"About Our Freedom is once again honored to share the recent news regarding the Slave Dwelling Project and Joseph McGill Jr's recent stay on Evergreen Plantation in Edgard, Louisiana. Understanding the economy and history of our ancestors who lived in slave dwellings helps us to appreciate our progenitors, their community, and what freedom meant to them. The first-hand accounts below of the enriching activities and increased appreciation for the slave dwelling community on the part of participants from both races is simply beautiful. Please keep us updated about the restoration of the slave cabin destroyed by the fallen oak tree, and thank you for helping us to see the significance of slave dwellings!" ---Robin Foster, About Our Freedom
|Evergreen Plantation. Edgard, Louisiana|
|Joseph McGill, Jr. in front of slave dwelling destroyed by oak tree on Evergreen Plantation|
|Twenty-two slave dwellings line Avenue of Oaks on Evergreen Plantation.|
While I was anxious to spend the night in one of the dwellings, I could not neglect the purpose for which I came to Louisiana, to participle in the Louisiana Statewide Preservation Conference. The next day Jane and I traversed the state to get to Leesville. We would return on Friday, April 8, I would stay in the slave dwelling that night.
|Bonfire on Friday, April 8th on Evergreen Plantation|
The gathering continued with storytelling and ended with drumming. We all proceeded to the two dwellings as a group. A libation ceremony was conducted in front of one of the dwellings followed by listening to recorded excerpts from the Slave Narratives.
On my way back to the cabin where I was going to sleep, I and two other guests encountered a member of the local law enforcement agency. He was unaware of the activities that were happening that night. Fortunately, he accepted our explanation. I made it to my assigned spot and slept through the night with only a few interruptions by mosquitoes.
Jane Boddie, Director, Evergreen Plantation:
"On April 11, 2011, I stood with Joe McGill and 20 other people preparing to walk down a white shell road through 100 very old Live Oak trees. We were walking into an empty village, a village that was home to people for 200 years, ten generations. It was dark, the wind had blown out our candles. It was silent, so were we. Later, I sat on the steps of one of the slave cabins, listening to the Litany of the Libation to the Ancestors.
I sat a little apart from the rest, wondering where I fit in all this. I am white. Then I began to hear the words of the Libation, over and over again; the Ancestors of all the people of Evergreen Plantation; the Ancestors of ALL the people of Evergreen Plantation, past and present.
In the night, lying on that hard floor, listening to the night sounds, looking up at the ceiling, I was aware of a profound sense of community. What had happened to the other people who had lain here, looking at this ceiling, are a part of me. Without that ceiling, without these buildings, if they had all been destroyed, it would be hard to know where any of us fit, to remember who we are. We are a community of people. Past. Present. Future."
Jonn E. Hankins, Executive Director, New Orleans African American Museum:
“I fear cycles of the night and things I don’t understand. Like the snake I startled hunting at dusk, blood-sucking mosquitoes satiated by mid-evening and then returning at first light, and the sounds chirping, howling and rustling through the woods, all here before us. Kathe brought recordings of haunting slave narratives from another century. We brought our voices, but our words were inadequate.
We agreed to be quiet. A cacophony of waif-like female voices cackled from the big house. Breathlessly still, I strained to discover if they were ghosts. Sweating through one hot night, I was not free until dawn"
Joseph McGill Jr.
- Man sleeps in slave cabins to highlight their history (reuters.com)
- Unusual sleepovers to preserve former slave homes (reuters.com)
- Slave cabin sleep-overs part of man's preservation efforts (Lexington-News.com)