Friday, April 27, 2012

Meet African American Genealogist: George Geder

Hello, my name is George Geder and I'm a Genealogist, Family Historian, Writer & Speaker.

I am a strong advocate for having all cultures and family lifestyles being heard and represented in the genealogy community.  I am an Evangelist for African Ancestored Genealogy.

My family surnames include Geder/Geter/Jeter, Hancock, Stevenson, Melven/Melvin/Melville, Eubanks, Brayboy, Lenard/Leonard.  These folks can be found in NY,PA, SC, and FL.

I live in Santa Fe, NM and am willing to do research statewide.

Currently, I'm working on several projects that include compiling information on African Americans throughout New Mexico.

My contact info:

My favorite quote:

"History is the clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day.
It is also a compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography.

The role of history is to tell a people what they have been, and where they have been, what they are and where they are.

The most important role that history plays is that it has the function of telling a people where they still must go and what they still must be."
-- Dr. John Henrik Clarke, African Historian.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What's Behind the Big House in Holly Springs?

It is amazing to see the influence of The Slave Dwelling Project become so wide-spread.  Because of what they represent, I find it so incredible that the slave dwellings have such great potential to revitalize the economy today.  Who would have thought?  They also serve a dual purpose when you think about telling the complete story.  What great history to see Joe visit a property once owned by William Faulkner.

I anticipate more and more African Americans coming forward as they recognize this work has the great potential of connecting them to their ancestors.  We have doors opening here that will help us to really learn what our ancestors were made of.  Remember, we possess it as well!  Freedom is knowing who you are and from whence you came.  I am especially excited to see this work move forward in Mississippi.  Researching Mississippi ancestors is relentless even with the oral history that was passed down to me.  Thanks, Joe!  Thank you, Jenifer Eggleston and Chelius Carter, for taking a giant leap and including the story behind the big house.  
Keep up with this project between blog posts! Be sure to follow 
Robin Foster
About Our Freedom

What's Behind the Big House in Holly Springs?
By Joseph McGill, Jr. | Field Officer | Charleston Field Office
National Trust for Historic Preservation | William Aiken House l 456 King Street, 3rd Floor, Charleston, South Carolina 29403 |

Joesph McGill, Jr and Chelius Carter
I met Jenifer Eggleston ten years ago when I started working for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. While she worked in the Washington, DC office, she came to Charleston, SC to fulfill a requirement of her duties. Right after Hurricane Katrina Jenifer was no longer employed with the National Trust but we both worked on matters of preservation in New Orleans. Last year, Jenifer contacted me with an idea that she had about me participating in the 74 th Annual Holly Springs Pilgrimage Tour of Historic Homes which is an annual tour of the mansions in the town. Jenifer’s grand idea was to combine the pilgrimage with the Slave Dwelling Project and seek a funder that could help make it happen. Similar to the trip that I took to Missouri, the tentative date that we set for the trip to Mississippi was pending approval of the grant request. Like Missouri the proposal was approved through the state’s Humanities Council.

From the time that I tentatively put this event on my calendar, I was skeptical because the Mississippi history etched in my mind was not pleasant. Medger Evers, Emmitt Till, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner were all killed in the state of Mississippi in pursuit of their happiness. The movie Mississippi Burning as well as two books that I read recently, "Rising Tide" by John M. Barry and "The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson did not paint a good picture of the treatment of African Americans in the state of Mississippi. I knew that in order for me to carry on with this assignment I had to get past those atrocities by thinking of them as history, Hollywood, and books based on past accounts.

Presentation about The Slave Dwelling Project (See more photos from Behind the Big House Tour album).
On Thursday, April 12, 2012, my first scheduled task was to conduct a lecture on the Slave Dwelling Project at Rust, a Historically Black College located in Holly Springs. This would not be a problem because I had spoken on this subject at many colleges and universities before. The group was small but they got the same lecture that a larger group would have gotten. Something on that campus really bothered me. The buildings that were once Mississippi Industrial College from 1905 – 1982 which gave rise to Rust College are all being neglected. It bothered me so much that I insisted on going back the next day to take photographs. That evening included an open reception at Montrose, the home of the Holly Spring Garden Club. A diverse crowd of influential people of Holly Springs were there and were treated to a presentation from me about the Slave Dwelling Project. They were treated to a bonus when Rhonda K. Peairs, Documentary Projects Coordinator of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation of the University of Mississippi in Oxford spoke to them.
Jenifer Eggleston and Chelius Carter

My first stay was at the Hugh Craft House Slave Quarters and Kitchen which is owned by Jenifer Eggleston and her husband Chelius Carter. I would be alone in the quarters that night which had not occurred since my stay at Cliveden in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Additionally, I slept in a bed which had not been done since my stay at Pleasant Hill Plantation in Missouri. The quarters was well researched which provided lots of information that could be used for its interpretation the next day. On three levels it included a basement which included a room for smoking meat; the first level included the kitchen and two separate living spaces; the third level was living space. Research revealed that Hugh Craft owned 9 slaves who serviced the current house that was built on the property in 1851. 

The next day, the people participating in the pilgrimage started to show up for their tour of the dwelling. This was interesting because some people showed up thinking that they were going into the main house which was not the case. Early in the process, a few people (and I stress a few) excused themselves once they found out the subject matter was about slaves who occupied the dwellings behind the big house. Maybe the title “Behind the Big House Tour” was a little misleading. Despite that, most of the people showed up because of what the title implied and listened intently throughout the presentation and asked meaningful questions afterwards and expressed their appreciation that Holly Springs had taken such a bold step. 

My hosts and I were most impressed by all the African Americans who showed up for the tour. They especially expressed their appreciation for adding this element to the pilgrimage. The only one spirited debate came when one Caucasian female couldn’t accept that chattel slavery was a bad thing.  Dinner that night included a bonus.  Nearby Oxford, Mississippi was our destination. 

Slave Dwelling at Rowan Oak (William Faulkner)
Rowan Oak

While there, I visited Rowan Oak, also known as William Faulkner House. It is a primitive Greek Revival house built in the 1840s by Robert Sheegog. Faulkner purchased the house when it was in disrepair in the 1930's and did many of the renovations himself and lived there until 1962. The bonus was the fact that there is an intact slave dwelling on the property; moreover, I got an invitation to spend a night there which will certainly happen in the future. No disrespect to Mr. Faulkner, but unfortunately, while conducting my perfunctory research on Rowan Oak, I have not yet come across any information that mentions the intact slave dwelling, which further justifies this project.

