour guide that I was more interested in knowing more about the owner and the fact that the building was first used as a school for women than the architectural significance of the house or its content. We were joined in the house by our host Brian Davis. He apologized for not being able to be at the presentation, the reason being he had a major part in a local play. He would be joining us for dinner, he would sleep with us in the dwelling and he would cook breakfast in the dwelling the next morning so in my mind all of that more than made up for him not being able to attend the presentation. After eating dinner at a local restaurant, we returned to the house and were greeted by the local media. Lots of pictures were taken inside the slave dwelling where an interview was also conducted.

Prinny Anderson Addressing Attendees

Our host Doug Black, president of the board for Historic Salisbury Foundation and who also treated us to dinner, gave me a ten minute warning and stated that a small crowd of about thirty people had gathered with four African Americans among them. He further stated that the four African Americans was the most diversity he had ever seen in an audience on that property. When I rounded the corner and saw the crowd, I was pleasantly surprised. The crowd was double the size with half of them being African American. With no PowerPoint, I used the method of presentation of talking about all twelve states with slave dwellings of which I have stayed. I deliberately left out the states of South Carolina and Virginia because Prinny Anderson would include those states in her presentation. After the presentation, the African American person who gave me the phone call prior to my arrival to give me a crash course on race relations in Salisbury came forth. It was already clear to me and made clear by that person the decision was not only to show up but to convince other African Americans do likewise. For that, a big heartfelt thank you was in order.

Terry James Visits With Community Members

As Prinny and I continued to share information with the dispersed crowd, who should show up but “Old Reliable” Terry James all the way from Florence, SC to participate in the fourteenth stay. Judging by some of the conversations of which I engaged, it was obvious that Facebook played a vital role in helping to produce some of the audience. A local historian, gave me confidence that the information that I disseminated in my presentation was correct. He also told me about several other buildings in the state of North Carolina that fits the criteria of the Slave Dwelling Project.

When the audience left, five of the six people who would sleep in the cabin gathered on the front porch of the big house. Joining Prinny Anderson, Terry James, Brian Davis and me for the slave dwelling sleepover would be Bill and Peg Puza a local couple. Bill had problems believing that Terry would be sleeping in slave shackles. The conversation was fun and full of laughter covering everything from ghosts to rats. When Brian showed up, the conversation then moved into the salve cabin. Prinny set the mood by lighting a candle and burning sage. We formed a circle and uninterrupted conversation started to flow by all of us taking turns in expressing why we were here in this space. I was the first to fade knowing that I had an obligation to drive to Tuskegee, Alabama the next day.

Brian Davis Prepares the Fire

On Saturday morning we got a bonus, as promised, Brian cooked a meal of eggs and bacon in the fireplace of the cabin. In the forty four places stayed, this was only the second time that occurred. The first was the Price House in Woodruff, SC and I was the one to do the cooking. The breakfast provided set the mood for more conversation with us discussing how the Historic Salisbury Foundation can keep the African American community engaged. I had great examples of successful programs involving slave dwellings that were being conducted elsewhere; Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC; Hopsewee Plantation in Georgetown County, SC and the Holly Springs Pilgrimage in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Brian stated that he and staff were more than willing and capable to make a day exploratory trip. We all took more group shots before we went our separate ways.

Morning After Overnight Stay in Slave Dwelling Hall House

I must admit that I was not getting a “warm and fuzzy” feeling going into this stay. The publicity did not occur as quickly as I am accustomed but maybe that was my reminder that this project is not about stroking my ego and that everything happens in its own time. Brian not being able to attend the presentation, but his reason was legitimate for he is an outsider who needs to be embraced by the community in which he works and participating in a local play is a great way to do that moreover; he more than made up for not attending the presentation by sleeping in the cabin with us and treating us to breakfast which he cooked in the fireplace of the cabin. How cool, classy and welcoming was that? The phone call that I got from the African American citizen giving me a quick lesson in race relations in Salisbury, NC was a point of concern but I would also be skeptical about someone wanting to spend the night in a former slave cabin. The end result of the stay erased all of my skepticism. The experience of this stay taught me that every now-and-then, I must be checked and humbled. The Slave Dwelling Project is much bigger than Joseph McGill, it’s about the enslaved ancestors, and it is going to require patience on my part to assist in saving, bringing attention to and interpreting the places where they once dwelled. I must also remember that the stewards of these places allow me the privilege of applying the project at these sites and that I must respect and honor all of the guidelines that apply. Brian knew before and as a result of the stay it was reinforced that I, Prinny Anderson, Terry James and all Slave Dwelling Project Ambassadors are his support system for ensuring that we leverage all of the positives that were accomplished by allowing us to spend a night in the slave cabin on the property of the Hall House.

Sleeping With History, Re-Awakening Our Ancestors’ Lives

By Prinny Anderson

The Josephus Hall House sits on a large plot of land, well set back from the residential streets and surrounded by box hedges, lawns, and flowerbeds. The house is a substantial size, with fashionably decorated rooms downstairs and upstairs and white, lacy iron balconies out front. But the reason for my visit on June 13th was to stay in a much smaller, more modest building off to one side – the red-painted, one-and-a-half story kitchen and slave dwelling.

Prinny Anderson in the Kitchen Area

The Historic Salisbury Foundation cares for the big house and the kitchen slave dwelling, and the signs of their care are in clear evidence. There is a neatly tended kitchen garden in the space between house and cabin; an array of cooking implements on the hearth or hanging on the walls; and a freshly swept brick fireplace. The kitchen slave dwelling is divided into two spaces on the ground level – a cooking area to the right and a work area to the left. The shelves, baskets of cotton, and spinning wheel suggest some of the work that might have gone on there. It is thought that there were about 12 enslaved people living on Dr. Hall’s urban farmstead, a mix of adults and children, but as of now, there are no details about who these people were. They would have most likely slept in the loft space above the working areas, with perhaps some sleeping on the floor of the work room itself.

Interior of Slave Dwelling and Kitchen

This is the third slave dwelling in which I’ve spent the night, and it was certainly the best kept and most snug of the three. The tidiness and snugness brought to my mind images of people busy at work, moving in and out of the building, running across the kitchen garden to the big house, down the lane to other out buildings, and chatting, laughing, calling out to one another. That very image of sociability and busy work is a powerful reminder about how the enslaved people made life in the Hall House possible. Every aspect of daily life was provided to the Halls by the unknown, unnamed people who worked and lived in the kitchen slave dwelling. Everybody came through this little building. Medicines, food, hot water for washing, clean laundry, new clothing, household implements, maybe even children’s toys and small pieces of furniture would have been tended to here. The buzz and hum of life itself were kept up around this building, since there were only 4 members of the Hall family and three times that number of enslaved people. At least this is the image that plays out in my mind.

But how little is known about the people who kept life going on this property! How little are they acknowledged; how thoroughly taken for granted and overlooked! The image of a lively, tidy, snug place is framed with gentle melancholy for me, sadness at how inadequately we honor and respect the life-givers of Hall House.

Prinny Anderson Discusses the Slave Dwelling Project and Coming to the Table

On the brighter side of the image were the events of the evening, overnight and morning visit. A good sized group gathered on the lawn outside the big house to listen to Joe McGill talk about the importance of saving slave dwellings, sharing the history of the enslaved people, and honoring their contribution to American life. Many more than expected in the group were African American, from well behaved youngsters to lively, laughing matrons. After the formal event was over, the overnighters sat on the front steps, talked and traded stories. Then we moved into the kitchen slave dwelling where we were going to sleep for the night, formed a circle, and shared why we had come for the night and what it meant to us. One of the most poignant questions was: How can we look at the truth and tell the history of the ancestors who lived here without reliving the pain? Indeed.

Brian Davis, the Executive Director of The Historic Salisbury Foundation, was one of the people who slept overnight in the kitchen slave dwelling. It was his first such overnight, and he gave his full commitment to it. Brian slept directly on the floor, wrapped only in a sheet; I suspect his night’s sleep was very much like that of the enslaved people before him. It was likely less comfortable than mine, in a sleeping bag on a foam pad!

The morning brought us a very special experience. Probably for the first time in decades, maybe even since Emancipation, breakfast was cooked in the fireplace. The simple act of frying bacon, cooking eggs, and serving out the meal on the kitchen table took me straight back to the mid-1800’s.

Brian Davis, Executive Director of Historic Salisbury Foundation
Brian Prepares the Breakfast Fire
The Breakfast Fire is Ready
Breakfast Cooks in the Hearth
Breakfast is Served!
Enjoying Breakfast Prepared by Brian Davis
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Each overnight stay in a slave dwelling is an opportunity to re-awaken life, bring voices back to the rooms, put food back on the table, and light another fire on the hearth. Each overnight stay in a slave dwelling calls forth stories and images of the ancestors, the ones who lived in these buildings before our visit. Each overnight stay in a slave dwelling reminds a growing circle of people about the ones who were forced into labor in our country, who nurtured their masters’ lives, and who built our society, our structures, and our economy. Sleeping for one night on the floor seems a small act to honor, remember and bring back to life all that those ancestors were as hard working, enduring people and all that they contributed. Won’t you come sleep with history for one night?

A Few Reflections on My Participation in the Slave Dwelling Project on June 14, 2013 – Salisbury, NC

By William Puza
Peg and William Puza

6/19/13 - Today is Juneteenth, and I stand honored to have had the opportunity to commemorate the anniversary by being invited to spend the night of Friday, June 14th in the slave quarters of the Dr. Josephus Hall House in Salisbury, NC. This Slave Dwelling Project raises awareness about the need to ensure that these structures are preserved & restored; they are witness to the important past of African Americans enslaved before the Civil War. On Friday night, the public first heard a fascinating description of the Project by its creator, Joseph McGill, a descendant of slaves, and his colleague Prinny Anderson, herself a descendant of Thomas Jefferson & Sally Hemmings. We were enthralled with the knowledge and insight shared by Terry James of the Massachusetts 54th, the other Project participant. While we heard them talk about their family backgrounds and their work, I started to wonder what I could possibly bring to the discussion that would take place behind the closed doors of the slave dwelling after dark. They are descendants of slaves and of slave owners, and my background is different. I am a descendant of European-Americans who were not slave owners, and who lived in a part of our country seemingly less affected by Slavery. Yet we are all connected, and we are all deeply impacted.

Personal reasons for wanting to stay over at the slave quarters were many, and I jumped at the chance. As a volunteer with HSF, I greatly enjoy working as a docent at the Hall House. Each time visitors came by, I’ve felt troubled by the lack of information that I have, and that I’ve been comfortable sharing, about the kitchen and slave quarters of the house. Human beings, families, men, women, and children LIVED and WORKED there, yet they are not known to us in the same way that the family members from the big house are. To know more about the African Americans who lived there, and to find ways to share that information is both a true objective for me, as well as an obligation. It is the important “rest of the story.”

After the crowd left, we sat for a long time talking on the steps of the Hall House porch. Mr. McGill, Mr. James, and Ms. Anderson told us about their work, told us things we didn’t know about slavery, about what happened after Emancipation, and about the talents, fortitude & inner strength that their ancestors exhibited. Theirs is a history of people brought here against their will, and denied the basic personal rights that give us all hope and the ability to ‘live for the future.’ It’s an eye-opener to learn that the suicide rate among enslaved people was so low. Hopelessness was not prevalent, when it certainly might have been. These lessons are crucial to understanding the American story, with deep and far-reaching implications, just like the strength and fortitude that we know were shown by others in our country’s history -- the leaders of the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers, and the immigrants who struggled for acceptance in the 19th and 20th centuries.

When we finally blew out the candles, in the silence of the slave quarters, came one of the most profound parts of the experience for me. In the dark, I could hear the sound of the shackles that Mr. James chooses to wear at night, to authenticate the experience. I remained very quiet, but found myself unable to stop the tears that welled up and eventually began to silently flow. It was important to me that I didn’t make any noise; I was embarrassed by my inability to “control myself,” but even more ashamed, as a student of history, of all that I do not know about Slavery in America. Have you ever thought about the prospect of being shackled before you go to sleep at night?

In the morning, breakfast was prepared on the open hearth & shared by the group. I think I realized that at least we had made a start in bridging the gaps between what we might think we already know, what we maybe have not really wanted to know, and what we actually DO know. For helping with that, I’m grateful to the folks from the Slave Dwelling Project, and to Historic Salisbury Foundation for bringing them here.

Slave Dwelling Project – June 14, 2013 – Brian Davis

Brian Davis Executive Director of Historic Salisbury Foundation

As relatively new at the position of executive director for Historic Salisbury Foundation, I am constantly learning more about the history of sites and artifacts in Salisbury and Rowan County, North Carolina. It is amazing that the former kitchen and slave dwelling (1825) at the Dr. Josephus Hall House (1820) survives to this day. This is no-doubt due to its conversion into a garage for automobiles in the early part of the 20th century. Thanks to the generosity of donors and volunteers, the building was restored in 2005 and provided a comfortable stay for the group of six who slept there on the night of June 14, 2013.

I joined the group around 11:15 p.m., as they were making their way back to the slave dwelling from the front yard of the main house. As we settled in, everyone took turns sharing what they expected to gain from the experience. For me, it was a faint glimpse into what it must have been like for the slave families who lived in the structure and how their daily lives unfolded.

What assumptions could I make? I’m reasonably confident that since this was the kitchen, it would have been inhabited by the cook and her family. One side of the building would have been where she and her husband slept, and probably served as the family’s “living room” as we would know it today. Presumably, the children would have slept upstairs in the loft, which is accessible by a narrow stair at one end of the building. The other large room on the ground level would have been used for food preparation for the main house and for meals served to her family. Numerous families would have lived in the building, as both slaves and as freedmen, since its construction. The 1860 Census lists two slave couples and their children as living on the property, which at that time, would have encompassed the entire city block. Presumably, there would have been several other outbuildings on the land. Research notes that “Aunt Rachel” was the name of the cook featured in a photograph from around 1860, and that she had two daughters, who were house maids. There is still much work ahead to learn about Aunt Rachel and the other families with connections to the former kitchen and dwelling, as well as incorporating the findings into educational experiences for all visitors.

