Monday, March 21, 2011

Daughter overnights with dad who works to preserve slave dwellings

Dear Readers,
About Our Freedom is quite honored to publish this article and photographs submitted by Jocelyn and Joseph McGill recounting their recent stay at Middleton Place.  What a great example of teaching the rising generation and encouraging them to cherish history.

Keep up the good work Jocelyn.  Many youth will be inspired by your experiences. Your dad is involved in a very important work. It is so wonderful that you gave up the comfort of home to see what things were like for slaves long ago.  Thank you for sharing this great moment with us.  We look forward to hearing from you again.  

Robin Foster
About Our Freedom
Middleton Place,  Jocelyn and Joe McGill.

Slave Dwelling Project 2011
Written by:  Jocelyn and Joseph McGill
While I am anxious to tell the world all about what happened with the Slave Dwelling Project since my last overnight  stay at Brattonsville Plantation on Saturday, November 6, 2010, I must respectfully restrain myself.  My most recent stay was Saturday, March 12, 2011 at Middleton Place in Charleston, SC.  I was thrilled to be accompanied by my 14 year old daughter Jocelyn on that night.  The next three paragraphs will be her account of that experience.  Unfortunately, her desire to stay far exceeded her desire to write about the experience so here goes.

Eliza's house, Middleton Place.
Jocelyn McGill

When I got there I looked around the cabin we were going to sleep in. The cabin that we stayed in was one of the first buildings I saw when I walked in.  I thought it was going to be very small and dirty, but it was actually spacious and clean.                

Middleton Place, Jocelyn McGill petting mule.

While I was there I walked around to look at the animals. They had sheep that had some lambs, goats, Ginny hens, a mule, peacocks, chickens, ducks, a horse, water buffaloes, and cows.   A reporter came and asked us some questions, and after he left, we started a fire and made some s’mores.   A photographer came and took some pictures, and when he left we put the fire out and went to sleep.

When I woke up I went outside and sat in front of the cabin. The reporter came back, and asked more questions.  We walked around and looked at the animals, and I got to pet the horse and the mule. They said there were bob cats, but I didn’t see any.    

Joseph McGill

Jocelyn still has the desire to stay at other sites in the future but I do not know if an opportunity like Middleton Place will present itself in the future.  I am just thrilled that we could spend that quality time together and hope that her participation will inspire a younger audience to be interested in the Slave Dwelling Project.  

In this second year of the project, it will expand to the states of Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Maryland and North Carolina.  The overnight stays are now interspersed with lectures and public interaction when feasible.  At least two additional outlets will publish the blogs of each stay.   Francis Marion University in Florence, SC has provided funding for a research assistant.  The South Carolina National Heritage Corridor is assisting with researching extant slave dwellings within the corridor.  The Magnolia Plantation and Garden’s foundation has provided some funding for the project.  A documentary about the Morris Street Slave Dwellings in Anderson, SC has been produced.  A local artist is painting a picture that will interpret and benefit the project.  I am consulting with property owners on what should be done with slave dwellings that they possess.  Several well capable property owners have offered to relocate dilapidated slave dwellings to their properties for restoration.  The future for the Slave Dwelling Project looks bright.

Learn more:

Charleston's glory days end

Effort to preserve slave cabins enters 2nd year

Honoring Slaves By Sleeping In Their Cabins

Contact:  Joseph McGill, Jr. | Program Officer, Southern Office
National Trust for Historic Preservation | William Aiken House, 456 King Street, 3rd Floor, Charleston, SC 29403 | Phone: 843.722.8552 | Fax: 843.722.8652 | Email: |

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What is history without historical documentation?

I always have approached history and historical documentation as if I was color blind, and I have always tried to seek learning from the best books. From the time I was very young, I was a Saturday morning regular at my local library's history section.
I have studied over and above what was required in history.  As I began to research my own genealogy over 26 years ago, I recognized I had been cheated out of a real education in history. Who in the world decided that textbooks and lectures could exclude so much historical documentation and replace with it with man's interpretation of history?  Original documentation and oral history are the REAL history.

 A people's history of the United States - Howa...Image by bowbrick via Flickr

I feel like I am only beginning to grasp American history.  I know that it is not too late, but I look back in regret as I consider some of the decisions I would have made differently had I known the truths which I am now discovering.  Even more disheartening is the fact that I would have paid more close attention to the things my elders tried to admonish me to do.  One thing my father always rehearsed was, "Pay cash for everything.  Never use credit."  My father purchased new cars with cash. He left no mortgages.  In fact, he owned several homes that he either built or purchased.

This meant sacrifice on the part of my family, but he always said, "Always live BELOW your means, then you can do it."  My father stands as a shining example to me when I think of the danger of credit and debt.  There was not a frivolous bone in hs body.

I came into 2011 with a desire to identify the social, political, economic, and other areas where we have not recognized freedom.  We have reason to celebrate the shackles that came off as the result of the Civil War and Emancipation, but we must not continue to avoid defining and embracing every inclusive aspect of freedom.  We are not completely free, and different ones of us are free to a different extent.  Therefore, we have much work to do.

Not only do we live with the residue of slavery, but also certain immigrants to this country by choice were enslaved when they came in search of freedom.  When I think of the sacrifice of my parents to provide a private school education for me and the fact that I was never introduced to the truths in the documents which are now being shared with me, I shudder and feel cheated.

As I reflect on the many people who cannot find an immigrant ancestor on the US Census and as I read the accounts of those trapped in peonage whose families never heard from them and did not have money sent home to them, my heart aches as I wonder if the answers lie in the number of peonage records such as sworn statements, bogus fines, federal indictments, etc. 

For those of you who have not been following, About Peonage, I will write about the latest documents shared by genealogist and peonage researcher, Antoinette Harrell, which document immigrants who suffered peonage. It will be posted later today.

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