Burton Place
My second night stay would be at the slave dwelling located at Burton Place. The brick dwelling was behind the big house and to the right. It included a kitchen and two separate living spaces all on one level. For the second consecutive night, I slept in the dwelling alone and in a nice comfortable bed in the kitchen. I found the space to be over adorned knowing that anything that was not necessary for cooking would not be located in that space. Unlike the previous day, I was not provided with a lot of researched information on the past inhabitants of that space. This worked in my favor because I could draw on all the knowledge that I gained by sleeping in 33 other slave dwellings prior to this one. 

There was one interpretive sign inside the dwelling that was quite telling, from the 1850 census, it listed eight slaves by gender and age only. I found it interesting that in 1850 they would only have a first name but even that was not put on a census form. That could be very frustrating for someone doing genealogical research. The 1860 census revealed that the owner, Mary Malvina Shields obtained seventy-two additional slaves for a total of eighty. This increase in the number of slaves was an indication that she was a planter and was taking advantage of the cotton growing opportunities that existed. 

Throughout the day, a steady flow of people came through the dwelling to hear the interpretive presentation that I gave. Unlike the previous day, the participants had access to the mansion which worked out well because they all got a complete story. As time was winding down, I was feeling a bit dejected because no African Americans had come to the slave dwelling or the big house for that matter. Then it happened. One group of about twenty African Americans came to hear the presentation. The group listened intently and asked lots of questions after the presentation. The group leaders were local but the bulk of the group was from Ohio. The leaders stated that up until this point they never felt welcome at the pilgrimage and were thrilled that this year the Behind the Big House Tour was offered.

Prior to leaving Holly Spring, my host took me on a windshield tour of the other extant former slave dwellings. We looked for the telltale signs for slave dwellings, location, chimneys, windows, etc. For a relatively small town, I was surprised by the number that still exists. Some of the buildings have evolved into storage spaces, garages, pool houses or guest houses and some are just deteriorating.

The success of participating in the Holly Springs Pilgrimage made me think about other established house tours and pilgrimages. Years ago, I would volunteer for the Preservation Society of Charleston, SC tour of homes. As I recall, all of the focus was on the mansions and not the outbuildings. For Holly Springs this was their 74th Annual Holly Springs Pilgrimage Tour of Historic Homes, I know that there are several other well established tour of historic homes in urban areas. Several of those homes in the north and south were built while slavery existed in those areas, therefore they may have outbuildings where slaves once lived. Additionally, one should not dismiss the possibility that they may have lived in the attics or basements of mansions. I now wonder how many other established house tours are willing to take the bold step that Holly Springs did and tell the stories of the slaves that lived in the outbuildings associated with the big house.

Since starting the Slave Dwelling Project in 2010, I have had several revelations. In seeking extant former slave dwellings sometimes they are hidden in plain view especially when we factor in urban slavery. Some property owners may own some of these structures and not know their history. Some may know the history but for various reasons choose not to make it known to others. I am often asked how many extant slave dwellings still exist. I respond that factoring in urban slavery makes placing a number on those dwellings difficult. It could be less of a challenge to answer that question if we had more places like Holly Springs, Mississippi that are willing to tell the whole story of their built environment.

Behind the Big House Tour, By Jenifer Eggleston  

When I first moved to Holly Springs, Mississippi in the fall of 2008, my husband who
maintains a private practice in historic restoration gave me the cook’s tour of the
town with its impressive collection of historic structures from several time periods.
While Holly Springs has an inarguably inspiring architectural inventory, what spoke
to me was the considerable number of buildings directly related to slavery. Many
towns had lost much if not all of their slave-related structures but Holly Springs had
maintained many of these rare surviving buildings.

That so many of Holly Springs’ vital, tangible links to the legacy of slavery had
survived is primarily owed to their remaining in continuous use. Their original
form had often obscured making it difficult to recognize them for their historic
intent and value. In many cases, the original purpose of these culturally significant
buildings was either forgotten, due to the passing of living memory or by design
or a combination of both. Either way, it was clear that a significant part of the
historic narrative was missing. While a number of the silent witnesses – the
structures directly related to the slaves’ accommodations were extant--the stories
of the people who lived and used these buildings was largely being forgotten.
The personal histories of the “Big Houses” had been preserved but what of those
personal lives “Behind the Big House?”

Doing what one does in down moments I was searching Facebook one night and
stumbled across a former colleague and friend, Joseph McGill’s page. That’s when
I learned of his inspiring work with the Slave Dwellings Project and thus began
a conversation about how Holly Springs could highlight and interpret these rare
surviving buildings by bringing Joseph to our community during our annual
Pilgrimage Tour of Historic Homes. Thanks to his support of the idea and some last
minute grant writing for a Mississippi Humanities Council grant this idea came alive
last week from April 12th through 15th.

Joseph McGill for his part, spent an evening in two of the more intact slaves’
quarters and remained on site the following days to give visitors a first-hand
interpretation of what life might have been like “Behind the Big House.” Most of
our visitors were on the Pilgrimage tour and this was for many an unexpected view
into another side of history, a much-needed addition of a missing historic narrative.
Also, many came out just for the “Behind the Big House” tour, which was extremely
encouraging for the continuation and development of this program.

Our local historic preservation nonprofit, Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs,
Inc. hopes to continue this initiative with a goal of not only researching but also
documenting and advocating for the preservation of these irreplaceable historic
resources. We will be sure to share our future work on this project with Joseph and
look forward to hosting Joseph and the Slave Dwellings Project in the future.

Finding it difficult to end this posting I thought it would be best to share what two
attendees at our Welcome Reception felt as reported by our local newspaper, The
South Reporter. Local community supporter and tourism board chairman, Ralph
Howard, “the dialogue is long overdue . . .and will help with the economy and
tourism in the city” and artist, Randy Hayes,“I just told him that I thought what he
is doing is art . . . I thought the gathering more truly represented Holly Springs than
any social event I can remember.”