Around 1 a.m., the group of six decided to turn in for the night. I asked whether anyone would like the doors and windows open, thinking it may help keep us cooler in the June evening. Everyone seemed comfortable with having them closed. I brought a sheet and a feather pillow that was my great-grandfather’s as my bedding, and found a spot on the pine plank flooring next to the kitchen table. I woke several times throughout the night, between the feel of the wood floor and the cool temperatures, and was the first to start moving around on Saturday morning. I assembled firewood and kindling, while the others began to stir and started the kitchen fire once more.

With the restored fireplace in the middle of the building, we planned an attempt at preparing breakfast in the former kitchen. After a short time, glowing coals were raked forward from the fire and a small trivet positioned over them. While Peg Puza picked chives from the herb garden at the Hall House and cracked eggs, I fried bacon in a cast iron skillet passed down from my Aunt Carolyn, one of the women who taught me how to cook at an early age. She passed away 9 months ago, and this was the first time I’ve used the skillet – seems like a fitting tribute. With the bacon finished, eggs were poured into the sizzling skillet and quickly scrambled. The welcoming aroma of breakfast – absent from this building for possibly 100 years – returned once again.

Enjoying Breakfast Prepared by Brian Davis

The small group gathered around the table and recounted our experiences and observations from the lecture and overnight stay. With each question answered, ten more came to mind. We took one last look around before scattering in different directions, but not before noticing a piece of newspaper from 1879 that had been plastered on the wall, obviously as insulation against drafts. It compared the prices of groceries that year, with the cost of the same items in 1860. It made me think about differences in not only the cost of provisions but also their availability and variety that may have changed in those 19 years as well as the freedoms gained.

A small group touring the house and kitchen later that afternoon, remarked on the smell of bacon in the air and how it really hit home the fact that the building was once used so regularly – serving as a home and as a place where there was always a fire burning and the next meal being prepared.

We are just starting the journey to investigate and interpret this former slave dwelling and kitchen and I hope in the near future, we can do their stories justice.

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Adventures on a Dirt Floor: Slave Dwelling Project Visits Oakland Plantation, Simpsonville, SC

Oakland Plantation House, Simpsonville, SC
Oakland Plantation Spring House
The Old Well Pump
Barn Where Slave Dwelling is Housed
L to R ~ Joe McGill, Greg Owens, Terry James
Slave Dwelling Timbers Peek Through the Barn
Exterior of Slave Dwelling
Hand Hewn Log Timbers
Interior of Cabin With Dirt Floor
Through the Window
Public Event at Oakland Plantation
Kitty Wilson Evans Portrays Kessie
Young Visitors Enjoy Presentation
Visitors Enjoy Hands On With Kitty Wilson Evans
The Day Was Filled With Hands On Activities
Hands On Brick Making
Bricks Are Drying
Preparing to Dip Candles
Preparing for the Meal
Young Visitors to Oakland Plantation
L to R ~ Greg McKee, Rick Owens, Terry James
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There are occasions when the concept of the Slave Dwelling Project is challenged. Oakland Plantation located in Simpsonville, SC would challenge the project in many ways. Already having spent a night in slave cabins in Anderson, Greenville, Woodruff and Pendleton, Oakland Plantation would be my fifth stay in the upcountry of South Carolina. Like my stay in the slave cabin at the Woodburn House in Pendleton, Oakland Plantation was not on the list of places to stay that was released in November 2012. In fact, this stay came about as result of the stay at the Woodburn House in Pendleton, SC.

The information distributed at the site states: “In 1823 the Dr. Thomas Collin Austin family established a working plantation on this site. The Austin family was one of the earliest settlers in this area. This property was part of a land grant to his grandfather Nathaniel Austin. Dr. Austin’s father, Colonel William Austin, who served as a private in the Second Regiment South Carolina Militia during the Revolutionary War, gave the land to Dr. Austin. Colonel Austin’s home (Gilder Plantation) located at the corner of Highway 14 and Bethel Road was the birthplace of Dr. Austin in 1790. Dr. Austin studied medicine in Philadelphia and practiced medicine in the area from about 1818 until his death in 1883. He excelled as a planter, a good old horse and buggy doctor noted for his skill as a surgeon and general practitioner. A doctor’s office once existed on the site until 1953 when it was torn down as the house was remodeled. The plantation is a prime example of an early 1800s, 1900s farm.”

Oakland Plantation House, Simpsonville

In my desire to increase the number of extant slave dwellings slept in, I accepted an invitation to participate in a program titled “Celebrate the Emancipation: Hollingsworth Outdoor Center Honors History Through Juneteenth.” I arrived at the site at 9:00 am on Friday, June 21. On the site, the big house was obvious. It was also easy to identify many of the outbuildings and their uses. What was not obvious to me was where the slave cabin was located. I met the owner Brian Micke who was doing work in the yard. He was well aware of my reason for being there and told me where the others were setting up for the occasion which was at a location adjacent to his property. I immediately went there thinking that I would see a building that resembled a slave cabin. To my surprise, I was led back to the initial site by Greg McKee to view the slave cabin. I met Greg about two months prior when I spent the night at the replicated slave cabin at the Woodburn House in Pendleton, SC. Greg would be sleeping in the cabin with me and Terry James that night.

Barn Where Slave Dwelling Is Housed

When I reached the cabin, it was obvious why I did not see it when I first reached the property. Located in what appeared to be a barn, was a log cabin that local historians believed to be a slave cabin. With skepticism, the more I explored the structure with Greg the more convinced that I became that slaves did at some point of the structure’s existence dwell there. In the 44 cabins of which I had slept, this would be the second with a dirt floor. Luckily for me, the first cabin with a dirt floor, Sotterley Plantation in Hollywood, Maryland had a ½ story above where I was able to sleep. It was my desire that I could do the same here. Located to the immediate left of the front entrance were the steep ladder/stairs that led to the top ½ story. I took the stairs gaining enough height to peer my head into the ½ story. What I saw did not give me confidence that I would be sleeping up there. Remnants of hay that was once stored there were spread sparingly throughout. I stepped gingerly into the space because there were some floor boards that I felt could not support my weight. After that inspection, the jury was still out as to where in the space I would sleep.

Barn Where Slave Dwelling is Housed
Slave Dwelling Timbers Peek Through the Barn
Exterior of Slave Dwelling
Hand Hewn Timbers
Interior of Cabin With Dirt Floor
Through the Window
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The day would be filled with activities for the visiting audience which was comprised of mostly children. The activities included broom making, cooking a hoe cake, fashioning a brick, and hand dipping candles. The audience was also treated to a living history presentation by Kitty Wilson Evans, portraying Kessie, a field slave from the republic’s early days. Additionally, a music and storytelling session with John Fowler, who is finalizing a book on George Mullins, (also known as Trotting Sally), a legendary turn-of-the-century fiddler who was born at Oakland Plantation in 1885, was conducted.

My session of course was on the Slave Dwelling Project and was given at the slave cabin. After convincing the audience that I would be spending the night in the space, the rest of the presentation went along smoothly. After the presentation, the questions were fast and furious but the important thing was that the kids got it. My day got better when Brian the property owner told me that putting plywood on the floor of the cabin was an option. When the groups left, I went on a tour of the property with Greg. The property is the Hollingsworth Outdoor Center and is owned by the YWCA of Greenville. We came to a spot in the woods where it was obvious that some trees were planted in a circular pattern. Its location along an historic road, the spring house, the dried up stream and the archaeological dig that was going on in the space in the woods convinced me that this space was once a Native American settlement. Additionally, the property was well designed to accommodate visiting groups. While sitting at an amphitheater well imbedded in the woods, we were only interrupted by the sound of a lawnmower at a nearby housing development.

Public Event at Oakland Plantation
Oakland Plantation Visitors
The Day Was Filled With Hands On Activities
Kitty Wilson Evans Portrays Enslaved Woman Kessie
Young Visitors Enjoy Presentation
Visitors Enjoys Hands On Activities With Kitty Wilson Evans
Hands On Brick Making
Bricks Are Drying
Preparing to Dip Candles
Preparing the Meal
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After putting the plywood on the floor of the slave cabin, Rick Owens arrived with two air mattresses for me and Greg. Rick was the gentleman partially responsible for the stay for it was he who arranged for me to stay at the Woodburn House in Pendleton, SC. He also stated that the air mattress was a donation to the slave dwelling project. Our evening would continue on the porch of our host. “Old Reliable”, Terry James, eventually made it in from Florence, SC. This would be Terry’s fifteenth stay and again he would be sleeping with his wrists shackled. When Terry arrived, his first view of the cabin had to be made with the use of flash lights. I had already warned him that this would be his first encounter with a dirt floor. To my surprise, he did not have any doubt that the space was once a cabin that once housed people. His inspection and knowledge of the hand hewn timber impressed me. His only concern was that he had to sleep between two acknowledged snorers. On the porch of the main house, our host Brian treated us to vanilla ice cream adorned with strawberries and whipped cream.

Greg McKee, Rick Owens and Terry James

In the cabin, we had all agreed that we would sleep with the door open. What we did not factor was the street light that would shine into the space. The next morning as I attempted to get up off the air mattress, I encountered a cramp that would not quit so I questioned if this donated item was a blessing or a curse. Rick arrived on the property with all of the materials necessary to cook breakfast. He prepared for us turkey sausage, eggs and french toast. Terry James, being the professional photographer that he is, took intricate pictures of the space and other buildings on the property before we all went our separate ways.

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Hinder Me Not ~ Sankofa Bound! Slave Dwelling Project's Stay on Ossabaw Island, GA

Osaabaw Island Historical Marker
Group One Ready to Head to the Island
Dormitory Where Part of the Group Stayed
Guests on Porch of Big House, Ossabaw
Group 2 in Front of Tabby Slave Dwelling
Group 2
Joseph McGill in Blue-Framed Doorway of Tabby Slave Cabin
Donkeys on Ossabaw
Friendly Donkeys
Pigs Roaming on Ossabaw
Keeper and Storyteller Patt Gunn
Tabby #2
Tabby #2
Toni Renee Battle in Doorway of Cabin #2
Wormsloe Plantation Big House
Sarah Ross, Wormsloe Plantation
Slave Cabin at Wormsloe
Wormsloe Cabin
Interior of Cabin at Wormsloe
Interior of Cabin at Wormsloe
Interior of Cabin at Wormsloe
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Operated by the state of Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources, Ossabaw Island, Georgia would be the second stay for the Slave Dwelling Project with a high level of bureaucracy, Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Virginia was the first. The nature of the Slave Dwelling Project now dictates that I invite as many other people to join me in the stay as the dwelling can accommodate. This stay would have a slight variation. To get to the island, one has to catch a boat. Twelve of us would stay on the island on Friday, May 10, three of us in one of the slave cabins and the remainder in a dormitory.

Given only three slots for sleeping in the cabin, I had to choose the two people who would stay with me very carefully. Toni Battle of the Legacy Project chose her spot based on the early release of the project’s 2013 schedule so she knew more than six months ago that her spot was secured. Additionally, for her, travelling from San Francisco would take some intricate planning. The fact that this would be her third stay in a former slave dwelling had her somewhat prepared for what she would experience. Her two other stays were Bacon’s Castle in Surry, Virginia and Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Virginia. The second person who would join me would be author Tony Horwitz. I met Tony over 20 years ago when I was a young Park Ranger at Fort Sumter National Monument. He interviewed me for a book that he was writing titled Confederates in the Attic. He had planned to stay in a slave dwelling with me two months earlier at Hopsewee Plantation in Georgetown, SC but unforeseen circumstances caused him to postpone. Tony is now writing for a major magazine and will do a story on the Slave Dwelling Project. Both Toni Battle and Tony Horwitz flew in to Charleston, SC and we all rode to Savannah, GA together.

Our host Paul Pressly, Director of the Ossabaw Island Education Alliance at Ossabaw Island Foundation, planned the events for the stay well. The formation of a new collaboration between the Pin Point Museum, Ossabaw Island Foundation and Bethesda Academy to tell their respective stories within the framework of the Gullah-Geechee culture dictated that a press conference be held. This event which was held at the Pin Point Heritage Museum, a former oyster and crab factory, was well attended by a wide array of movers and shakers from the Savannah community as well as stake holders in the newly formed collaboration. Hanif Haynes with Great Grandmother Formerly Enslaved on Ossabaw Before the press conference, I was introduced to Hanif Haynes whose great, great, great grandfather David Bonds was born into slavery about 1815 at Middle Place on Ossabaw Island. Hanif, who would be spending the night with us on Ossabaw Island, told me the real story of the how the land for the Pin Point Museum was acquired and it was not all pretty. At the press conference, I was happy to share the stage with the illustrious Emory Campbell my former boss when I worked as Director of History and Culture on Penn Center on St. Helena Island, SC. After the press conference, lunch was served at Bethesda Academy which began as a colonial orphanage in 1740 but is now a private, residential and day school for young men in grades six through twelve.

Storyteller Patt Gunn

Spending a night at McLeod Plantation on James Island, SC gave me the first opportunity to sleep in a slave dwelling on a sea island. Ossabaw Island, GA would be my second opportunity but it would be the first time that I would have to catch a boat to get there. Ossabaw Island would also give me a better sense of how isolation factored into maintaining the deep traditions of the Gullah Geechee culture and the “Africanisms” that still exists. Ironically, we had to go through a gated community to get to the dock that the boat was located that would transport us. Our first stop upon getting to the island was the dormitory where the nine participants not staying in the cabin would stay. Through an introductory session led by our host Paul Pressly, we all learned about our reasons for being on Ossabaw Island. The session included storytelling by Patt Gunn. Patt did a beautiful job in weaving the Gullah dialect into a story that included how Georgia was settled and the roles that the enslaved played in that process. We then embarked on a walking tour in the direction of the slave cabins. Along the way, we stopped at a smoke house that was made of tabby and got an inspiring lesson from Paul and Hanif on how tabby buildings were constructed.

Tabby Number Two View

Three cabins made of tabby still exist on the island. The two front doors on all three cabins were clear indications that they were all designed to house two families. My examination of the first cabin reinforced my fear of having to sleep on a dirt floor. We were slated to sleep in the second cabin which also had a dirt floor but luckily for us the half where we were to sleep that night had a newly restored wood floor. When the group entered the space, I immediately went to the place that I knew I would be laying my sleeping bag for the night. It was there that I described for the group how this former slave dwelling compared to others of which I slept.

