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900 Enslaved - Stagville Plantation


Stagville Plantation, Durham, NC.

When I think about Stagville Plantation, the first thing that comes to mind is 900. My second overnight stay with the Slave Dwelling Project, I slept in a cabin where 900 men, women and children were compelled to slavery on Horton Grove. I had a different feeling with this overnight stay than my previous one. My first overnight was a cabin that was purchased and lived in by freed slaves. This situation would be different. I would be sleeping uncomfortably on wooden floors that many of slaves were subjected to lay their bodies.

I will be sleeping in this slave cabin.

Slave Cabin at Horton Grove.

The two-story slave cabin was enormous in weight and very rare as most slave cabins were one-story single or double cabins. I was able to find fingerprints on the bricks on the chimney. As I touched the fingerprints of the enslaved, my thoughts and feelings were they were saying to me “I was enslaved here,” “I made these bricks” and/or “our story is important.” Each individual that slept on Horton Grove felt that it was important to pay respect to the blacksmiths, brick makers, craftsmen, domestics and field slaves that built Stagville. I felt the sense of togetherness being around like-minded people that have the same desire, passion and interest of spreading the importance of slave cabins and having open discussions about slavery.

Fingerprints of an enslaved.

I was there to attend the Freedom 150 event at Stagville celebrating the 150th anniversary of emancipation. There was entertainment, fellowship and great food.

150th Anniversary of Emancipation.

Re-enactors preparing a wonderful meal.

Vegetables and spices.

Meat looks good!!!!!

Hoe Cakes and Hoppin Johns.

The group discussion that night was very enlightening and touching. Participants from different walks of life, black and white having heart-felt discussions about their personal life in regards to race was very eye opening. Everyone had a story to tell and we learned from each other. The discussion brought a sense of understanding and extreme compassion that evening.

I love ending the day with a group discussion.

Enjoyed the indepth conversation.

After the roundtable discussion ended around midnight, we retired back to the cabin for bed time. As I looked at the sleeping arrangements, the directions of everybody’s sleeping bags looked like a crossword puzzle. I wondered if this was how the enslaved slept and if they had this many people in one room. As I laid wide awake on the wooden floor with 20 other individuals, I was envisioning the 900 slaves that had walked and slept on these floors. The pain I felt in my legs and back that entire night would not compare to the physical, mental and emotional pain that the enslaved endured on a daily basis. It was a difficult night for me, but I was determined to stay committed to this experience in remembrance of my ancestors.

20+ slept in the slave cabin at Horton Grove.

Sleeping in a cabin in honor of the enslaved.

The next day, I woke up with very little sleep and every part of my body was sore. I could not imagine living in these conditions. But I'm glad I sleep here and I would definitely do it again in a heartbeat.

This experience has brought me a sense of pride to be an African American and an awareness of the struggles and strengths that the enslaved lived during a difficult and inhumane period. I am proud of my heritage!!!!

Special thanks to Mr. McGill, founder of the Slave Dwelling Project, for another amazing experience that I will always remember. Visit his websiste at www.slavedwellingproject.org.

Joseph McGill, Founder of the Slave Dwelling Project.

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