Learn More:

Behind the Big House Tour

History and Hospitality:  'Behind Big House' Successful
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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Slave Dwelling Project builds momentum in the Midlands

I have to say that nothing replaces listening to Joe present The Slave Dwelling Project in person.  It is wonderful to that he shares his accounts with us of his stays, but everyone needs to have the firsthand experience of hearing him lecture.  That is how I spent the evening on April 5th, my birthday.  I also had the chance to be led on a tour of the Kitchen Dependency at the Seibels House by John Sherrer.  Few have seen the inside of this building.  It was great to meet Ruth Rambo, and it made a great impact on me to experience all this in the area of Columbia, SC where my ancestors rose above the challenges of Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Era. 

We have been favored by the poetry submitted by Ruth Rambo ("Had I Known," and "Cousin").  Thank you for setting the tone, Ruth!  We appreciate you taking the time to record and share your accounts, John and Ruth!

This is a great cause!  We wish you continued success and strength, Joe!
Robin Foster

Had I Known 

You left after breakfast at day break

like always

Your skin a smooth butterscotch satin

like always

Your elaborate woven corn rows neatly arranged

like always

You carried the water jug your mother made

Like always.

I only glanced at your back for one moment as you departed.

The rhythmic swaying of your bottom enticing

Like always.

Had I known you would not return

Like always

Had I known your body would never again fit into the spoon of mine

Like always. Had I known.

Had I known I would spend my remaining years

Looking, yearning, hoping, begging, dreaming, praying, working, searching

Had I known like always would become

never again.

Had I known.

If only I had known.

Ruth Rambo

Joseph McGill, Jr
Slave Dwelling Project builds momentum in the Midlands

By Joseph McGill, Jr. | Field Officer | Charleston Field Office
National Trust for Historic Preservation | William Aiken House l 456 King Street, 3rd Floor, Charleston, South Carolina 29403 |

Slave Dwelling Stops in Columbia and Lexington

There have been times in this journey when it was wise to schedule slave dwelling stays back to back. My trips to Alabama, Missouri, and Texas are perfect examples of that. There has been one trip in South Carolina where that also applied; that was my stays at Laurelwood Plantation in Eastover, SC and the slave dwelling in Cheraw, SC. The stays at Seibels House Kitchen Dependency on Thursday, April 5 and the Lexington County Museum on Friday, April 6 would follow that same formula.

Doors Once Closed Now Open

 Before I could participate in the events planned for the Seibels House Kitchen Dependency on the evening of Thursday, April 5, 2012, I had to take an interesting detour to Florence, SC earlier that morning. Because of the recommendation of a highly respected historian and friend, the TV show History Detectives contacted me about filming a scene for them describing the life of a female slave. My immediate response was yes but then they told me the location. It turned out to be the Hewn –Timber Cabins at Francis Marion University one of the two places that have denied me the opportunity for an overnight stay in its slave dwelling. After making this clear to the History Detective representative, we both concluded that I was still their man. Upon arrival at the site in Florence, I discovered that the film crew was going to be late. The tardiness of the film crew provided a great opportunity for the property manager / interpreter to justifiably challenge my intent. After convincing him that I came in peace and meant him no harm, we got along admirably from that point forward. The filming of the scene went extremely well but I’ve been on sets enough to know that two hours of filming could mean zero to five or so minutes in the finished product. The piece is scheduled to air sometime this summer. The chance for a future overnight stay at this site looks promising.

 Hewn-Timber Cabin at Francis Marion University

Current Themes Pressing the Mind

Operating on assumptions and not letting my host know exactly what time I would arrive, it was 4:00 pm when I reached the Seibels House Kitchen Dependency. The property appeared to be locked so from a distance I took pictures of the mansion and the kitchen dependency where I was to spend the night. I then went seeking a place to do some shopping for some snacks for the night stay. While shopping, I got a call from Ruth Rambo who was scheduled to share the slave dwelling experience with me. Ruth told me that she was in the garden area of the house which came as surprise to me because I did not know that one could have unescorted access to the grounds of the mansion. I relayed to Ruth that once I finished my shopping, I would be there to meet her. When I met her at the site, I told her about my hesitancy about entering the garden. When I stayed at Cliveden in Philadelphia an alarm sounded on the morning when I got up and made an attempt to go the bathroom. Through a phone conversation, the director of Civenden gave me a code to put into the system which did not work. He stated not to worry because he would call the alarm company to alert them to what was happening. My immediate thoughts went to the Rodney King incident so I stated to him that I would just sit there until he or another staff member got there to take charge of the situation. It was that thought and the current Trayvon Martin incident that convinced me to take all of my photographs of the site from a safe distance. A sad commentary, but true in my mind.

Seibels House
According to a promotional brochure, “Purportedly the oldest remaining building in Columbia, a portion of the Seibels House is believed to date to 1796. To the north of the building , attached by a covered breezeway, stands a circa-1830 kitchen house, believed to be the last building of its kind left in Columbia and one of only a very few structures in which enslaved African Americans lived and worked, separate from their owner’s residence. Various owners adapted the house to meet their needs, especially the Seibels family, who acquired the property in 1858. The building’s Colonial Revival style dates to a 1920s renovation designed by architect, J Carroll Johnson. Historic Columbia Foundation received the property as a gift in 1988 and uses the building for its administrative headquarters and as rental property.”

Prior to the stay, a Slave Dwelling Project Lecture was scheduled. Two organizations that represented the media were there, which was a great testament because I know at some point in the future of this project, it will not excite the media as it is currently doing, but that will not make this project any less important. At the end of the lecture, I yielded two minutes to Ruth Rambo who would reveal her reason for spending the night. It was then that Ruth revealed that she was a descendant of a slave and slave owner which was news to me and did not go unnoticed because of the work that I am currently doing with the group Coming to the Table. I also yielded 5 minutes to Robin Foster who is a genealogist and one of the publishers of my blog. I met Robin two years ago when the two of us sat on a panel together at Penn Center on St. Helena Island. The Slave Dwelling Project focuses on the places but it is Robin and others like her who constantly reminds me that it is the formerly enslaved people who are important.

                         See WLTX:  Man Makes it His Mission to Preserve Slave Quarters

The turnout was great and diverse and lots of questions were asked during the question and answer period. I was most impressed that a child got the first and last question for the night. After the lecture, I got to mingle with some of the audience while some of the others went for a tour of the kitchen dependency. When I finally, made my way to the kitchen dependency and the media left, one of the staff members alerted me that I had promised one of the audience members that she could spend the night with us, an error that had to be immediately corrected. In addition to me spending the night, Old Reliable, Terry James, Ruth Rambo and John Sherrer, staff member of Historic Columbia Foundation would also share the experience.