We then all loaded onto a truck for a trip to the site of Middle Place and Middle Place Plantation. On our way there the former presence of Native Americans was evident throughout and well interpreted by our host Paul Pressly. At our destination we saw ruins of where the first plantation house was located. While visiting the ruins of one of the slave cabins, we had an encounter with a cottonmouth snake. As I turned around to hold a plant to keep it from brushing back and hitting the people behind me, I noticed the well concealed snake at the base of a tree. In passing, I had stepped within a foot and one half from its location. Rather than panicking and causing everyone else to panic, I emphatically instructed them to pass as close to me as possible. When everyone was clear of the snake, I then told them of its presence and we made a collective decision that we would not be returning on that same path. Someone in the group knowledgeable of snakes identified it as a cottonmouth and although it was coiled they estimated it to be about five feet.

Mr. Roger Parker

Dinner was served on another part of the island which took us past the home of Mrs. Eleanor Torrey West, her family owned the island during part of the 20th century and she sold it to the state of Georgia with the condition it remain a nature preserve and educational center. She is now 100. Our cook, Mr. Roger Parker, who also cooks on a part time basis for President Jimmy Carter did not disappoint serving up barbeque pork, grilled chicken and all of the fixings. Mr. Parker was the last person to inhabit one of the tabby slave cabins. He told us that he was quite familiar with the cottonmouth snake that we saw on our excursion.

The entire group made its way back to the slave cabin tabby # 2 to conduct a sacred moment of blessing the space. After assembling an altar in the middle of the room which we all encircled and using a term called smudging, Toni Battle released aromatic smoke into each corner of the space with the aid of huge feathers that had fallen from birds on the island. Toni then led us in the pouring of libations with everyone getting an opportunity to call on ancestors of their choosing. We all then proceeded back to the dormitory where various conversations were carried on until midnight.

Featured Gallery: Photos By Jeanne Cyriaque

Joe in Front of Indigo Plants Photo by Jeanne Cyriaque
Paul Pressly Explains Ossabaw History Photo by Jeanne Cyriaque
Hanif Haynes Showing Tabby Blocks Photo by Jeanne Cyriaque
Ossabaw Somkehouse Photo by Jeanne Cyriaque
Inside the Smokehouse Photo by Jeanne Cyriaque
Joseph McGill Inside Slave Dwelling Photo by Jeanne Cyriaque
Patt Gunn, Joe McGill, Hanif Haynes and Toni Renee Battle Photo by Jeanne Cyriaque
Paul Pressly In Front of Indigo Plants Photo by Jeanne Cyriaque
Tabby 2 Slave Cabin Photo by Jeanne Cyriaque
Detail of Tabby Construction Material Photo by Jeanne Cyriaque
Front of Tabby 2 Slave Dwelling Photo by Jeanne Cyriaque
Window of Tabby Slave Dwelling Photo by Jeanne Cyriaque
Tony Horowitz and Joseph McGill
Donkeys at Ossabaw Photo by Jeanne Cyriaque
Ossabaw Scenery Photo by Jeanne Cyriaque
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When Toni Battle, Tony Horwitz and I got back to the cabin we laid out our sleeping bags and got comfortable within them. It was evident that Toni Battle was operating on west coast time as Tony Horwitz and I slowly faded into sleep. The following morning it was great to wake up to the sounds of nature and hear nothing that was manmade. Our conversation included opportunities for slaves to escape; the underground railroad running south to Florida; and where we would stay on Saturday night. Tony Horwitz expressed that for the purpose of the story that he would write, sleeping on a dirt floor would have been more compelling. After a hearty breakfast, the group that stayed in the dormitory was transported back to Savannah. Their absence gave Toni, Tony and me the opportunity to use the showers in the facility as we saw fit. This was great because another group was scheduled to come over to the island to interact with us for a few hours. They showed up as planned and, with the exception of spending the night, they were treated to the same program of the previous group. After that repeated routine, we all boarded the boat and returned to Savannah.

Wormsloe Plantation

When Toni Battle, Tony Horwitz and I left Charleston, SC on Friday, May 10, 2013, we knew that we would be staying in a tabby slave cabin on Ossabaw Island, GA that night. We also knew that on Sunday, May 12 that I would address the congregation of Sweetfield of Eden Baptist Church in Pin Point, GA. What we did not know was where we would stay on Saturday night. I had alerted my host Paul Pressly to this concern and he was working on a solution which may have included a hotel stay. Knowing that this was a pending issue, I made a request to the group that showed up for the press conference. During my presentation, after having familiarized the attendees of why the Slave Dwelling Project was necessary and knowing that Savannah like Charleston, SC had many places that qualify, I asked if anyone had a place that fits the criteria of the project that we could stay on Saturday night. Immediately after the press conference was over, Sarah Ross, President of the Wormsloe Institute for Environmental History offered the slave cabin on Wormsloe Plantation for the Saturday night stay. My mind was now at ease knowing that I could proceed to Ossabaw Island not worried about where we all would stay on Saturday night, moreover it was a place that aligned with the intent of the Slave Dwelling Project.

Wormsloe Cabin

On our way to Wormsloe, Hanif Haynes took us on a detour to see Mr. Herbert Kemp a senior African American community member. Mr. Kemp, who was not expecting us, made us aware that he had read about the newly formed partnership between the Pin Point Museum, Ossabaw Island Foundation and Bethesda Academy and knew of our reason for being in the area. It was time well spent because Mr. Kemp who is a retired carpenter revealed how that skill was passed down to him through generations from an ancestor who was enslaved on Wormsloe Plantation. His research had also revealed that some of the enslaved skilled craftsmen from Wormsloe Plantation were rented out to places as far away as Charleston, SC to apply their skills. He told us that years ago he took a group of boy scouts out to an island in the area and they spent the night in some slave cabins that still existed at that time. Hearing him say that preserving extant slave dwellings was a good thing was very reassuring to me that the Slave Dwelling Project was necessary.

Wormsloe Plantation

Upon entering the gate to Wormsloe, I set my eyes upon one of the most spectacular avenue of oaks that I had ever seen. The spectacular avenue of oaks at other places that I had spent nights in slave cabins like Evergreen Plantation in Edgard, Louisiana and Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant, SC had nothing on Wormsloe for it stretched for what seemed like miles. Our host Sarah Ross, whose exuberance at the press conference the day before got us our place to stay for the night, met us on the property to give us a tour. She took us to the slave cabin which was a stark contrast to the tabby cabin we slept in the previous night on Ossabaw Island. It is a wooden structure that is currently used as a guest house so all of the modern amenities were included. This suited me quite well because in my 42 slave dwellings where I have slept, I have seen all extremes. For the intent of Tony Horwitz writing an article on the Slave Dwelling Project, something al little more raw would have been in order.

Sarah Ross Wormsloe Plantation

With darkness about to descend, the tour of the property was somewhat hasty, but boy was it spectacular. Contained on the property is the ruins of the oldest building in the state of Georgia, constructed of tabby and brick, it was explained how slaves from South Carolina were loaned/rented from South Carolina to help build the infrastructure for the Georgia’s early settlers. Sarah also showed us what was believed to be the slave burial ground on the site. It was amazing to hear Sarah explaining the intent of the owner and the Wormsloe Institute for Environmental History. In their effort to interpret the land scientifically and environmentally exists the opportunity to interpret the people that occupied the land, Native Americans, African Americans, and Europeans. That is what compelled her to respond to my plea at the press conference for a place to stay that fits the intent of the Slave Dwelling Project.

Over our dinner in the cabin of lowcountry boil that Sarah prepared for us, we learned that for us to stay in the cabin that night, two researchers had to find a room in a local hotel. That to me was a testament to the power of this project. I was thrilled Hanif Haynes was able to join us on the tour and stay for dinner for he will now be the local liaison between Wormsloe and the local African American community. Sleeping in a bed that night was much more comfortable than the experience the previous night in the tabby cabin on Ossabaw Island. Before leaving the next morning, I assured our host that because this stay was so impromptu, we have to plan another that will be more programmatic and beneficial to the intent of all entities but most of all get the local community especially African Americans more involved in what happens at Wormsloe.

Sweetfield of Eden Baptist Church

I have given the Slave Dwelling Project lecture in churches before, the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama and Mt Moriah Baptist Church in North Charleston, SC but they have always been at a time other than a regularly scheduled Sunday church service. Sweetfield of Eden Baptist Church in Pin Point, GA would be different for the presentation was given during the service from the pulpit and it was on Mother’s Day. After being instructed to show up at noon, my instincts got the best of me. Knowing that I had to leave shortly after the presentation, I convinced Toni Battle and Tony Horwitz that we should show up at 11:00 am because I was scheduled to present at noon. My incorrect assumption was that like my Baptist church, the service would start at 11:00 am. Well, showing up at 11:00 was far too early but it did give us time to take photographs outside of the church. When we entered the church there were a few youths conducting themselves in a noisy and disorderly fashion when one senior female came in and pulled out her switch and quickly restored order. As others began to gather, it was revealed to us that the lady who pulled out the switch to restore order is the mother of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

The presentation went well and as planned, we had to leave immediately after. Our attempt to find a place to have lunch in Savannah on Mother’s Day was met with failure when parking became a challenge so we gave up and drove back to Charleston. The drive gave Tony Horwitz great opportunity to go more in depth with me by asking questions about the Slave Dwelling Project for the article that he would be writing. We reached Charleston safely and being that it was Mother’s Day, after dropping Toni and Tony off at their hotels, I proceeded home to celebrate the occasion with my wife Vilarin and daughter Jocelyn.

Hinder Me Not ~ Sankofa Bound!

by Toni Renee Battle
Photo at Pin Point Museum

On a bright Friday morning, Joseph McGill, founder of The Slave Dwelling Project, myself and Tony Horwitz, author and journalist, rolled down an oyster laden driveway blanketing the Pin Point Heritage Museum. We were minutes from Savannah, Georgia and were in the heart of a community named Pin Point, founded by former slaves of Ossabaw Island. As we exited the car, murals greeted us as we walked to the entrance of the museum. Entering the space we were greeted by black and white photos of black elders, representative of Pin Point’s history. The photos told a story of hard work, tradition and determination. Many residents of Pin Point, Georgia made a livelihood of crabbing and farming and shucking oysters at a regional factory.

While browsing the photos, an older gentleman approached us and introduced himself as Hanif Haynes, a board member of the Museum and Ossabaw Foundation, and a descendant of Ossabaw Island. He immediately began sharing the oral tradition of storytelling by giving details of how the ancestors who were left on Ossabaw, following Emancipation, made a way for themselves and those who left Ossabaw eventually formed the community known today as Pin Point, Georgia.

Hanif Haynes Relates Ossabaw History to Joseph McGill

As we listened, more and more people began arriving for the day’s press conference announcing collaboration between the Georgia Historical Society, Pin Center and Ossabaw Foundation. The honoring of this collaboration was The Slave Dwelling Project’s overnight stay on Ossabaw Island. While at the press conference, you heard from historians, community members and Ossabaw descendants speaking to this historical occasion and the importance of maintaining community voice in keeping Gullah-Geechee culture alive. Following the press conference, we found ourselves in numerous talking circles. Within these circles I was honored to meet many Keepers (grios maintaining culture, tradition and history).

Lunch at Bethesda School Photo by Toni Renee Battle

Following the press conference, we headed to Bethesda School campus for a community luncheon before heading to the docks for Ossabaw. As we arrived at the docks, we were greeted by local Keeper, Patt Gunn. She would be joining us on Ossabaw to share in traditional Gullah storytelling. Additionally, our host, Paul Pressly (Ossabaw Foundation), Hanif Haynes (Ossabaw descendant and Foundation board member), Tania Smith-Jones (Administrator of Pin Point Heritage Museum) and Tony Horwitz (author and journalist) were part of the sojourn to Ossabaw Island.

The only way you can access Ossabaw Island is by boat. As the engine started, we all eagerly cheered as the boat lurched forward to ancestral lands. Haynes named off the names of other islands and sand bars as we passed by on our journey. He explained the importance of gauging the distance from the shoreline, otherwise one could end up stuck on a sandbar. After about twenty minutes, we slowly pulled up to the dock of Ossabaw Island. Upon arrival, you are greeted with a main sandy road which leads to the large big house, with a wrap-around porch.

Guests Inside Ossabaw Slave Cabin Photo by Toni Renee Battle

Our small party, entered the big house and gathered in the main living room. Pressly provided us with a historical overview of Ossabaw; the island is originally the ancestral lands of the Creek and Cherokee Native Americans before being occupied by Europeans, who enslaved Africans and Natives to labor on four known plantations. During the 20th century, the West family purchased the island and during the 21st century sold Ossabaw to the state of Georgia as nature and educational preserve.

Gunn brought our gathering to life by engaging everyone in a traditional version of Gullah storytelling. She invited everyone to welcome the ancestors into the space and to celebrate their lives, traditions and customs during our time on the island. It was a fitting start to The Slave Dwelling Project’s overnight stay.

Patt Gunn Gullah Storyteller Photo by Toni Renee Battle Following Gunn ending the welcome with a traditional spiritual, we embarked on our exploration of Ossabaw Island. Pressly announced we would walk to the slave quarters and then ride by truck to the center of the island, where one of the original plantations existed. As we exited the big house, Pressly stopped to show us an indigo plant. He explained, this plant was a descendant of the original plantation crop planted on Ossabaw.

Just beyond the indigo plants, Pressly stopped in front of a smokehouse built by the enslaved. The smokehouse was built with brick, wood and tabby materials. Tabby is made of a combination of oyster shells, lime and sand. It is a known building style used in parts of West Africa, that the enslaved brought to the Americas. The material is unique, strong and resistant to weather elements. We continued to walk a pathway from the smokehouse to a row of slave cabins. As we approached them, the group began to cease talking and instead stand in quiet reverence of the sacred space before us.

Sankofa Bird Over Slave Cabins Photo by Toni Renee Battle

Right before we entered the cabin, a Sankofa bird circled and looked back at us. Haynes and Gunn immediately noticed and pointed to the sky. We all looked up and smiled, feeling the ancestors welcoming us to reclaiming the past and acknowledging their contributions to the history of the land (The concept of Sankofa comes from the Akan people of West Africa. It loosely translates to “go back and fetch what you forgot.” The deeper meaning encourages us to go back and revisit the past in order to move forward. We reach back to retrieve what our roots teach us, so that we can achieve our best in moving forward. The bird is symbolic of this belief, as it flies forward, while looking backward).

