I am always impressed when I am invited back to a site for an overnight stay because it was not my intention to continue this project beyond the initial year. It was also not my intent to take this project into other states. Five years later, with over sixty stays in fourteen states, the project is still going strong.
For the past four years, I have been starting the season of the Slave Dwelling Project at Hopsewee Plantation in Georgetown County, South Carolina. Opportunities to use slave dwellings as classrooms at Bellamy Mansion in Wilmington, North Carolina and Old Alabama Town in Montgomery, Alabama prevented Hopsewee from retaining that title however, Hopsewee would be the first stay in South Carolina in 2015.
Hopsewee Plantation is located on the North Santee River. Travelling north on highway 17 it is immediately inside the Georgetown County line. Close to the site, I took a detour to explore signs that interpreted the Santee Delta. It is always amazing to learn and see how our enslaved Ancestors tamed the land and made some of the rice planters some of the richest men in the world during that period. The Santee Delta is a true testament that the rice growing Ancestors were highly sought not only for their ability to perform manual labor but especially for their knowledge of growing rice.
Hopsewee Plantation now holds the record for the number of overnight stays at one site. Friday, March 6, 2015 marked the 6th time that I spent a night in one of the two slave cabins there. For the third consecutive year, I would be joined by the young men from the group My Brothers Keepers and their chaperones. This allowed the Slave Dwelling Project to continue to use these sacred spaces as classrooms.
We continued with the usual, a full course meal served in the tea room and a presentation by me on the Slave Dwelling Project. This year, we were entertained by the Arnett A.M.E. Church Male Chorus.
While our original intent was to use both cabins at the site we consolidated to one because Prinny Anderson who has thirteen overnight stays was in Selma, Alabama and Terry James who has twenty eight stays and sleeps in shackles was on a cruise. That ended up being a wise decision because the overnight temperature never rose above 40 degrees. We transported the wood from the unused cabin to the one that we would all spend the night. Despite that, we still ended up going into the woods in the dark to gather more firewood.
In the cabin, the conversation with the young men and their chaperones seemed richer. Maybe it was because I had to carry the load alone. Prinny Anderson was not there to impart her knowledge of being a descendent of Thomas Jefferson and why she is so dedicated to the Slave Dwelling Project. Terry James was not there to impart his knowledge of being a fellow Civil War reenactor, why he sleeps in shackles and the importance of the Black church. None-the-less all of the young men all the opportunity to express why they were there and what they expected to gain from the experience. Like clockwork, we got our visit from Frank and Raejean Beattie, the owners of Hopsewee.
One major addition to this overnight stay was the presence of Katherine Ferguson of the Serve’ Company. As a result of a planning grant from the South Carolina Humanities Council, Katherine will attend all of the stays in the State of South Carolina to gather audio and video footage of the sleepovers. A youtube video will be produced from each sleepover. At the end of the year Katherine will produce a video of all of the stays which will debut at the upcoming Slave Dwelling Project Conference.
Check out the first of a series of videos by Katherine Ferguson.