Terry James, Ruth Rambo, John Sherrer
It was on a trip last year that John and I took to Richmond, VA to participate in the annual conference of the American Association of State and Local History (AASLH) that we devised the plan for what was happening that night. I recall meeting Ruth Rambo at a group meeting that I organized to see the movie Tuskegee Airmen. Ruth reminded me that I met her earlier at an event when I was representing my Civil War reenacting group, Company I, 54th Reenactment Regiment, but how can one forget a name like Ruth Rambo. The opportunity to share the slave dwelling experience is an open invitation pending the permission of the property owner. Ruth did all that was necessary to ensure that her spot was secured. The conversation among the four of us was very rich. Before we fell asleep and after we woke up, we covered everything from the burning of Columbia during the Civil War; the great migration; the detail of the kitchen dependency; brick making, who snored the loudest; segregation, and lynchings . Ruth, Terry and John left while I utilized a computer in the office to do some quality writing for the project.
Deformed and Almost Worthless
Interpretive sign in the slave cabin at the Lexington County Museum
The Lexington Museum came at this thing from a completely different angle. Most of the buildings including the two slave cabins were moved to the site from other locations. That would make this stay similar to the ones at Old Alabama Town in Montgomery, AL; Roper Mountain in Greenville, SC; and the Price House in Woodruff, SC. Unlike the previous night at the Seibels House Kitchen Dependency, this stay garnered very little fanfare, similar to previous stays at privately owned properties. When I toured the grounds with the site director and saw the slave cabins, I verified that I had been there previously performing living history in the capacity of a Civil War reenactor. The cabin was once used as an office so it had electricity but no lights, central heating and air and replicas of artifacts throughout. One impressive part of the building was one interpretive sign that listed the first names of the slaves who were once the property of the owner.

The most haunting was one interpretive sign that listed the name of one female slave and categorized her as deformed and almost worthless. I had a conversation with the gentleman that restored the cabin that I was going to sleep in that night. He expressed his fear of ghosts, but that did not deter me. I was delivered a bonus when the site director introduced me to a museum neighbor who told me about a plantation that he owns in Fairfield County, SC that has a restored slave cabin. Long story short, Lemmon Hill Plantation in Winnsboro, SC will be on the 2013 calendar of the Slave Dwelling Project. A local newspaper reporter showed up for an interview and was not impressed by my Yankee hat that went with my Yankee uniform. William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops made an impact in this area during the Civil War. During dinner at a local Bojangles’ that was located in walking distance from the museum, Old Reliable Terry James called to let me know that he would be there later that night.

As darkness descended and a full moon revealed itself, I had quality time inside the cabin alone with my thoughts to do some quality writing about the project. I now realize that based on some of the inquiries that I have gotten thus far there is great potential for the expansion of the Slave Dwelling project in 2013. Ten thirty came and Terry James had not yet shown. Thoughts of the early days of the project and how I would sleep in the dwellings alone danced through my mind. I thought of that reporter who did not like my Yankee hat and the gentleman who restored the cabin when thirty minutes after I laid down, Terry rang my phone stating he was outside. After getting Terry settled into the cabin, there would be very little conversation, his history lesson would have to wait until the next morning.

The next morning Terry took full advantage of his skill as a professional photographer. According to its brochure, “The Lexington County Museum, founded in 1970, offers a rare and unforgettable experience – the chance to see and touch a way of life gone forever. Structure and furnishings focus on the early history of Lexington County and interpret the everyday lives of its residents from ca. 1770 until the momentous changes wrought by the Civil War. The Museum complex, located right off Highway 378, encompasses seven acres of property and features 36 historic buildings.” Terry was like a kid in a candy store taking intricate shots of each building. We both wagered that each of those buildings that were built prior to the Civil War was built using some type of slave labor. And then we parted, I headed home to my family, with Terry still taking pictures of buildings.

Joseph McGill Blog Entry
Seibels Kitchen House Sleepover
Columbia, SC

By John M. Sherrer, III
Director of Cultural Resources
Historic Columbia Foundation
1601 Richland Street
Columbia, SC 29201
803.252.1770, ext. 28

On Thursday, April 5, 2012, history was made within the confines of a circa-1830 brick
kitchen house, adjacent to one of Columbia, South Carolina’s most celebrated sites –the
circa-1796 Seibels House, a landmark structure most often associated with distinguished
architecture and verdant gardens. A cast of four, led by Joseph McGill, a field officer
with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a Civil War 54th Regiment re-
enactor, crafted an unprecedented Historic Columbia Foundation experienced by virtue
of their respect for the power of preservation. As part of Mr. McGill’s on-going effort
to heighten public appreciation of and preservation advocacy for sites associated with
slavery, this experience was the 31st in his thus-far two-year endeavor. But, for all four of
us it was our first shared encounter and one that profoundly affected me as a steward of
this extraordinary structure.

Upon first inspection we all looked different – three men, one woman; three South
Carolinians, one Ohioan; three black and one white. We shared space recently afforded
by the installation of a partial floor within the building’s north chamber, a room
determined by archaeology and corroborated through oral history, to have served as
a laundry for the main house. Just to our south lay the uncovered floor of the south
chamber, a room that during slavery and for generations after was busied by the efforts of
cooks preparing meals of great variety. Overhead, bear rafters loomed where formerly a
plastered and whitewashed ceiling shielded occupants of both rooms.

Following an evening program in which Mr. McGill shared his first thirty-two
experiences with conducting sleepovers in spaces that once echoed with the sounds of
enslaved laborers, we four gathered our modest supplies for the evening. A couple of
camp stools and sleeping bags – the items of a veteran to such evenings. A rolled towel
for a pillow and a thin and short blanket for myself, gathered hurriedly earlier in the
morning but not without some thought – what should I bring that would grant me some
measure of comfort meanwhile not stripping me of the essential elements of an evening
spent in an unlit, unheated and unfurnished building? Just how comfortable should I
make myself?

Thanks to the generosity of Terry James, a co-re-enactor and friend of Mr. McGill’s, I
received the benefit of a padded moving blanket that would remove me slightly from
the hard pine floor that met us all. True to previous outings, James produced a pair of
manacles in which he slept the entire evening, as a physical reminder of the conditions
experienced by slaves during the Middle Passage and here in America during sale on the
auction block and when punished for various crimes or indiscretions. With each shift
during the evening the individual links sang out a metallic clank.