Pressly gave McGill the honors of opening the cabin door. As we entered the space, many of us stood in silence with a flurry of tears. You could feel the energy of pain, joy, anger and hope. The surrounding walls were made of tabby and wood. A brick fireplace divided the cabin into two separate quarters. We slowly exited the cabin to explore the rest of the island.

We climbed into the truck and traveled toward the center of Ossabaw. We travelled a main road lined with humongous oak trees lining either side of the road. Haynes explained that we were headed to what was known as Middleton Plantation, which was the plantation his direct ancestors were enslaved on. Upon arrival, we viewed the overgrown vines and some tabby slave cabins that were not structurally sound. Just beyond the yard sat a sandbar area with a tree dipping into the water. Haynes and I ventured beyond the group and stood in the wet sand and took in the reverence of the moment.

He shared that his ancestors farmed oysters on this very site as a means of survival post slavery. Haynes shared with our group that there had been a church on the island that the enslaved had named “Hinder Me Not.” These same men and women who were once slaves later made a home in a community that formed on the mainland of Savannah, Georgia that they named Pin Point. As he shared this story many of us looked at each other and smiled with pride and repeated, “Hinder Me Not!” Imagine how empowering that must have been? To have been a slave, become free and to then enter a place of worship called “Hinder Me Not.” Each time one would feel they could not go on, all they simply had to do was utter the name of the church. The very name of the church spoke to the very spirit of these ancestors that refused to allow any hindrance to block their freedom path.

Featured Gallery: Ossabaw Photos by Toni Renee Battle

Press Conference at Pin point Museum Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Quote at Pin Point Museum Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Photo at Pin Point Museum
Hanif Haynes Relates Ossabaw History to Joseph McGill
Keeper Circle at Pin Point Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Author and Journalist Tony Horowitz Joined In the Cabin Stay Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Tony Horowitz and Joe McGill Discussing Enslaved History Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Blue Painted Doorway on Tabby 2 Cabin Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Detail of Tabby on Ossabaw Slave Cabins Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Donkeys Follow Group As They Tour Ossabaw Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Door of Slave Cabin Ossabaw Island Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Dr Felicia Bell Pat Gunn Tania Smith-Jones and Toni Battle With Sankofa Bird
Paul Pressly Explaining Tabby Building Material Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Tabby Wall Interior of Cabin 2 Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Guests Inside Ossabaw Slave Cabin Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Guests Listen As Paul Pressly Narrates Cabin History Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Interior of Tabby 1 Ossabaw Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Joe McGill Inside Slave Cabin 2 Ossabaw Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Joe Takes a Breather Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Paul Pressly of Ossabaw Foundation Relates History of Slave Street Cabins Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Joseph McGil Morning After Stay Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Joseph McGill and Tonia Smith-Jones In Truck On the Way to Ossabaw Photo by Toni Battle
Joseph McGill on Porch of Big House at Ossabaw Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Main Road on Ossabaw Island Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Window of Tabby 1 Ossabaw Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Patt Gunn Gullah Storyteller Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Ossabaw Island Scenery Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Original Beam in Tabby 2 Slave Cabin Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Mr Hanif Haynes Ossabaw Descendant and Keeper Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Hanif Haynes with Great Grandmother Formerly Enslaved on Ossabaw
Mr Hanif Haynes Ossabaw Descendant Shows Sample of Tabby Block Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Mr Hanif Haynes Ossabaw Descendant and Keeper of Ossabaw History Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Joseph McGill Inside Tabby 2 Cabin Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Indigo Plant Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Lunch at Bethesda School Photo by Toni Renee Battle
Smokehouse at Ossabaw Photo by Toni Battle
The Big House Photo by Toni Renee Battle
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#FFCC00fadetrue

Pressly called out for our group to gather together quickly because we were being hosted for dinner by Mr. Roger, who was one of the caretakers of the island. We journeyed back towards the outskirts of the island and part of our party decided to walk towards Mr. Roger’s residence. We were met with true southern hospitality! Mr. Roger and his family had a home-cooked meal awaiting us and shared tall tales of his more than 30 years of residing on the island. It turns out that Mr. Roger is also a cook for former President Jimmy Carter! He travels from time to time to Plains, Georgia to personally cook for the Carter family. He is a true cowboy with a larger than life personality and a love for the land of Ossabaw Island.

Following dinner, we travelled back to the slave quarters to begin our overnight stay. McGill, myself and Horwitz were the only three to stay the night in the cabin. The rest of the group stayed in the big house about five minutes down the road. We all joined together to participate in a libation ceremony to honor our ancestors and those who had been enslaved on the land of Ossabaw Island. We also blessed the space and sang spirituals to pay homage to those who came before us. Following our ritual, we exited the cabin and were greeted by thousands of stars lighting the sky and our path. One group headed to the big house and the other group gathered belongings to lay down for the night. McGill, Horwitz and I made pallets and stretched out on the hardwood floor. We talked about race, slavery, war, Django (the movie) and ancestors. In particular, we discussed how as a slave on this island one would have truly had to be strategic to escape due to having to cross such a large waterway. McGill shared how Harriet Tubman had been known to have travelled this area of the Gullah Islands. Laying there, I thought about the untold stories of the ancestors who had laid their bodies within this same cabin. The ancestors who prayed and dreamed of a day their descendants would be free.

Toni Battle at Ossabaw

The next morning we awoke and stretched shortly after dawn. We reconnected with our group and shared about our experience of the overnight. Our group members were leaving and a second group were scheduled to join us within a few hours. We quickly freshened up and awaited the second group of visitors. This group had visitors from Boston, Atlanta, Savannah and other areas. Upon arrival, they were met with Gunn’s traditional storytelling and then we all shared lunch under the oak trees and headed back to the slave quarters. After McGill finished his historical overview, group members began heading back to the big house to get out of the heat. I noticed that the white group members headed immediately up the road, while the black group members took every opportunity to take photos and reluctantly kept revisiting the cabin.

Seven Shouts

It then struck me, at what time would there be almost ten black folks out of enslaved history, from different parts of the country, in the midst of a slave cabin with McGill, on Ossabaw Island? I gathered everyone and asked for us to stand in the cabin, in traditional circle format and pay homage. Homage Circle in Slave Cabin Ossabaw Island Photo by Toni Renee Battle We all immediately returned inside, circled up, held hands and bowed heads. I felt moved to pray and give thanks to the ancestors, others followed and Haynes began a traditional shout of ancestral energy. We all repeated seven shouts. On the seventh round, I could no longer contain the overwhelming energy and gave into Spirit and shouted and cried. I began clapping, and others joined in. All of us began shuffling our feet and clapping our hands in a traditional ring shout. Our bodies moved in ancestral ways that our DNA could only know. The energy poured, lifted and shifted through the circle with grace, love and freeness. The power of our stomps hit the hardwood floors as our claps thundered a drum beat indicative of our ancestral lands. All of a sudden we all stopped, tears pouring down our faces in awe of the powerful experience we had just shared in the sacred space. As we walked out, many of us said how empowering the experience had been to acknowledge the culture in that celebratory way. We gathered in front of the slave cabin’s blue doorway. The enslaved painted and stained doorways with the color blue to protect against evil spirits. This door is also known as a “haint door.”

Sankofa Bound

By the end of the day, it was time to leave Ossabaw. As we walked the road leading to the docks, I kept looking back feeling a sense of loss. While on the water, I mentioned to Haynes that I heard him mention the name of “McAlpin” in part of the Ossabaw story. I shared that one of my ancestors was a McAlpin and our family had difficulty locating others. Haynes smiled and said, “Toni, you and Joseph are not saying goodbye to Ossabaw. Both of you will be back. You see that island over there? There’s a large group of McAlpins living there!” My mouth dropped. I responded, “WHAT?!” Haynes laughed and said, “This is the beginning of much work to do. The two of you are doing Sankofa! Your Ossabaw experience is Sankofa bound!”

Lest We Forget

by Toni Renee Battle

Joseph McGill, Founder of The Slave Dwelling Project, picked me up from the Charleston, South Carolina airport describing our upcoming overnight stay. Tony Horwitz, author and journalist, would join us the following day for our road trip to Savannah, Georgia and then a boat trip to Ossabaw Island (Gullah barrier island). McGill explained that Friday night we were scheduled to stay overnight on Ossabaw and possibly Saturday night. He said, “I’m not sure if Saturday night we will stay on Ossabaw, or if our host has found another plantation within the area where we may do a second stay. It’s all in the air right now.” I responded, “Joseph don’t worry, ancestors will direct us where we are supposed to be!” McGill laughed and looked over his glasses at me and said, “Toni, there you go!” I responded, “There you go! You know when we get together for a stay, ancestors always surprise us with a purpose. Why would this be any different?”

Ossabaw Island was going to be my third stay with The Slave Dwelling Project. October 2012, I had done two back-to-back stays at Bacon’s Castle (Surry, VA) and Sweet Briar College (Sweet Briar, VA). Both stays had been powerful and had huge community implications afterwards. Based upon our past stays, I was confident that we would be ancestrally directed for Saturday night. Where we needed to be would be revealed by Saturday morning.

Dr Felicia Bell Pat Gunn Tania Smith-Jones and Toni Battle With Sankofa Bird

The following day, we connected with Horwitz and hit the road to Savannah, Georgia! As we rode, Horwitz interviewed McGill and slowly began sharing his own personal story. The three of us swapped stories, laughed, and spoke about the impact of legacy to its descendants and to this country called the United States of America. We pulled into the oyster laden driveway of the Pin Point Historical Museum located in Pin Point, Georgia. We were attending a press conference to announce a regional collaboration of the museum, Ossabaw Island, Penn Center and the State of Georgia regarding preserving Gullah-Geechee culture. The Slave Dwelling Project overnight stay on Ossabaw Island was to commemorate this collaboration. We toured the museum which told the stories of descendants of the enslaved of Ossabaw Island whom, after Emancipation, started a community called Pin Point and worked in a regional oyster factory. While touring the museum, McGill and I met Hanif Haynes, a descendant of Ossabaw and a board member of the museum and the Ossabaw Foundation. He graciously shared oral tradition stories of the ancestors as we awaited the press conference to begin.

Eventually, Paul Pressly (Ossabaw Foundation), kicked off the press conference with lots of excitement of the meaning and impact of the collaboration. He then introduced McGill to speak to the celebration of The Slave Dwelling Project stay. McGill took the microphone and shared the importance of preserving slave dwellings and then said, “If there are any of you who are aware of additional locations within the area that will welcome us, we are seeking a Saturday night opportunity.” Following the press conference, a tall red-headed women immediately approached McGill. While they spoke, I ended up in two talking circles of Keepers (people who are Keepers of culture, tradition and histories of their people and/or cultural group) and community members.

Before embarking for Ossabaw, McGill excitedly called me over. He said, “Remember what you said in the car? Well we’ve been directed!” I said, “Uh?” McGill continued to explain that the tall red-headed woman I saw would be our Saturday night host. Her name was Sarah Ross and she had invited us to stay at the local Wormsloe Plantation. McGill continued, “Some folks view Wormsloe as one of the largest plantations in the state of Georgia.” My mouth fell open. My eyes filled with tears as McGill updated Horwitz of where we were being led to stay for Saturday night. As we walked, I thanked God and the ancestors for directing our path on this trip and wondered what our purpose would be when we encountered Wormsloe.

Friday night and Saturday we spent time on Ossabaw Island. That journey was beyond words of people we encountered and what we experienced while there. We departed Ossabaw by boat and headed back to the mainland of Savannah, Georgia. Hanif Haynes volunteered to guide us to Wormsloe Plantation, but asked if we could stop by an elder’s house who was directly descended from Wormsloe. McGill agreed and once in the car, we followed Haynes to our second night stay.

Joe With Master Carpenter Mr Ross Ossabaw Elder

Haynes guided us to another community started by former slaves called Sand Fly. Within Sand Fly lived an elder named, Mr. Bess. Haynes requested permission for us to have wise counsel (meeting with an elder which involves traditional oral storytelling seeking information in a respectful and honoring way) with him. Bess agreed and we entered his home and settled into the living room. McGill spoke with him about our upcoming stay and our purpose in visiting the area. Bess began sharing that he was a direct descendant of the Wormsloe Plantation and that many of the enslaved had been master craftspeople. He explained that the plantation was massive and some of the enslaved had even traveled to Charleston, South Carolina because of being farmed out due to their high skill level. Many of the enslaved were carpenters, iron smiths, cooks, seamstresses, etc. Bess was descended from master carpenters. He showed us his fireplace mantle, which had intricate carvings displaying his ancestral skill. He explained that he had learned from two generations of elders and they had learned from generations before them. Majority of the generations had been enslaved. He said each family in community was known for a particular trade and/or craft which had been passed down since slavery.

Detail of Carving in Home of Ossabaw Descendant Mr Bess

We thanked him for his time and he encouraged us to return to the area in the future. Haynes then guided us to Wormsloe Plantation. We drove onto the main road which led to the big house. As we continued to drive, I realized we had been driving more than five minutes! The main road of the plantation was lined with over two hundred arching oak trees. Finally we arrived at the back side of the big house and McGill called Sarah Ross, President of the Wormsloe Institute for Environmental History and our host.

Ross drove up in a golf cart and encouraged us to follow her to the slave cabin. We followed and passed the plantation library and were in amazement of the mere size of the grounds. Eventually we arrived at a white cabin with red shutters. As we entered the space, it was obvious it had been majorly upgraded, yet still had remnants of its original use. The cabin was currently used as a cottage space for guests and scholars. Ross gave us a quick tour of the cabin which was divided into two separate spaces. She then told us she had cooked a Lowcountry Boil (shrimp, potatoes, corn, vegetables boiled with seasoning) for us, but first wanted to show us some of the plantation.

We followed her out to a golf cart and climbed onto the front and back. Ross drove for another good ten minutes and shared that the plantation itself covered thousands of acres. We stopped first at a mound of oyster shells which were evidence of the Cherokee’s ancestral footprint. We stopped at the side of the road and walked the land. I gave thanks to my Cherokee and Choctaw ancestors. Tears overwhelmed me as I thought of them and the history this space represented.

Tabby Walls Constructed by Enslaved at Wormsloe

Ross looked at the sky and suggested we move forward before sundown. We continued on in our golf cart and stopped at a site that left us breathless. Ross said that we were viewing what used to be the original big house and was now ruins. All that remained was the outline of the foundation. Horwitz, McGill, Haynes and I stood in the space with our mouths open. The walls surrounding us were made of tabby! Tabby (a mixture of oyster shells, lime, clay and sand) was a building style found in West Africa, which the enslaved used to build structures in the local area of this country. Ross continued, “We’ve established that this is considered one of the oldest structures in the state of Georgia.” I began crying, Haynes rubbed my back and had tears and McGill and Horwitz quietly took in what was before us. We reverently walked to the wall and laid our hands on the tabby wall. Black and white hands laid hands on the proof that ancestors had been present.