Ruth Rambo, the fourth in our group, represented a reverse migration of sorts – relocating
from Ohio to her present home of Charleston. Her presence was important for so many
reasons, not the least of which was that this structure was once the realm of women,
African-American women, from whose efforts key expectations each day during bondage
were met for their owners. Her presence made me consider each task with greater
appreciation and how work was divided between enslaved men and women. She also
exuded a sage-like presence that was simultaneously disarming and intriguing.

An overcast evening with very low clouds reflected lights beaming throughout the
downtown, casting a glow throughout the sky as if someone turned on a 15-watt bulb.
Mist persisted where thunderstorms were forecast to have struck and the thermometer
dropped considerably with the front that had moved in for the evening. With one of
the building’s two doors remaining open until 4:00 a.m., I found sleep elusive. Every
20 minutes I changed positions after the pine floor had numbed hip and shoulder to
the point of waking me up. Punctuating bouts of waking up was my contributions to a
chorus of snoring among us that surely would have been quite a concert for the very few
passersby that we had during the evening. When not met with the sound of trains and
sirens, common during certain times of the later hours, I was struck by the quietude of
the kitchen – the one place that Mr. McGill believed would have been, at times, a place
of solitude for slaves whose daily actions were both driven and monitored by owners.
On occasion the only sound discernible was the rustling of palmetto tree fronds in the
adjacent garden and along Pickens Street.

The morning began much like the evening had left off – with conversations about history,
race, slavery and preserving important sites such as the kitchen house. Most of the time I
listened, eager to hear what these three persons felt, what their personal experiences had
been and what the future might hold for the fields of history and historic preservation.
Here and there I offered what I knew about Columbia history in general, the site
specifically and what Historic Columbia Foundation had accomplished in recent years
addressing a handful of topics, including that of slavery – ultimately the institution whose
legacy brought us temporarily together on evening before a peaceful Easter weekend full
of reflection.

For me, a native Columbian, this experience with three visitors whose roots lie in the
town of Kingstree and the cities of Florence and Cincinnati struck a chord that will
resonate for some time to come. I was for those brief few hours an ambassador of the
city, an interpreter of the historic site and a watchful eye and an attentive ear for things
that went bump in the night during their stay. Experiences come in many shapes, sizes
and, in some cases, colors, but for me I recall an evening spent with kindred spirits
interested in learning more about the past while preserving the tangible elements that
make history accessible to contemporary citizens and visitors.

Cousin by Ruth Rambo

And then those men with manes covering their chins

Those men without blood

in too many cloths

Those men making ugly sounds

dancing only with their hands and arms

bringing shining plates where our faces appeared

Bringing bowls of beads that catch the light

and then throw it away

Those silly men traded all those new things for cousin

Those silly men without blood.

Cousin wasn’t Mandinga anyway.

Slave Dwelling Project
By Ruth Rambo

April 5, 2012, Seibels House (Kitchen), 1601 Richland Street, Columbia, S C

It’s 11:30 AM the next morning: grey, dank, and dreary. Yet my insides defy the
environment; they refuse to reflect the mood of the weather, my insides are flying high.
Even my body is behaving jubilantly. These old bones are not predicting rain although a
thin layer of heavenly spit sits on my hair. My back shows no evidence of its night long
encounter with a bare wooden floor as I had anticipated. The hard pine Cracker Barrel
chair feels remarkably comfortable. I surely would have predicted otherwise. No chair
no matter the level of padding would have been comfortable for the next few days or
so I had forecasted. As instructed by Zora Neale Hurston’s Mom, I have ‘jumped at the
sun.’ Didn’t ‘get there but at least I got off the ground.’

Seibels Kitchen Dependency, Submitted by Ruth Rambo

I am driving home to Charleston after a sleep-in at the partially restored brick kitchen
on the Seibels House, an urban plantation in Columbia S C. It is just one stop on Joe
McGill’s National Trust for Historic Preservation Slave Dwelling Project. He is the project
creator/coordinator and has slept in slave dwellings around the country on plantations
from Texas to Connecticut. Terry James, photographer and civil war reenactor has
accompanied Joe, also a reenactor as well as a Field Officer for the Trust, frequently
on this mission to highlight the need for preservation of all the antebellum South
relics. The party of four of slave dwellers also included John Sherrer, Director of
Cultural Resources, Historic Columbia Foundation and me, an African American history
dilettante with a lifetime interest in the American system of slavery.

Joe and Terry were already friends and enjoyed a close camaraderie. Both John and
I had met Joe but didn’t have any common experience with him and didn’t know Terry
at all. Thrown together in a very small space shifting positions or turning over had to
be carefully choreographed. John observed that during Middle Passage the spaces
were much tighter so movement was virtually impossible. My thoughts traveled from
the slaves movement restrictions of a narrow space coupled with the inability to restrict
normal bodily functions with resulting products. We had access to modern facilities
for which I was most grateful. Terry had shackled his hands so when he turned over
we heard the clanging of those chains in the night. It was a frightening and sobering
reminder of physical and psychological elements of antebellum controls. On the lighter
side when we awoke, John our host asked if we wanted coffee. The idea was heartily
welcomed. So he left the historic kitchen and returned from the ‘Big House’ carrying
a tray of juice, coffee and banana bread. We laughed at the role reversal. A possible
descendant of slave owners serving the descendants of

Joe extends an open invitation to people interested in the topic of slavery to join him
by sharing the lodging of a slave cabin overnight. The restoration of the fine plantation
homes is a no brainer. Everyone both black and white; from the north and south wants
to vicariously experience - if just for fifteen minutes- the life style and luxuries of a
southern planter. Yet no one wants to explicitly experience the life style of an enslaved
African. Well! Almost nobody.

Last night Joe had three takers: Terry James, John Sherrer, and me, the paternal
great granddaughter of Lydia Rambo. Lydia was a slave born c. 1820 who married and
was freed by her owner Lt. Gayle Rambo and has frequently informed and guided my
life. She has been my personal symbol of strength and endurance. Throughout my life
whenever I was feeling mentally defeated or physically ill, I’d conjure up a scenario
where my great grandmother Lydia was similarly compelled to push herself to meet
exceedingly high expectations…physical goals clearly more difficult to meet than
the ones confronting me during my 20th-21st Century life. Just thinking of this slave
woman’s survival achievement, has often given me the resolve to push through extreme
fear and pain and ‘just do it’. The will to survive is strong. Although I never met her, my
G grandmother taught me that.