I said to Ross, “Do you realize how significant this is? This is HUGE! We come from oral tradition which dominant culture consistently dismisses as NOT accurate. You’ve shared with us your work of documenting this plantation’s footprint which matches up with many oral stories Haynes and Bess have shared with us. YOU can be a bridge to the local black community trying to establish their roots!” Ross had tears in her eyes and said, “I know. I want to be a bridge. That’s part of why I reached out to The Slave Dwelling Project. We have the history here and are now obligated to be part of the change. We can do this!” I gave her a bear hug and said, “Sarah, thank you for being a cultural ally! You represent what is needed to engage the difficult conversations, but also the acknowledgement of this horrific history and the right way to flex privilege! We will support you.” Haynes confirmed that locally he would begin initiating a relationship with her to build a bridge.

Featured Gallery: Wormsloe Photos by Toni Renee Battle

Joseph McGill, Mr Bess (Ossabaw Elder) and Hanif Haynes
Carving Tradition of Ossabaw
Detail of Carving in Home of Ossabaw Descendant Mr Bess
Joe With Master Carpenter Mr. Bess, Ossabaw Elder
The Big House at Wormsloe
Joseph McGill on Porch of Wormsloe Big House
Library at Wormsloe Plantation
Joseph McGill In Front of Fireplace in Wormsloe Plantation Library
Joe McGill at Wormsloe Plantation
Sarah Ross Relates Wormsloe History to Tony and Joe
Tabby Ruins of Original Wormsloe Plantation House
Tabby Walls Constructed by Enslaved at Wormsloe
Inside the Tabby Ruins of Wormsloe Big House
View Through Window of Tabby Ruins of Original Wormsloe Plantation House
Tony Horowitz Joseph McGill Sarah Ross and Hanif Haynes Inside Tabby Ruins of Wormsloe House
Hanif Haynes and Joseph McGill at Burial Ground of Enslaved
Slave Cabin at Wormsloe
Sarah Ross and Joseph McGill In Front of Wormsloe Slave Cabin
Interior of Wormsloe Cabin (Now a Guest House)
Interior of Wormsloe Cabin Showing Ladder to Loft Area
Joseph McGill in Interior of Wormsloe Slave Cabin
Joseph McGill In Front of Fireplace of Wormsloe Cabin
Wormsloe Cabin Loft
Joseph McGill and Grand Oak Behind Wormsloe Slave Cabin
View from Back Porch of Wormsloe Cabin
Ancestral Altar for Libation at Wormsloe
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#FFCC00fadetrue

We walked the sacred space and hesitantly left and Ross shouted, “Oh! There’s one more place I need to take you to before sundown! How could I forget?” We drove on and stopped in front of an open area surrounded by a circle of trees. The air became quiet and the wind shifted. As we stepped out Ross announced, “I knew you would want to visit this space. This is the enslaved burial grounds.” Haynes, McGill, Horwitz and I all exchanged looks. Haynes, McGill and I immediately began walking the area. We cried, held our chests and kept turning around. I put my hands out over a depressed space. Haynes and McGill joined me and we circled up. We prayed, gave thanks to the ancestors and their sacrifice, we called out that they had not been forgotten. Additionally we honored the land our Native ancestors had walked and also died on. The wind picked up and kissed our faces. With tears on our cheeks we sought out Ross and Horwitz. Ross shared that the plantation had utilized new LiDar technology to discover the burial site. LiDar is able to x-ray more than four layers of earth by a military plane.

Hanif Haynes and Joseph McGill at Burial Ground of Enslaved

My head shot up. I looked at McGill and Haynes and said, “That’s part of our purpose here!” They looked at me confused. I quickly turned to Ross and continued, “Could this be done anywhere?” She said, “Yes, why?” I said, “Just two hours earlier on Ossabaw Island, Haynes had told our group that local community were still distressed about not being able to find the enslaved burial grounds on Ossabaw Island! Based on what you’re saying, this is now possible!” Ross shook her red hair, nodding in agreement. She said, “Yes it’s definitely possible. We could partner.” Haynes let out a joyful, “ASHE’!” He jumped in the air and we hugged at the magnitude of the moment and discovery. Horwitz responded with a “Wow!” McGill let out a breath and said, “Ancestors are just having their way, aren’t they?!” We laughed in agreement and headed back to the golf cart. I sang with joy on the back of the cart, giving thanks in traditional songs. Haynes joined in and we all enjoyed the peace which entered our souls.

We toured the plantation library and Ross gave us another piece of news. Wormsloe had been a plantation that owned its own steam mill for the crop of rice. Slaves actually operated the steam mill. Additionally, Wormsloe had also attempted to cultivate silk worms as an investment. Ross stated that this would have been overseen by the women of Wormsloe Plantation. This was information we had never heard of and slowly took in this new twist to the local history.

Sarah Ross Treated Guests to Dinner of Lowcountry Boil

We ended our evening over the enjoyment of Ross’ cooking skills of the Lowcountry Boil. We circled up and talked for hours on the back porch of the slave cabin. We talked about the legacy of slavery, its impact and the current work at hand. We also appreciated what Ross represented. She was knowledgeable of the history, acknowledged the history and within her privilege of position, she was willing to take risks to be a change agent. She was open, honest of what she knew and most of all she knew in order to truly impact she needed community voice and support. Wormsloe was an open history book willing to revisit its history and create action around slavery’s footprint. I looked forward to what that future would look like with creating bridges with Pin Point and Sand Fly communities.

We ended the evening with returning inside the cabin. Ross headed to the big house, Haynes headed home and McGill, Horwitz and myself stayed to bed down for the night. Since the cabin was updated, we slept in twin beds and had a restroom. I paid homage to the ancestors through ritual and blessed the space. McGill and Horwitz fell asleep before me. I laid under my blankets and began to cry.

Ancestral Altar for Libation at Wormsloe

I thought of the fact that the following morning I would wake up in a slave cabin, on a plantation, on Mother’s Day. The mothers are what I went to sleep thinking about.The enslaved mothers who were my ancestors. The very image of being sold from your mother or child. The irony of my past and present history collided in that moment. I thought of how my great grandmother once told of her mother, who had been enslaved, saying to her, “You don’t know da pain of being sold off from a chile. You don’t know.”

At sunrise, those words came back to me. I prayed and asked God to give her spirit rest. I asked that all the mothers who were raped, birthed babies, auctioned off, torn apart from family have rest. That their spirits know that their descendants had survived and many of us were honoring who they were through our work and also through the act of remembering. Lest we forget. The act of remembrance is a powerful way to bear witness to pain, joy and to heal from generation to generation.

We awoke and ended our morning by attending Sweetfield of Eden Baptist Church in Pin Point, Georgia. We entered the church and awaited the Mother’s Day service to begin. As we quietly talked we were interrupted with, “Do I need to get my switch? Ya’ll know betta!” An elderly black woman jumped up from a church pew with a switch (twig from a tree) and shook the church as she stormed down the aisle to reprimand some disruptive teens. She came back and began sharing with McGill and I about a lesson her uncle had taught her when she was a rebellious youth. I chuckled and told her she had given me a flashback when she jumped up with that switch. I felt the sting of what the switch represented. She laughed and said, “It taught you a lesson. You remembered to mind ya elders!” I responded, “Yes Ma’m I did!” We settled back and a community member said, “Have you met Miss. Leola?” I answered we hadn’t formally, but informally she and I had enjoyed our cultural exchange of storytelling. She said, “Oh ok. You do know that’s Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ mother?” McGill and I looked at each other and laughed for about five minutes at the irony of it. It was true. Miss. Leola was Thomas’ mother.

Horwitz came back to our occupied pew and said he was looking forward to a good black church experience. He said he enjoyed our traditional music and missed hearing it on a regular basis from some his earlier days of living in various communities. As devotion began, Horwitz was not disappointed. I sat back and drank my cup of spiritual food: call and response, shouting and soulful praise through song. We swayed, clapped, shouted and sang in Spirit! As my arms were held in the air, tears of joy came for the blessing of the experience I had shared on this journey with Horwitz and McGill. I was thankful for the act of remembrance and the ability to do so in a cultural way; in ways that my ancestors would have been punished for on many plantations. It was there in the sanctuary that I gave thanks of knowing and living the words of the ancestors… "Lest we forget.” My chant to them on the altar was, “You are not forgotten. We remember you with praise and honor.”

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Slave Dwelling Project Visits Woodburn House, Pendleton, SC

Blugrass Band Entertains Attendees of Bluegrass and Barbeque at Woodburn House
Bluegrass and Barbeque, Woodburn House
Cistern Pipe, Woodburn House
The Cistern Provided the Water Supply at Woodburn
Gathered Before the Fireplace - Photo by Richard Owens
Inside the Woodburn Cabin - Photo by Richard Owens
Joe and the Bluegrass Band - Photo by Richard Owens
Joe McGill Inside the Woodburn House Cabin
Joe Stands In the Doorway of Woodburn House Cabin
Joseph McGill Adresses Attendees of Bluegrass and Barbeque - Photo by Richard Owens
Joseph McGill Inside the Woodburn House Cabin
Joseph McGill on Steps of Woodburn House Cabin
Replica Carriage House
Ruins of Milking House, Woodburn
Testing the Amenities
The Big House at Woodburn
Warm Fire Made the Cabin More Welcoming
Woodburn House Barn
Woodburn House Slave Cabin
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#FFCC00fadetrue

When I started the Slave Dwelling Project in 2010, I established some rigid rules. Here are a few: 1) No sleeping in dwellings that are not in their original location. 2) No sleeping in dwellings that have been recreated.

On Thursday, May 2, 2013, I broke both rules by spending a night in the recreated slave dwelling at the Woodburn House in Pendleton, SC.

Additionally, when I received the invitation from Richard Owens (a board member of the Pendleton Historic Foundation) to stay in the dwelling, the 2013 calendar for the Slave Dwelling Project had already been well established. More specifically, it was an invitation to be the keynote speaker for the Annual Pendleton Historic Foundation membership meeting and social. Richard made it an offer I could not refuse by offering bluegrass music, barbeque and samples from Palmetto Moonshine followed by dancing.

Its website describes the Woodburn House as follows: "Woodburn is a graceful four-story clapboard plantation house built c. 1830 with a wrap-around-2-story piazza built as a summer home by Charles Cotseworth Pinckney (1789-1865). The house is an excellent example of an early 19th century SC Upcountry plantation house. While owned by members of the wealthy Adger family of Charleston, the house was expanded to 18 rooms, and the farmland was increased to over 1,000 acres. The historic site now consists of the house museum furnished with antebellum antiques and family artifacts, situated on 10 acres of the original plantation with a walking trail to the ruins of other farm outbuildings. Also on site are three outbuildings, a reproduction of the Adger Victorian Carriage house that contains the traveling coach of Thomas Green Clemson; a one-room c.1810 log house built by Robert Moorhead serving as the cookhouse; and a reproduction of a slave/tenant house interpreting the life of Jane Edna Hunter, the African-American activist who founded the Phylis Wheatley Society, who was born in such a house at Woodburn in 1882."

Presentation at Mt. Lebanon Elementary School

Joseph McGill and Mt. Lebanon Elementary School Principal Mona Guy Fleming - Photo by Richard Owens
Joseph McGill at Mt. Lebanon Elementary School - Photo by Richard Owens
Joseph McGill Interacts With Students at Mt. Lebanon Elementary - Photo by Richard Owens
Setting Up the Presentation - Photo by Richard Owens
Students Enjoy Joe's Presentation - Photo by Richard Owens
Mt. Lebanon Elementary - Photo by Richard Owens
Mt. Lebanon Elementary School Presentation - Photo by Richard Owens
Joseph McGill is Introduced by Principal Mona Guy Fleming - Photo by Richard Owens
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#FFCC00fadetrue

In true fashion of the project, I requested that my host maximize my time in the area by planning other events. To that end, a presentation was scheduled for Mt. Lebanon Elementary School. There I met my host and conducted a presentation that went over extremely well. Afterwards the third and fourth graders asked relevant and engaging questions during the question and answer period.

Stay at Woodburn House

When I arrived at the Woodburn House I was impressed at the size of the “big house” but I could not help but wonder who cut down the trees that were made into the lumber for building the house. I met Tim Drake the knowledgeable site historian who offered to give me a tour of the grounds. Knowing that the slave dwelling that I would sleep in was a replica, I was anxious to see where the original cabins once stood. Tim took me to those places. The thought of some of the plants that I was walking through being poison ivy did cross my mind but what I was witnessing and learning minimized that threat.

I learned that the plantation made most of its money by raising horses and cattle. I saw the chimneys that were left of the cabins that once stood in those spots. I saw a nearly intact cistern that was made of brick. Those bricks and all other bricks that composed the antebellum buildings on the property were made by slave labor. I saw the ruins of the brick building that was once used for milking of the cows.

Cistern at Woodburn House

I saw an intact barn that was a clear indication that the raising of horses on that property was once a massive operation. I saw the remains of the cobblestone street that was laid that led to where the horses were kept which was a clear indication to me that the owner took pride in what was located on both ends of that street and wanted his family, visitors and clients to have access with ease.

Woodburn Horse Barn

Knowing that the slave cabin at the Woodburn House was only a replica, made bonding with it quite different from all the previous cabins. While I have stayed in one cabin that was disassembled in one spot and reassembled in another and several that were restored using 50 % of new material, this would be the first that I would sleep in that was a total replica. Woodburn House Slave Cabin Its close proximity to the “big house”, and the attempt to interpret its transition beyond emancipation made it seem a bit cluttered. I had to also take into account that as a “self proclaimed” expert on the matter, I could be overly critical. I also had to take into account that slave owners on the frontier with less means tended to have more interaction with the few slaves that they owned which in a system of chattel slavery tended to favor the enslaved. The potential to have a fire in the fireplace and sleep in the bed were quite welcoming.