Of course one cold night, no matter how uncomfortable, in a brick plantation kitchen/
slave dwelling does not a slave experience replicate. What it did do is give me time and
place and circumstance to think about the real life of a slave. It stimulated me to devote
serious thought to America’s gritty public secret – an inhuman, inhumane system of
trading in human flesh- slavery. The questions flow…the questions with immediate and
obvious answers and the numberless questions without probable answers.

The first is the most apparent to me: What would America be like today culturally,
politically and economically had there been no talented, creative, abundant African
slave labor? What unrecognized role did slavery play in the supremacy of America
on the world stage? Who first envisioned slavery as the cost effective method of
developing America’s north and south east corridor? Of working the land, of building the
dwellings, of expanding the music, of raising the children?

Who were these slaves rendered 3/5th a person? Who were these slaves, the only
major group of North American émigrés who did not willingly and purposefully seek the
opportunities available on these shores? Yes! The Africans too were huddled masses
yearning to breathe free. They were also the wretched refuse of a teeming shore. The
Africans were homeless and tempest-tost. Yet here was no welcome for them….no
lifted lamp….no open nor golden door.

Who were these enslaved Africans who endured a brutal lifestyle of work from ‘kin
to kant’ (can see in the morning to can’t see at night) without becoming chronically
depressed? How did any one of them escape becoming suicidal? Who were these

slaves enduring lifetimes of hardship and deprivation yet had families, created
communities, learned to talk through many languages, danced, laughed and sang. Who
were these Africans who taught their children the many skills they had mastered- the
most vital of all- how to survive and then manipulate the system without being beaten to
death? Who were these slaves?

Who would I be, had I been a slave? Would I have been cheerful and chatty? What
skills would I have developed? Would I have run away? Would I have tried to harm my
owners? Who would I have been? And who am I now because my G G M, Lydia was

And why, over 300 years later, does America continue to deny their contribution and the
contributions of their descendants?

Some of these questions might be answerable: others require a Sphinx. What is crystal
clear is that this remarkable slave dwelling experience was intellectually provocative
and stimulating. You should think about becoming a slave dweller.

Contact Joe McGill. You’ll become the better for it. I believe I did.

Ruth ‘Retired’ Rambo

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Slave Dwelling Project accounts from the attic

Well now, here you have the the accounts of the other three overnighters from the Bush-Holley House attic, Dionne Ford Kurtti, Rev. David Pette, and Grant Hayter-Menzes.  If you missed Joe's account, see Sons of former slaves, and sons of former slave owners. Their perspectives are insightful and honest.  We appreciate them for taking the time to give their impressions of their experience.  We also appreciate Joe for forwarding their submissions.

Robin Foster

 Joseph McGill, Jr., Grant Hayter-Menzies, Dionne Ford Kurtti, Reverend David Pettee

For more information, contact:

By Joseph McGill, Jr. | Field Officer | Charleston Field Office
National Trust for Historic Preservation | William Aiken Housel 456 King Street, 3rd Floor, Charleston, South Carolina 29403 |

Dionne Ford Kurtti
"...the lives of the slaves in that attic would no
longer be silent or completely in the dark." 

When I was invited to join Joe McGill in his slave dwelling project, I leapt (or slept)
at the opportunity. Over the past two years, I’ve admired Joe’s efforts to bring slave
dwellings and their need to be preserved to the attention of the public by sleeping in any
slave dwelling that will have him. So when his project brought him North, to the Bush-
Holly House in Greenwich, CT I was honored and thrilled to make the hour drive to join
him, Grant Hayter Menzes, and Dave Pettee in an overnight stay.

At first, I was struck by the size of the dwelling. It was larger than I’d expected. In my
research in to my family’s history, I’d encountered one other slave dwelling in Virginia,
half the width of the attic. But that cabin was a higher, stand-alone structure, only a
stone’s throw away from the big plantation house, but still it provided some measure
of autonomy, a place where its inhabitants could speak freely and just be. Not so in the
Bush-Holly House. Located in the historic home built by wealthy Dutch farmer Justus
Bush, the slave quarter doubled as a storage space and food preparation area. Among the
blankets and pillows are baskets of (fake) vegetables and herbs hang from the exposed
wooden beams to give a feel of how it would have been in the late 1700s. Once the
reporters and staff members of the Historical Society left and it was just the four of us,
we all instinctively spoke in hushed tones, as if to not let other people overhear. That’s
what it would have been like for the enslaved people there – a dwelling, but not much of
a sanctuary. What must it have been like to have your only shelter be in the same house
with your masters? When could the enslaved people there ever speak freely?

I am descended from both a slave and a slaveholder, but when I went searching for my
family’s roots, I was really only interested in my enslaved ancestors’ story. I didn’t
want to know about the people who had enslaved them even though their blood courses
through me. Because slaves were property, the details of their lives exist almost entirely
in the documents of the people who owned them like the will where my great, great-
grandmother was bequeathed along with cattle and farm equipment. It quickly became
apparent that I could not learn anything about my enslaved ancestors without learning
about the people who enslaved them. It stands to reason that the opposite is true. If we
want to fully understand how the historic towns that we now call home were established,
we have to look at the lives of all the people who had a hand in planting those roots
from those whose names live on in town halls to their slaves whose names are largely
forgotten, but whose sweat and blood tilled the soil. The Greenwich Historical Society
understands this. Coming across that slave cabin in Virginia was like finding a spring
in the dessert, so rare was it for me to encounter an existing monument to the life of
enslaved people, my people, who have mostly been eradicated from our minds and
thoughts, which in turn eradicates me, makes me feel invisible. Having the chance to
sleep in the Bush-Holley slave quarters was the equivalent of diving in to that spring,
quenching my thirst to know more about slavery and how it informed the foundation of
our country. These slave dwellings are sacred places and an opportunity to encounter
them is a pilgrimage.