As the audience for the meeting and bluegrass and barbeque began to assemble, I took every opportunity to interact with as many people as possible. The threatening rain still allowed for a robust turnout for the event. I began to notice a trend which was that everyone that I talked to believed in ghosts and had at least one story to justify their beliefs. I had the pleasure of meeting a representative from the John C. Calhoun house which is located on the campus of nearby Clemson University. This gave me the perfect opportunity to share with him some information that was just presented to me which was that John C. Calhoun, “the Great Nullifier” has African American descendants. His response was scholarly and non committal. He did verify that there is an upcoming Calhoun reunion that will include some of the African Americans who have made that claim.

Joseph McGill Addresses Attendees of Bluegrass and Barbeque Photo by Richard Owens

For my presentation, the absence of powerpoint, dictated that I use a method of presentation that I had used only once before. I would query the crowd to check their relationship with the 12 states in which I had stayed in slave dwellings. Their choices were Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Using this method, only Connecticut and Pennsylvania were left out but they were talked about as a group anyway for I had to make it clear to this group of southerners that this was a project that focused on preserving buildings used in telling the whole story of how slavery existed on this continent and the north does not get a pass. After the presentation, the question and answer period far exceeded the five minutes that I was allotted. Knowing that there was a Bluegrass Band waiting to perform, I had to end the question and the session. As the band performed, I continued to interact with members of the audience.

When the crowd left, I proceeded to the cabin and to my pleasant surprise, a group had gathered there. With a roaring fire in the fireplace, I knew that this gathering had the potential for meaningful conversation about many subject matters. All members of this splinter group had ghost stories. Guests in Woodburn House Cabin Photo by Richard Owens We had a beautiful conversation about the economics of slavery. We even covered the subject of bastardy and women’s rights during the period of slavery. The overall conversation was quite stimulating, with all participants feeding off each other’s passion for their reason for being in the space at that time. In the end, only Tim Drake, the site historian; Andy Sova, the recent Clemson University graduate and the bartender for the Bluegrass and barbeque event; and special quest Carol Burdette, the former Mayor of Pendleton would spend the night in the cabin with me. The following morning, we began to leave the cabin Carol Burdette first, me second. I left without disturbing Tim and Andy as I had to be on the road no-later-than 6:00 am.

The stay at the Woodburn House was not my first stay in the upcountry of South Carolina for I had already stayed on Morris Street in Anderson, Roper Mountain in Greenville and the Price House in Woodruff. The support for the project thus far in this part of the state has been great. Sure there is more work to be done for there was not one African American audience member there for the program but that is a good problem to have because it can easily be fixed. When trying to save places that interpret slavery in America, authenticity is important but having any tangible place that can do that also has its value. Had I stuck to my rigid rules, I would not have gotten the opportunity to spread the slave dwelling project to the Woodburn House in Pendleton, SC. I applaud their effort to tell the whole story and I will continue to do all that I can to assist.

3

Laurelwood Plantation ~ The One That (Almost) Got Away

By Joseph McGill, Slave Dwelling Project

Contractor Grant McDonald with Joseph McGill

Exterior of Laurelwood Slave Dwelling

Grant McDonald, Contractor for Slave Dwelling Renovation

Interior of Restored Slave Dwelling

Justin Castor Joseph McGill and Harold Taylor

L to R - Jeremy Thomas, Justin Castor, Joe McGill, Terry James, Tim Shipley, Harold Taylor and Prinny Anderson

Lenny Nisbet and Son Jeremy Thomas

Lenny Nisbet

Mike Bedenbaugh, Director Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation and Prinny Anderson

Nancy Floyd (Last Resident of the Former Slave Dwelling) with Joseph McGill

Newly-Renovated Slave Cabin, Laurelwood Plantation

Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation Director Mike Bedenbaugh with Joseph McGill

Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation Director Mike Bedenbaugh

Plantation House at Laurelwood

Restored Slave Dwelling at Laurelwood Plantation

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#FFCC00fadetrue

I know for sure that I have spent nights in slave dwellings in twelve states. In the states of South Carolina and Mississippi, I have had some repeat stays. When placing a number on slave dwellings that I have spent the night, I state thirty nine however that might be a misnomer. I will let you be the judge.

There was one stay that eluded me. On April 15, 2011, I was faced with a decision that tested my resolve to remain true to the Slave Dwelling Project. It was on that day that I had my first opportunity to spend the night in the slave dwelling at Laurelwood Plantation in Eastover, SC. Its dilapidated condition and a desire for self preservation factored into my decision not to sleep in the cabin however, I did sleep on the porch of the “big house” which was also in need of restoration. Saturday, April 20, 2013, I would return to Laurelwood Plantation to spend the night in the restored slave cabin that I refused to sleep in two years prior.

The new property owners Jeremy and Jackie Thomas kept good a promise of restoring the cabin. This was not an easy feat because the two of them currently reside in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England. Their ultimate intent was to be living in the restored “big house” by now but the necessity to hire a new contractor and an unexpected medical issue delayed its restoration however the work continues with the ambitious plan of having it completed by August.

When I arrived at 3:00 pm the site was bustling with activity. The Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation was conducting an open house for the property. They played a major role in ensuring the property would be restored by purchasing and placing easements on it and holding on to it until they found a preservation minded buyer.

I bypassed all of the activities going on at the “big house” and proceeded directly to the restored slave cabin which is located a considerable distance away. This proved to be a wise choice because I got to spend some quality time alone with the place. I took many pictures and spent some time inside inspecting the work that was done to the building. Still missing a few windows, I was thrilled that the contractor used all of the material that was salvageable. My fear that the cabin would be constructed of all new material was put at ease because I knew the challenge that the contractor was faced with based on my knowledge of the dilapidated condition of the cabin when I saw and refused to sleep in it two years prior.

Satisfied with what I saw at the newly restored slave cabin, I then took a walk to the big house to participate in the happenings there. I met Grant McDonald, the gentleman responsible for the cabin’s restoration work. I could tell that my verbal approval of his work was a relief to him. The owner of the property, Jeremy, made the trip from England for the event, he introduced me to his mom, who made the trip with him and was seeing the property for the first time. Jeremy had plans to spend the night in the cabin.

Prinny Anderson from the group Coming to the Table and a descendant of President Thomas Jefferson came from Durham, NC as promised to spend her second night in a slave dwelling, her first overnight was Bacon’s Castle in Surry, VA.

Two Lower Richland High School seniors Harold Taylor a future Clemson University student with aspirations of being a veterinarian and Justin Castor a future United States Marine along with their history teacher Mr. Timothy Shipley showed up for the stay. Mr. Shipley met me at a teacher’s workshop earlier this year at the College of Charleston. The subject of the workshop was teaching the Civil War 150 years later. Terry “Old Reliable” James would show up after the visitors left.

I was summoned over to a group that was talking about the fate of a slave dwelling at nearby Kennsington Plantation. I was told of how the owner, International Paper, was doing everything necessary to move and restore the dwelling when defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory because an individual at a state agency did not move quickly enough to perform a necessary act that would have moved the process along. Now with a new plant manager in place and an expired grant, the momentum has been lost. Not surprisingly, I am now on an unofficial team to regain that momentum and move the project forward. This exchange was a reminder to me of how bureaucracy is often the worst enemy of restoring and interpreting extant slave dwellings.

It was a great pleasure to see how the visiting public was splitting their time between the mansion and the slave cabin. I interacted with as many of them as time would allow. Some were there at the gathering two years ago when I made the decision not to sleep in the cabin so they appreciated more the progress made thus far to the cabin and the mansion.

What I have found out since I started the Slave Dwelling Project in May 2010 is that a lot of the former slave dwellings are still on the American landscape because they were lived in well beyond emancipation. This cabin was lived in until the 1940s. On this day, I met Mrs. Nancy Floyd, the last person to live in the cabin and to my surprise, she was not African American. Unfortunately, we did not have time to hang out because I wanted to know more about her experience living in the cabin.

So far, all of the slave dwellings I’ve stayed in this year have come with amenities, more specifically, electricity and a nearby restroom. This would not be the case at the cabin at Laurelwood. Knowing of these challenges, I told all of the people staying to plan accordingly. Nevertheless, these challenges would still have to be overcome.

One other challenge to overcome was the unseasonably cold weather which was predicted to drop to 47 degrees. Prinny and I took to the surrounding woods to gather as much firewood as we could. With the help of Grant the contractor we would supplement our wood supply with some unusable wood from the debris pile that came from the interior of the mansion. For Jeremy, this would be the first opportunity to test the fireplace in the slave cabin and his skills at building a fire. He finally got the fire going but we had to let it burn out because we would all have to leave the site to find a place to eat dinner. We ate dinner at Mr. Bunky’s Restaurant and Market on Highway 378. While there, to exclude taking a shower, all of us took advantage of all of the opportunities that a modern bathroom would present.

When we got back to the cabin, Jeremy got the fire going again this time with much more ease although he expressed his reluctance to burn the historic wood that came from inside the mansion. That reluctance only made me think about the labor force that was necessary to prepare that wood to be used for construction.

In true Coming to the Table fashion, Prinny Anderson led us in a session to bless the space. We all took the opportunity to give thanks and express our reason for being there. Prinny talked about her slave owning ancestors; Terry talked about sleeping in shackles; Jeremy talked about his opportunity to restore the cabin; Tim talked about the teaching opportunities of the space; and the two students Justin and Harold talked about the learning opportunities of the space.

We continued the conversation with Jeremy stressing that the cabin should continue to be used for educational purposes in the future and for that I have unlimited access. Tim and I vowed to work together to coordinate the next date for students to join us in a sleepover in the cabin. Jeremy engaged me in a conversation about how the cabin should be furnished. I told him that since the cabin was in use far beyond emancipation, furnishings that fit that period would be appropriate. I added that it would be unlikely that there would be furniture in the cabin during the time of slavery. I further added that some stewards of like properties tend to over adorn them by placing items such as furniture and other fixtures that no average slave owner would have issued or allow their slaves to have. Furthermore, that space was used mostly for sleeping.

It was then time for all of us to claim our spot to spread our sleeping bags on the floor where we all drifted off to sleep. The last of us to get up the next morning was Justin, the future Marine. We all took the time to remind him that his sleeping habits will have to change when he enters boot camp. After a session of intense picture taking, we all went our separate ways.

"I am still unsure if I should label this as an initial or repeat stay. What I am sure of is that this cabin at Laurelwood Plantation is the best example of why the Slave Dwelling Project should continue to exist. The mansion and the cabin were almost victims of demolition by neglect. The Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation stepped in and saved both. The new owners Jeremy and Jackie Thomas also deserve praise because of their willingness to breathe life back into these properties and go above and beyond to ensure that the cabin will be used for educational purposes."

Joseph McGillSlave Dwelling Project

I am looking forward to working with all entities necessary to ensure that this cabin will reach its fullest potential in inspiring others to come up to the standards that The Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation and owners Jeremy and Jackie have set. The ancestors would be proud!

Overnight at the Laurelwood Slave Dwelling

By Prinny Anderson

"This overnight stay highlighted for me in a personal and physical way what the lives of enslaved people might have been like. It made me much more thoughtful about the harsh contrast between the lives of free, privileged, European American slave owners, like my own ancestors, and the lives of the enslaved and intentionally deprived African American people. It gave the shame of benefitting from slavery a physical form, a cold night on the floor. It also gave me a way of contributing to the re-warming and restoration of “right relationship” among the descendants of the enslaved and the slaveowners, a way of taking tiny steps towards making amends and seeking reconciliation."

Prinny AndersonComing to the Table

My overnight stay at Laurelwood was my second sleepover in a slave dwelling, and as expected, it was different from the first one. Two themes from the stay continue to echo in my mind. Bringing seven people together to sit around a fire in the hearth, talk and tell stories, and sleep in the cabin was like a housewarming event. And much of what stood out to me about the visit were the ordinary aspects of life – how it probably was 150 years ago compared to how it is now, how it was for enslaved people compared to how it is for a privileged, comfortably off, middle class professional.

The notion of “house warming” resonates in several ways. For one thing, that April evening was unseasonably chilly, and fortunately, a couple of people in our group knew how to build a fire and then looked after it diligently. That fire warmed the house enough to make our evening delightful and our overnight stay tolerable. Since our overnight stay was the first time in several decades since anyone had slept in the building, and since the cabin had been restored, with parts of the foundation, the floor, the walls and the roof having all been reconstructed, we were “re-warming” the space. We were bringing life back into the building. What’s even more important to the seven who spent the night is that we were the first people since Emancipation, as best we know, who came to sleep in the cabin with a focus on the enslaved people who had lived there. We were there to “re-warm” the memory, honor and respect those people should have.

Finally, for me, there were echoes of my experience at the community gathering held at Monticello. In 2007, descendants of all the people, enslaved and free, workers and owners, African and European, gathered at Monticello to become acquainted with one another, to talk about our shared heritage, and to look for ways to reconnect. As we came up to the mansion, the President of the foundation that cares for the building called out, “Welcome home, welcome back home.” At Laurelwood, we were welcomed home by the current owner of the property. We the living and the memory of those gone on were all welcomed home.

The other aspect of my experience was paying attention to the very ordinary details of life. The cabin has no furniture now; it probably had very little furniture when it was a slave dwelling. We pulled planks together to create seating, and we had all brought bedding for the night, so we were reasonably comfortable. But we reflected on what the enslaved people would have had – probably no chairs or tables; probably a thin, straw-filled pallet to lie on at night; and, if the overseer was doing his duty, a blanket, but maybe only one blanket. That chilly April night would not have been very comfortable. January would have been much worse. And back in the day, the owners and overseers mostly likely didn’t give a second thought to allowing people to live in such conditions.

There was no running water at the cabin; we brought our own water, in jugs and bottles. Perhaps there was a well or a pump somewhere on the property in earlier times, but fetching it and storing it would have been a constant chore performed by enslaved people, first for the convenience of their owners and then for their own use. Carrying water is time-consuming and exhausting, to the extent that still there are places in the world where people do not wash and do not stay sufficiently hydrated simply because of the effort involved. Was that the case for the Laurelwood enslaved community?

Of course, with no running water, there were no toilets. There might have been a latrine. Or the enslaved inhabitants of the cabin may have had the same experience we did, of finding a sheltered spot in the woods. That’s manageable for camping. Imagine it as a daily way of life. Imagine it as daily life for people whose duties included emptying the chamberpots of European Americans who did not have to run out to the latrine or find a quiet spot in the woods.