Before I went to sleep, I used my phone to send a good night email to my family and
noticed a message from one of my genealogy buddies whose ancestors are from the
same town as mine, Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Our enslaved ancestors are buried in
the same Mississippi cemetery and we think we may even be distant cousins. She asked
that I please touch the wall of the Bush-Holley cabin and whisper her ancestor’s name.
I said, “Johanna” into the still Connecticut air, “Tempe” and “Eliza,” my own enslaved
ancestors, “59” the number of souls my great, great-grandfather enslaved before selling
them and “Candace” who had inhabited that attic.

Silent in the attic, completely in the dark, I could hear rain on the roof as I closed my
eyes to go to sleep. I rested well, a feat for me, because it usually takes me a long time
to still my mind enough to go to sleep. Maybe it’s because I knew that by being there
with my friends in preservation solidarity, the lives of the slaves in that attic would no
longer be silent or completely in the dark.

Rev. David Pette
"It is so easy to forget that slavery helped build the North because it is so hard to see that legacy any more."

Here in the North, we have inherited a powerful historical amnesia when it comes to
the memory of slavery. But don’t worry. We haven’t forgotten our history. We still
worship the stories of the Sons of Liberty. We still teach “The Midnight Ride of Paul
Revere” to our school kids. “Listen my children and you shall hear…” Every third
Monday in April is Patriot’s Day, when we commemorate again that first shot fired
on Lexington Green that was heard ‘round the world.

I live In Massachusetts. Our license plates remind us that we are the ‘Spirit of
America.’ We are the good guys.

In 1754, the Crown requested that every city and town in Massachusetts report the
number of slaves over the age of sixteen. 114 communities responded to the census.
109 recorded at least one slave. The town fathers of Boston dutifully recorded 989
slaves, representing nearly 9% of the population.

989 slaves? In Boston? How come I had to discover this fact by accident?

Within walking distance of where I work in downtown Boston, there are numerous
buildings and sites that pay homage to Boston’s storied colonial past. Every day on
my way to work, I pass the Robert Gould Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial on Beacon
St. Directly across the street from the memorial is the Massachusetts State House,
built on property once owned by John Hancock. We all know John Hancock. Or do
we? The plaque that mentions where his house once stood conveniently neglects to
mention that Hancock was also a slaveholder.

Today, Bay Staters are very proud of our abolitionist past. We forget that in 1835,
William Lloyd Garrison, editor of The Liberator, was nearly murdered by an angry
mob on the streets of Boston. In the 1960’s, in the name of urban renewal, the office
where the newspaper was published fell unceremoniously to the wrecking ball.

At the base of Beacon Hill in the Boston Public Gardens stands a statue of Charles
Sumner, widely considered the most radical abolitionist in the United State Senate
before the Civil War. In 1856, after Sumner was nearly caned to death in the Senate
chambers by South Carolina Representative Preston Brooks, hundreds of people
sent money to Brooks so he could buy a new cane. It is quite understandable that
many Massachusetts citizens were outraged! Few, however, questioned Sumner’s
outlandish claim made two years before, when he thundered on the Senate floor
that, "No person was ever born a slave on the soil of Massachusetts."

I can still vividly remember the first time I recovered the forgotten story of slavery
in my own family. In 2006, I innocently upgraded my subscription
and was stunned to find the 1774 Rhode Island census that indicated that my
ancestor Edward Simmons owned four slaves in Newport, RI. I drove to Newport
the following day to get to the bottom what was obviously some mistake. It wasn’t.

Instead, I found eleven more Newport ancestors who enslaved Africans. Fast
forward to 2012, I have since discovered thirty additional slaveholding ancestors
and one ancestor who was a captain of at least five voyages in the transatlantic slave
trade. Get this— all these people lived only in New England.

So much for slavery as a Southern institution…

I first heard about the work of Joe McGill last year when I was in South Carolina co-
representing Coming to the Table at the annual meeting of the National Genealogical
Society. I was struck by Joe’s vision of wanting to preserve the few existing slave
quarters that are still standing in this country. Lifting up the history of any building
forces us to reckon with the meaning of this structure. It is so easy to forget that
slavery helped build the North because it is so hard to see that legacy any more.

When the invitation came to spend a night in the slave quarters at the Bush-Holley
House in Greenwich, CT with Joe, Grant Hayter-Menzies and Dionne Ford, I jumped
at the prospect. I wanted to try to better understand what enslaved people must
have experienced every night. I wanted to honor those who were forced to live here.

Even with a Thermarest pad under my sleeping bag, the floor felt so hard and was
unforgiving. While the attic offered some privacy, it was easy to hear noises from the
floor below, and the creaking, as people walked up and down the stairs. The people
who lived in that attic through bitterly cold winters and oppressively hot summers
must have spoken in a whisper, hoping to maintain as much dignity as they could—
dignity that was constantly undermined by people just like my ancestors.

As I lay awake, I thought about Joe and Dionne, asleep on either side of me, and
wondered what this experience must be like for them, sharing this space with two
descendants of slaveholders. The rain that pitter-pattered on the roof was a timeless
noise that helped me finally fall asleep. Startled by snoring, I awoke quite suddenly
at 4am, all twisted in my sleeping bag, feeling hot, clammy and disoriented. Back in
1750, the people who lived in that attic were probably already in the kitchen baking
bread by 4am, preparing breakfast for their masters.

Despite the enjoyable company, it was most certainly not a restful night.
Rev. David Pettee

Grant Hayter-Menzes
" see them in decay because the master’s house is prettier or draws more tourist dollars, and nobody wants to be reminded of what they stand for, seems to me to signify a second enslavement, a multiple crime against the dignity of the people who were born, lived, married, worked and died there."

I’ve been fascinated by Joe McGill’s Slave Dwelling Project since first talking to him on a Coming To The Table conference call last year. The timing was fortuitous. Shortly before this call, I had uncovered information which, in my ignorance, I first could hardly believe: that, just like my Deep South ancestors, who had enslaved black people from the first years of the nineteenth century until Emancipation, my New England ancestors of a century earlier had also been enslavers. One unique case, that of Guy Drock of Norwich, slave of my ancestor Captain Benajah Bushnell, who was sold in 1752 by Bushnell to the white woman who wanted to marry Drock, was only uncovered through years of research not only by Drock descendants but by the diligence and personal passion of Norwich historian Dale Plummer. (Please see this link to my March 29th meeting with Plummer and the Drock descendants: news/x586038473/Descendants-of-Norwich-slave-owner-meet).

 Through this line of enquiry, I read that the Greenwich Historical Society owns and operates the 1730 Bush-Holley House, one of the few houses in New England with extant slave quarters. It is also one of the few which candidly interprets the lives of Connecticut slaves from the eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries. That slavery is an issue many Southerners would rather not talk about made some strange sense to me; I know from experience that compartmentalization is a fact of life in Southern families.

But the people of New England, that crucible of the Abolitionist movement? Could they face this part of their past? I was to discover that, no, not all are able to do so. And so I took the first of two big risks. I told Joe during our conference call that I would contact the Greenwich Historical Society and ask them if he might bring the Slave Dwelling Project to the attic room over the Bush-Holley House kitchen. I didn’t have to wait long for an answer. To my surprise and delight, GHS President Debra Mecky was all for it, and a panel discussion was suggested for the evening of Joe’s stay in the quarters.

I was asked to be one of the panelists and to suggest who else might be a good fit. I did this. Then I decided to take my next risky step. I asked Joe if he would be interested in having me join him in the attic. I had no reason to suppose he would be happy about the idea. Joe has had people share the Slave Dwelling Project experience before—black people and white people—but had never knowingly shared it with a descendant of enslavers. Was that something he wanted to do? Would he wonder why I wanted to do it—whether I was swamped with “white guilt”, eager to do my penance on the hard floor of the quarters, to put myself in the place of those of whom my ancestors required labor, and sometimes love, beyond price and never once paid for? I know I didn’t want him to think that, because while I am ashamed of what my ancestors did, like my Southern grandmother, who was as passionate about the subject of equality as my mother, my siblings and I am, I realize that I am not here to expiate sins that I could not possibly hope to wipe away or make better.

I thought of one of the most heartfelt and articulate of the fugitive slave narratives published by Bostonian Benjamin Drew in 1856. How could my forebears, I said to myself, echoing John Little, “who know they are abusing others all day, lie down and sleep quietly at night…when they know that men feel revengeful, and might burn their property, or even kill them?” What John Little was asking was what I ask, every time I look at the names of Juba and Rose, Ginette and Warren, India and Satin: how in the name of God did my ancestors have the conscience to sleep at night, enjoy their silver sugar tongs and their embroidered chairs and the leisure free labor brought them like the flip of a light switch, while these unpaid laborers lived and worked alongside them every day, often in the kind of substandard housing that is falling apart now?

To see a little house where an enslaved person or family lived, while working from light to dark, knowing that those four walls were all that consisted of privacy for them (though not always safety) in the brief interval of night, when they could be whipped for wandering outside their dwelling after curfew, and realize that these cabins were the powerful human engines that made possible the big houses where their masters seem to have been able to sleep at night, and to see them in decay because the master’s house is prettier or draws more tourist dollars, and nobody wants to be reminded of what they stand for, seems to me to signify a second enslavement, a multiple crime against the dignity of the people who were born, lived, married, worked and died there. And a crime against their amazing strength of character and will. It is this that makes slave dwellings beautiful to me.

I didn’t want to enter such a place wearing sackcloth and ashes, apologies on my lips. I wanted to enter and acknowledge the hearts and souls and dreams of people who despite centuries of enslavement, still knew the beauty of being free. I wanted to honor them, remember them. I didn’t have to worry quite so much. Joe replied to my request by warmly welcoming me to share the experience. And we were in turn joined by Rev. David Pettee, descendant of dozens of New England enslavers (one of whom we share in common in the Leffingwell family of Norwich), and Dionne Ford Kurtti, a descendant of people enslaved and of those who enslaved them.

 I inherited from my mother and grandmother a compassion that has in it no small amount of anger—anger at the abuse of the helpless and the powerless, which in my grandmother burned bright for the victims of the Great Depression (of which she had had painful personal experience), for the farm workers of California’s Central Valley who rallied around Cesar Chavez, and always for black people she had seen mistreated in her Southern girlhood and long after she left the South for the west. She had a calm way of outrage; mine is a storm from which I can rarely collect much that is coherent.

During the panel discussion Friday night, my emotions flooded me, and I wondered what would happen when Joe, Dionne, Dave and I ascended to the room over the kitchen, unrolled our sleeping bags and lay down in that spare, chilly, creaking space, the shingles just overhead rattling under rain showers all night. For the first half hour, lying there in the dark on ungiving boards, I had a period of panic. For a split second, I who have never been a slave understood something of what life in that space had been like for slaves—the lack of privacy from the master and mistress, the sense of being controlled, unable to change one’s situation, to endure heat up there in the summer and cold in the winter (or spring, as was the case with us) without a murmur, to work every day knowing that if you stopped, the repercussions could involve not a warning letter from a supervisor but degrading threats to your dignity or personal safety.

Despite my three friends in the room with me, I felt extraordinarily alone. That’s when I thought back to an hour earlier, when we four had stood beneath a budding tree in the garden just outside the kitchen wing. In the damp darkness we took each other’s hands and poured libation to honor the people who had lived, worked and died here and in all the slave quarters up and down the eastern seaboard and across the South, those abandoned and gone and those still, by some miracle, standing, waiting for Joe.

I had brought with me into the quarters some special things: a letter written by my great-great-grandmother, the daughter of a Southerner who crossed over to fight for the North, and a letter from my grandmother, through which her voice emerged especially clear. And I had intended to speak to the memory of Candice Bush, the last slave emancipated in Greenwich, whose home we would be dwelling in that night. Instead, what came to me was the memory of a slave named Rose Jackson. According to her tombstone in Old Saybrook’s Cypress Cemetery, which I visited the day before, Rose was born in 1778 and died in 1866. She had served five generations of children of the family of General William Hart, whose tidy white house still stands down the street from the cemetery. “Faithful Ever in All Things” was engraved on her marble headstone.

The love that what this black woman shared with her white family seemed not to have died with her but to radiate from the marble, as if it had stood a long time in the summer sun. I saw that Rose was my grandmother, your grandmother, the grandmother of us all, and the good she did is still going on, like the tides at Saybrook and the sweet incense of age and intimacy that pervades the Bush-Holley House quarters. I spoke to her and my respect for her under the flowering tree, and said “ashe” with the others. And as I went to sleep later, I said “ashe” to my white grandmother, too. These two knew that the greatest of all things is love. And this is what, for me, took a cold, dark room and made it and places like it sacred, and me a better person for the privilege of sleeping and dreaming there.
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