This overnight stay highlighted for me in a personal and physical way what the lives of enslaved people might have been like. It made me much more thoughtful about the harsh contrast between the lives of free, privileged, European American slave owners, like my own ancestors, and the lives of the enslaved and intentionally deprived African American people. It gave the shame of benefitting from slavery a physical form, a cold night on the floor. It also gave me a way of contributing to the re-warming and restoration of “right relationship” among the descendants of the enslaved and the slaveowners, a way of taking tiny steps towards making amends and seeking reconciliation.

Laurelwood

by Tim Shipley

"As I teach students history, I often encourage them to look into their own past and heritage. One cannot understand where they are going until they understand where they have been. I look to future experiences at Laurelwood with my students. This will be a great way to open their eyes to the past in knowing their heritage."

Teacher Tim ShipleyLower Richland High School

The idea of staying overnight in a slave cabin would never have crossed my mind until I met Joe and Jeremy. Over the past year, Jeremy has worked to connect our school with the slave cabin and offer the use of it to teach students. Well, after an overnight stay in the slave cabin it has been interesting since, as I talk to others about the experience and they say “you really stayed”. Normally, as a history teacher, I would look at this as another experience to use in the classroom however, having looked into my own family history the past few years made this experience different.

Sleeping overnight in the conditions I was not used to opening my eyes to what even life must have been like for my own ancestors much less African-Americans. It made me wonder how my ancestors might have been towards people of other races. I do know that there were sharecroppers in my past, but for them the conditions still were not to the level of ridicule and segregation of African –Americans during that time.

As I teach students history, I often encourage them to look into their own past and heritage. One cannot understand where they are going until they understand where they have been. I look to future experiences at Laurelwood with my students. This will be a great way to open their eyes to the past in knowing their heritage.

Slave Cabin Stay

by Harold Taylor, Student

"To compare the lifestyles of the white man and the black man on the plantation is to compare day and night. The master lived in a big, lavished, warm, cozy house, while the slave toiled all day only to return to a shanty shack with barely a fireplace to warm the hearth. The black man worked to carry the economy the white man thrived on. The white man took what the black man broke his back to give, maybe not freely, but in the same sense, the black man had to give."

Student Harold TaylorLower Richland High School

Slave cabins were the lodgings of individuals who were forced to work for nothing in the United States in the beginnings of the creation of the United States. The slaves were forced to do labor just about every day in the field for fear of abuse or attack. These men and women went day in and day out working, more often than not, for people who cared nothing of their well being as long as they were alive. At the end of the day these poor souls would be forced to return to cabins that were little more than large sheds.

While in the Laurelwood plantation’s slave cabin it was hard not to notice the size of the cabin itself. The cabin was no bigger than around twelve by ten feet. This cabin was devoid of anything more than a few shanty doors and drafty windows, with only a single fire place to heat the whole home. The slaves returning after a hard day’s labor in the field would do little more than come inside and go to sleep. In fact, according to several individuals who stayed at the cabin overnight, that is all the cabin was probably used for. This shows what kind of torment the slaves lived in. The cabin itself was quite cold without a fire, very drafty if any open area was not blocked, and covered with small cracks in the floor that made sleeping in a sleeping bag almost unbearable.

Many slave cabins had little to no furniture on the inside so slaves were forced to sleep on the cold hard floor. According to a one mister Joe, the cabin might have had a small table with just enough space to set a few items on to eat or what not. In this way the slaves obviously had to become very resourceful to stay warm during the colder winter months. As those who experienced the overnight stay will recall, the cabin was quite cold. The individuals who stayed will also recall that they stayed in the spring, as the weather was warming up. Slaves who lived in the cabin had to live there year round. During the summer, the slaves had to fear snakes crawling through the floor boards, and during the winter the slaves had to fight the cold just to stay warm. Both of these tasks were hard as cracks in between the floor boards made plenty of room for snakes to enter and the sole fireplace required constant attention to warm the room.

The slaves must have relied on each other immensely. During the summer, the slaves could open the windows for a cross breeze, but the draft could put out the cooking fire. The slaves who stayed in that cabin, must have found a way to keep the place cool, but cook at the same time. Surely it was difficult, but the winters must have been worse. The slaves relied upon whatever they were given or could find. Slaves would probably make blankets and huddle together to keep warm, but even the mornings were cold and they would be forced to go to work.

To compare the lifestyles of the white man and the black man on the plantation is to compare day and night. The master lived in a big, lavished, warm, cozy house, while the slave toiled all day only to return to a shanty shack with barely a fireplace to warm the hearth. The black man worked to carry the economy the white man thrived on. The white man took what the black man broke his back to give, maybe not freely, but in the same sense, the black man had to give.

Overall, from one night of staying in a slave cabin, it is easier to see the misdeed of early white Americans. While history favors the white man early on, it is deeper to feel the pain and suffering of the early black man. However, it is important to recall that without each of their contributions, the white man’s cruelty and black man’s sacrifice are part of the reason why Americans today can live together in harmony. Without the pain of slavery there wouldn’t have been the joy of today, when the white man and the black man can look upon each other as equals, as friends, as brothers.

My Experience at The Laurelwood Plantation

by Justin Castor, Student

"I can say that the experience has made me a better person. It’s taught me humility for those who lived daily in the conditions I experienced for only 12 hours. It’s shown me an importance in knowing and attempting to learn about your history. Most of all, it has proven that history is real."

Student Justin CastorLower Richland High School

I have never quite taken the time to contemplate the idea of slavery or the fact that, at one point or another, my ancestors went through it. As I visited the slave cabin at Laurelwood, I was faced with 2 conflicting views, and that is exactly how I wish to present my experience. On one hand, being a student in IB history lent to my interest and the analytical approach I took upon first arrival. On the other, being an African- American didn’t sink in until the night. I had to come to terms with the magnitude of the event. The stay caused me to question the system of slavery, the current state of the African Americans in America, and me. Hopefully by explaining these views, you can gain an insight not only on the physical conditions, but also my personal feelings involved with staying at Laurelwood.

From the historical perspective, slavery had and has always been an institution since biblical times. I had grown accustomed to looking at “the bigger picture”, and the bigger picture tells me that slavery in North America was much more civilized than in Latin America. That being said, it was hard for me to empathize with slavery, much like Americans who fail to understand soldiers. The cabin was about half the size of the average high school class room, and was split into 2 main rooms (the porch of the cabin was enclosed in at a later period, creating a 3rd room which we did not use). History tells us that the space allocated would have held a family of 10+, with minimal consideration for basic living conditions. This space actually would have worked fine, considering that the house would only be used to sleep in, as the slaves would have been working on the 2500 acres that the Laurelwood plantation would have covered.

Growing up, I neglected doing research into my ancestors and my own family line. I thought that it was simply “the cool thing to do” for African Americans and held no real substance. I had grown to refuse a connection to my slave ancestors, as I felt too many people would use these ancestors as a crutch to continue various negative social practices in the African American society. When I arrived at the cabin, it took a while for me to fully digest what I was feeling. I eventually understood that heritage was a very important thing. I understood that learning your history can be one of the most enlightening experiences you can ever hope to undergo. Being so close, you can literally imagine what may have happened in the past. Suddenly, what I read in textbooks became something I was able to see in my mind’s eye.

In some ways, the event is indescribable. Joe told us that “every stay is different” and I am sure that each stay will mean something different to each person. I can say that the experience has made me a better person. It’s taught me humility for those who lived daily in the conditions I experienced for only 12 hours. It’s shown me an importance in knowing and attempting to learn about your history. Most of all, it has proven that history is real. I think that students in history classes can sometimes forget that that what they read in books was once as real their own lives and experiences. Slaves slept on the very floor I slept on, braved the same cold, and did so with less than half of the accommodations I enjoyed. Knowing that, I can personally say that the stay in the slave cabin is something I will never forget.

Related Story and Video

Historic Slave Cabin Renovations Complete from WIST 10, Columbia, SC
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Slave Dwelling Project Revisits the Behind the Big House Tour, Holly Springs, MS

Behind the Big House Tour Opening, Smiling Pheonix, Holly Springs, MS
Students Tour Burton Place With Joe McGill
Dwelling at Rowan Oak
Horse-Drawn Carriage at Magnolias, Holly Springs, MS
Magnolias, Holly Springs, MS
Hugh Craft House
Interior of Dwelling at Rowan Oak
Joseph McGill Presents at Hugh Craft House
Joseph McGill Presents to Students, Burton Place, Holly Springs, MS
Magnolias
McCarroll Place Slave Dwelling
One of Two Dwellings at Rowan Oak
The Royal Court of the Behind the Big House Tour, 2013
Young Member of the Royal Court in Period Dress
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#FFCC00fadetrue

One way of testing the effectiveness of the Slave Dwelling Project is when I get invited back to a place where I have stayed already. An invitation to return is an indication to me that the project is working and I am not the only one who has come to the conclusion that preserving and interpreting former slave dwellings is the right thing to do. Accepting the invitation to go back to Holly Springs, Mississippi to participate in the Behind the Big House Tour was a no-brainer. The tour is in its second year of existence and gives people participating in the Holy Springs Pilgrimage the opportunity to hear the rest of the story by touring the slave dwellings behind the “big house".

Dwelling at Rowan Oak
Interior of Slave Dwelling, Rowan Oak, Holly Springs, MS
One of Two Dwellings at Rowan Oak
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Last year when I participated in the Behind the Big House Tour, I took a side trip to Oxford, Mississippi. While there I visited Rowan Oak which was owned by author William Faulkner until his death. The Greek revival house was built in 1840 by Colonel Robert Sheegog a planter from Tennessee. I left there with a verbal agreement that when I returned this year, I would spend a night in one of the out buildings. In fact, when my host booked my plane ticket for the trip they added two extra days on the front end to compensate for the stay at Rowan Oak. Unfortunately, the stay did not occur because of a bureaucratic nightmare. I did visit the site and had a productive conversation with the curator who gave me and my host access to the outbuildings. With patience, I am hopeful that the stay will occur in the near future however while there I did see a large snake which curbed my enthusiasm for that stay to occur immediately.

Along the way, the project has gained supporters who have helped it in many ways, those who publish my blogs; those who spend nights in slave dwellings with me; those who help find those obscure slave dwellings; those stewards of dwellings who grant me permission to spend a night; to those who just offer an encouraging word along the way. In the year 2010 when the project was in its infancy, my first slave dwelling lecture was given on the campus of the University of South Carolina. It was arranged by Jody Skipper, PhD, who was a doctoral student at that time. After a series of emails Dr. Skipper met me in Anderson, SC the site of one of the early stays for the project. After receiving her doctoral degree, she accepted a teaching position at the University of Mississippi. Fate would have it that we would meet again, as a result of this Mississippi trip, she made arrangements for me to address two of her classes. I was not surprised to learn that she along with her graduate students, would serve as volunteers for the Behind the Big House Tour.

Hugh Craft House, Holly Springs, MS
Joseph McGill Presents at Hugh Craft House
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Year two would see many positive changes for the Behind the Big House Tour. One such change was adding school children, so on Thursday morning, April 11 local school groups were scheduled to visit the Hugh Craft House and slave dwelling. This was also an improvement because last year only the slave dwelling at this house was available for public viewing. Unfortunate for me, recalling my knowledge of being a park ranger at Fort Sumter, I had a preconceived notion that the high school students would misbehave, but proper preparation by their teachers; an orientation in the “big house” by Alex Mercedes and the home owner; the power of the place; and my Civil War uniform were all factors in the kids giving me their undivided attention. I only regret that I had to cut short the time given to the last group because of another scheduled obligation. Regrettable because one young lady in the last group engaged in a line of questioning about the institution of slavery that made her get so emotional to the point of shedding tears; honorable because the rest of the group respected her outward moment of mourning. This was a true testament of the power of place.

Behind the Big House Tour Opening at Smiling Phoenix

Behind the Big House Tour Opening at Smiling Phoenix, Holly Springs, MS

The official opening ceremony for the project occurred at the Smiling Phoenix a newly restored historic building on the town square of Holly Springs. The spacious building is now Holly Springs’ only coffee shop and is the talk of the town. I was thoroughly impressed by the demographics of the crowd that showed up for the event. My observation would be 60 % African American and 40 % Caucasian. This impressed me because I recalled last year for the two days that the two slave dwellings were open to the public only a sprinkling of African Americans came for the tour. I also recalled that as I queried those few African Americans the overwhelming message was that before the Behind the Big House Tour, the Holly Spring Pilgrimage had nothing to offer them. My only hope was that the strong presence of African Americans at this opening event would translate in to more African Americans touring the slave dwellings.

Students Tour Burton Place With Joseph McGill
Joseph McGill Presents to Students at Burton Place
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Friday morning would find me interpreting the slave dwelling at Burton Place. It was not necessary for me to spend the night in the space because I had done so the year before. One African American female volunteer showed up well before the scheduled school group of third graders. As all third graders are, they were full of pertinent questions. When we went inside the space, their line of questions continued, I continued to answer in a manner which third graders could understand. For the second time in two days the power of the place brought tears to one of the participant’s eyes, but it was the volunteer who experienced this emotion not any of the third graders.

The day continued with a program at Christ Church. Alex Mercedes (whom I had met the day before and had the pleasure of co-presenting with to the school students) played three songs on the piano which included Ashokan Farewell by Jay Ungar, one of my favorite songs. I along with doctoral candidate Justin Rogers presented on religion and slavery. I fore-warned my host that my knowledge on this subject was perfunctory at most and most of the time should be yielded to the young scholar Justin Rogers. This proved to be a good decision because Justin was quite thorough in is research and the explanation of same. I could only present my knowledge of using religion to justify slavery; extant Praise Houses; antebellum church balconies and galleries; slave burial grounds and practices; and the history of the song “Amazing Grace”.

McCarroll Place

I was then scheduled to present at the McCarroll Place Quarters, one of the new stops on the Behind the Big House Tour. Last year I had a brief stop at the site and was glad to know that the current owners agreed to make it a part of the tour. The main house on the property is uninhabited and has been for years. Volunteers managed to get the quarters in a condition that could be toured by the public. I must admit that I am getting a little soft because while the opportunity to spend the night there was presented, I passed. Misinformation managed to minimize the number of people that came to the site. Although interpretive information was provided, I had not familiarized myself with it enough to feel comfortable disseminating it to a visiting public. Fortunately, the few people who were there were given the history of the site by my host Chelius Carter.

I vividly remember that one of the slaves that lived in the dwelling was a brick maker who was promised his freedom after he trained another brick maker. While still on the site, I met Rkhty Jones. Our conversation revealed that African Americans made the bricks that were used to build the antebellum buildings in Holly Springs. I revealed to her that this past February, I gave a lecture in Charleston titled Who Built Charleston: Factoring Slave Labor into Antebellum Architecture. We both agreed that the concept of slaves making bricks can be applied to all historic cities where slavery occurred.

The night ended with dinner and a movie on the green. I joined my hosts for a bar-b-que dinner and the outside viewing of the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes.” As an avid channel surfer, that was the first time that I had seen the movie in its entirety. The KKK scenes were a lot more poignant in this setting and bar-b-que may not have been the best choice to serve as the main course for dinner.

Horse-Drawn Carriage, Magnolias
Magnolias, Holly Springs, MS
Members of the Royal Court, Behind the Big House Tour
The Royal Court of the Behind the Big House Tour, 2013
Young Member of the Royal Court in Period Dress
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Magnolias would be my thirty ninth former slave dwelling in which I would spend the night. The main house best known for the movie Cookie’s Fortune which was filmed there, was recently acquired by the young couple Frank and Genevieve Busby. Last year I toured the house and saw the potential for the stay. The owners worked frantically to prepare the entire house for the Pilgrimage in the weeks prior to the stay. Extensive renovations by a series of owners had attached the once separated kitchen and slave dwelling to the main house therefore, the average person would not readily identify the space as one that once housed slaves. This attachment also meant that the space would be complete with a bed, electricity and an indoor full bathroom. This attachment also made interpreting the space that much more interesting for it gave me the opportunity to explain to the visitors how some spaces that once housed slaves are sometimes hidden in plain view in attempts by home owners to add square footage to their houses or adaptively reuse the space.

That evening, I was assigned to the Hugh Craft House. As I was familiar with the narrative, that information flowed much more easily. It was there that, in making a point that the labor was not free for slave owners, one visitor stated that “the slave owner was economically liable for the feeding, clothing, housing and health care of his slaves even the non productive ones like the young and elderly.” I stated that you can justify slavery economically but can you justify it morally? One other visitor added a statement supporting my point of view and did not let the initial statement carry the day.

Behind the Big House II was much bigger and better. It has the potential to be bigger still. Like the Slave Dwelling Project, the Behind the Big House Tour is still going through growing pains and still has to convince some people and entities we mean no harm to anyone and that this is the right thing to do. There are several well established historic house tours carried out in places where slavery once existed in this nation. I hereby challenge all of them to step out of their comfort zones and interpret those extant slave dwellings behind those architecturally significant buildings therefore telling the complete story of this nation’s history.

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Teaching Moments: Slave Dwelling Project Includes Local Youths in Stay at Hopsewee Plantation

Gloria Bar Ford, Sophia Jackson, Zenobia Washington
Hearth in Slave Cabin, Hopsewee Plantation
Hearth Lit
Hopsewee Plantation House
Hopsewee Plantation Slave Cabin
Reajean Beatty Welcomes Guests at Hopsewee Plantation
Sophia Jackson Performs Stories from the Big Book of Gullah
Sophia Jackson
Storyteller Gloria Bar Ford
Storytellers Gloria Bar Ford, Sophia Jackson, Zenobia Washington
Young Men from AME Church Group Sons of Allen
Young Men from Sons of Allen, Morning After Hopsewee Stay
The Next Day ~ Ramona La Roche, Morning After Hopsewee Stay
The Next Day ~ Ramona La Roche Greets the Morning
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The first stay for the Slave Dwelling Project in 2013 was a repeat stay at Hopsewee Plantation on Friday, March 1.

One constant in both stays would be an event planned around dinner. Raejean and staff again showcased their zeal, ability and love of cooking for on the menu was shrimp and grits; chicken gumbo; field peas; okra and tomatoes; macaroni and cheese; pineapple casserole; pimento cheese biscuits and bread pudding.

The room was full to capacity and included guests from as far away as Chicago, Illinois and Mystic Sea Port, Connecticut who came specifically because of the program that owners Frank and Raejean planned. During dinner, I had the opportunity to address the guests on the subject of the Slave Dwelling Project.

Given only ten minutes to present, I let the audience decide which of the twelve states of which I had spent a night in a former slave dwelling that I would talk about. Their choices were Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Having the audience respond to where they were from as I went alphabetically through the list, only Louisiana, Missouri and North Carolina were excluded from the presentation, proving the geographic diversity of the audience.

Gloria Bar Ford, Sophia Jackson, Zenobia Washington

The highlight of the evening was a presentation titled “Stories from the Big Book of Gullah”. Story tellers Zenobia Washington and Sophia Jackson presented original stories based on Gullah traditions. Artist Zenobia Washington was raised in the port city of Georgetown, SC and influenced by the Gullah culture.

Many know Zenobia through her art of doll making, Zenobia is the director of Frameworks, a non-profit organization working with the youth of Georgetown in story telling and theater arts. Sophia Jackson is a native of Georgetown, SC and a longtime lover and pursuer of the arts. Having graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in film making and African American studies, she has recently joined efforts with Frameworks as a vehicle for sharing her expertise and artistic views. Also joining the cast was Gloria Bar Ford. Interspersed with poetry, storytelling and singing, the presentation was excellent and shows great potential for future collaboration.

Young Men from AME Church Group Sons of Allen

One other very important element of the stay was that owners Frank and Raejean agreed that Zenobia could arrange for some youth and their chaperones to spend the night in the slave cabin with me. Seven young men ages 14 – 16 associated with the group Sons of Allen were chosen. Throughout the thirty eight stays, I have had many people share the experience of sleeping in the slave dwellings with me. This one, I would anticipate the most because of the potential to influence youth, more specifically, young African American males. The opportunity to educate was fully embraced. Dropped off by their parents, all of the young men had arrived at or before the appointed time of 6:00 pm. I, arriving at 5:30 pm, had the opportunity to meet some of the parents of the young men. All of the young men seemed ready for what they had volunteered to do. Their actions through dinner and the presentations were more than respectable.

Hopsewee Slave Cabin

Upon entering the cabin to prepare my spot for sleeping, I was not surprised that all seven young men chose the same side of the cabin. I could not let them just drift off to sleep without first taking advantage of this teachable moment.

Although they attended the dinner presentation, I wanted to give them more details about what our ancestors endured for us to have the liberties that we enjoy today. I asked fellow Civil War reenactors Terry James who would be sleeping in a slave cabin for the 12th time and Ramona La Roche who would be staying for the first time to join me in communicating with the young men. Ramona queried the young men about their plans for the future.

I could not help but recall a situation that Terry James and I experienced when we slept in the other slave cabin on the property. Terry told them that when he closed the door on the cabin he looked up and noticed that a snake had shed its skin right above the door. He went on to say that we both had to convince ourselves that because the shed skin was dry, the event took placed weeks maybe months before we got there and the snake was long gone. My role in this teachable moment was minimized when Terry James led the discussion drawing on his experience of currently raising two teen age boys and his experience of sleeping in 11 cabins to date. When prompted by Ramona, I only had to chime in to keep the conversation in an historical context. This involved telling the group about the movement westward of this young nation and how slavery factored into that movement.

As if planned, our teachable moment was pleasantly interrupted by owners Frank and Raejean, Frank went to the side of the chaperones and Raejean came to the side where Ramona, Terry and I were with the seven young men. Hoping that the young men were taking notes for an upcoming essay that they had to write about the stay in a slave cabin, I queried Raejean as if the information that she was about to give me, I would be hearing for the first time. She stated that she tries to avoid giving guided tours of the house because it usually becomes a tour about them and not the property and its past inhabitants. She leaves the job of the house tours to the hired staff. As she explained the history of Hopsewee, I could not help but to latch on to what she said about its connection to the invention of the water and steamed powered rice mill. John Hume Lucas who owned the plantation from 1844 – 1853 was a successful rice grower and engineer and a relative of Jonathan Lucas, Jr. and Jonathan Lucas Sr. Both Lucas’ Jr. and Sr. were responsible for inventing, building and perfecting rice mills. I could not help but to interrupt her presentation to make connection to Eli Whitney and his invention of the cotton gin. Both inventions increased the need for more slaves.

Hearth Lit

When Raejean and Frank left we became more grateful that the fireplaces in the cabin worked. In anticipation of a cold night, Raejean and Frank lit a fire in both fireplaces and provided enough wood to last throughout the night. The fire was cozy but we learned quickly that the windows on the cabin had to be slightly open to let out some of the smoke that would accumulate inside. After our session with the young men, all of the adults gathered on the other side of the cabin and quickly started to talk about subjects that mattered to adults. I became more acquainted with the group Sons of Allen. These men were responsible for assembling the group of young men who were staying the night. Information taken directly from their website describes the group as follows: “In 1984, the African Methodist Episcopal Church created the Sons of Allen Men’s Fellowship to foster closer relationships between men of the church, to equip men of the church for meaningful service, to reach unchurched men, and to present positive role models for our youth. The Sons of Allen has grown into an important connectional movement over the past twenty-plus years and the Fellowship is becoming a true connectional ministry. The challenges and disturbing realities facing African American men call for a response from the church.”

As we all claimed our spots on the floor we realized the twelve of us sleeping in the cabin that night would be using up all of the available floor space. I am certain that if the artifacts that were in the cabin were removed, we could have squeezed in even more people and that was likely the way that it would have been during the time of slavery. Once again, in preparation for his night sleep, Terry James attached the slave shackles to his wrist. As I drifted off to sleep, the young men were still talking among themselves. As we slept through the night, one of the chaperones would occasionally get up and put another log on the fire. On one occasion I awoke to a blazing fire in the fireplace and the sound of an owl in the background.

Ramona La Roche Greets the Morning

Unlike the first stay, sleeping in the cabin farthest away from Highway 17 made a big difference because the noise of the vehicles going across the bridge that spans the North Santee River was less prominent. Waking up the next morning, we all took advantage of the opportunity to take group photographs before we all went our separate ways. One by one the mothers of the young men came to pick them up. All of the mothers expressed great appreciation for the experience that we gave their kids. Raejean came and offered those of us remaining breakfast, some accepted but I had an appointment to keep with my young daughter.

Somewhere along this journey, I was told that what I was doing was art, it was Holly Springs, Mississippi to be exact. Until this stay at Hopsewee, I did not buy into that thought process. Did the dinner audience come for the food, did they come for the great performance of Stories from the Big Book of Gullah, or did they come to hear about the Slave Dwelling Project?

I cannot answer that question but I do know that all three elements worked well together. I also know that those three things combined did not excite me as much as spending the night in a slave cabin with seven young African American males.

Young Men from Sons of Allen, Morning After Hopsewee Stay

I just hope that the experience gave them an indication of what their ancestors endured so that they can enjoy the liberties that they have today. Owners Frank and Raejean and all others involved in organizing this stay should be proud and also know that you have now raised the bar for future stays in extant slave dwellings.

Although a repeat stay, many new and interesting twists were added that would add new standards to the project.

We Shall Over Come

By: Mr. Jordan Manigault
Property! The definition of property is someone’s possession. Do you know what it means for a person to be called someone’s property? When you are considered property you have no freedom, nor rights. If you don’t have either you have no say or control of your life. Slaves were considered possessions of their slave owners. During that time in history they were used as collateral. They could be sold and bought just like you buy items out of the store today. Therefore, as a result, their lives were affected by daily ridicule and unimaginable hardships. Slaves had no control over when they were going to be sold or traded. Families were torn apart in many ways. The husbands and sons watched their mothers, wives, and sister suffer abuse physically, sexually, and mentally and could do nothing about it. They were property of their slave owner. The lives of our ancestors as slaves was hard, but slavery still exist today.

In today’s society we enslave with modern day technology. Technology has taken over to the point where we are too dependent on it. We no longer know and understand what it is like to think for ourselves or to work with our hands because computer and technology does everything for us. Children no longer enjoy the outdoors. They don’t go outside to play because the majority of them have computers, video games or cell phones in which they spend all their time on these devices. We no longer share conversations with our family and friends or love ones. Again, we have been bought by the use of technology, every time a new device comes out we worry our parents to go out and purchase the newest device of today. We need to get back to some of our old habits.

In order to overcome being enslaved to technology we have to put those devices down and spend more time together as families; laughing and talking to one another, spending more time outdoors enjoying the gift GOD gave us to see, hear and smell his creation.

In order for this change to have a positive impact on today’s youth, everyone must get involved. Adults must realize that they should not only be concerned on the well being of their children, but ALL children as a whole. I believe that more outreach ministries could be established that will teach the youth self-respect and dignity. By instilling these values in the youth now the ending results will be remarkable.

Hopsewee

By Mr. Timothy Guiles

Hopsewee use to be a plantation with slaves. It was very cold and dark. There weren’t any beds to sleep on. If we were slaves, we would have to sleep on the floor but we had sleeping bags. It was fun because I had my friends there with me but if we were in slave times, it wouldn’t have been fun at all. The men that stayed with us told us the real story about slaves. Not the fake stuff we learn or learned about in history class. I was surprised at what they told me. I didn’t know that slave work up at 4:00 am to start their day of working. One of the men told us that when we are in class, think about what our ancestors went through in slavery and use that knowledge to improve our school and work manners.

We had a fireplace but that only kept us warm for so long. When I woke up in the middle of the night, it was super cold. Before we went to sleep in the slave house, we ate some food that they use to eat back in slave times. There was grits, mac and cheese, lemonade, tea, beans and more.

It’s not fair that we have more things than slaves had we still don’t appreciate what they did for us. We sit there; stand there with freedom because our ancestors did that for us. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X helped Blacks earn freedom. If it weren’t for Abraham Lincoln, we would still be in those fields picking cotton and getting whipped for no reason.

I learned that if you don’t try, you won’t succeed. I also learned that you are going to have to do things that you don’t want to do in order to get where you want to go in life. It’s life as most say today. This world still isn’t equal enough. We still have murderers, racism, and rapist. We are going to have to learn how to get along with each other or this world is going to break apart.

Hopsewee was a very good experience for me to see how a slave would sleep at night. Well I enjoyed staying there. That will be a never forgetting moment.

Related Reading

Ramona La Roche, founder of Family TYES SC, has written about her experience of the overnight stay at Hopsewee. You can read her reflections here, on her blog Gullah Galz Ink.
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