Unusual sleepovers to preserve former slave homes

CHARLESTON, South Carolina Wed Mar 30, 2011 12:15pm EDT

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CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - Armed with a sleeping bag, whistle, flashlight and journal Joseph McGill is ready to spend another night in a strange place -- a building that once housed slaves.

This week, the program officer with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, will sleep in a former slave dwelling in Egypt, Texas.

The unusual sleepover is part of his push to preserve buildings that once housed slaves, and it's just one of the overnight excursions the Charleston, South Carolina, man has planned around the country this year.

"It is usually those iconic places -- the big house, the house on the hill, the architecturally significant houses -- that are saved, and very few of the places that tell the story of African Americans," said McGill.

"Slave dwellings certainly tell that story," he added. "It's not one of those happy stories."

McGill's independent project is in its second year. Last summer, he spent the night in 10 slave cabins in South Carolina and Alabama.

This year, which marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, he has expanded the project to Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana, Maryland and Missouri.

McGill, 49, first had the idea for the project in 1999 when he slept in a slave cabin at Boone Hall Plantation near Charleston as a Civil War re-enactor in the all-black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment.

He feels that maintaining the buildings is an important aspect to preserving the story of slavery in America.

The Atlantic slave trade ended in 1808. But the domestic slave trade continued, and many slaves were not freed until months after the Civil War ended in 1865.

"There are a lot of plantation houses left, but a lot of those plantations don't have the outbuildings anymore," McGill said. "They deteriorated. They fell, demolition by neglect. That's forgivable.

"But if someone intentionally got rid of them trying to forget or erase that part of history, I can't forgive that," he said.

During his overnight stays, McGill said he thinks about the lives of slaves who shared the space. He's found shards of glass, animal bones and other artifacts in the buildings he has visited.

Given that the slaves likely had no beds, "I always sleep on the floor," he said. "I may change that in Texas because of scorpions."

(Edited by Colleen Jenkins and Jerry Norton)

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Comments (2)
AdeleInTexas wrote:
This is just another malcontent who probably wants reparations for damages and suffering he never endured and at the very least loves being a victim and makes a living from playing that role.

The first question that always springs to my mind is why someone the “empathetic” hasn’t started a grassroots movement to help the black population in places Sudan where you hear of the abductions, rape, mutiltations, murder and enslavement of men, women and children of Dafur. This savage and ongoing butchery doesn’t seem to disturb the delicate sensibilities of people like this or Jeremiah Wright or Barack Hussin Obama.

And, I am terribly curious why one never EVER hears about this type of activity or historical documentation strolls down the Memory Lane of Slavery anywhere else in the world. (Pay PARTICULAR attention to the entry for Sierra Leone!!!)

After all, the idea of slavery certainly didn’t originate in the United States and the Emancipation Proclamation sure didn’t end it in the rest of the world.hed in the United States such as:

1865 United States abolishes slavery with the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution; about 40,000 remaining slaves are affected.

1869 Portugal abolishes slavery in the African colonies

1870 U.S. abolishes slavery in the Department of Alaska after purchasing it from Russia in 1867

1871 Brazil declares free the sons and daughters born to slave mothers after 28 September 1871.

1873 Slavery abolished in Puerto Rico

1873 Treaty between Britain and Zanzibar and Madagascar to suppress slave trade

1874 Britain abolishes slavery in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) following its annexation in 1874 (after Third Anglo-Asante War).

1879 Bulgaria abolishes slavery (note: the slavery was abolished with the first constitution of the renewed Bulgarian state)

1882 Ottoman firman abolishes all forms of slavery, white or black.

1885 Brazil passes Sexagenarian Law freeing all slaves over the age of 60.

1886 Slavery abolished in Cuba

1888 Brazil passes Golden Law, abolishing slavery without indemnities to slaveowners or aid to newly freed slaves.

1890 Brussels Act – Treaty granting anti-slavery powers the right to stop and search ships for slaves

1894 Korea abolishes slavery

1896 France abolishes slavery in Madagascar

1897 Zanzibar abolishes slavery following its becoming a British protectorate.

1900 – today

1906 China formally abolishes slavery and the law became effective on 31 January 1910, when all adult slaves were converted into hired labourers and the young were freed upon reaching age 25.

1912 Siam (Thailand), formally abolishes all slavery. The act of selling a person into slavery was abolished in 1897 but slavery itself was not outlawed at that time.

1921 Nepal abolishes slavery

1923 Afghanistan abolishes slavery

1924 Iraq abolishes slavery

1924 League of Nations Temporary Slavery Commission

1928 Iran abolishes slavery[48]

1928 Domestic slavery practised by local African elites abolished in Sierra Leone (ironically established as a place for freed slaves). A study found practices of domestic slavery still widespread in rural areas in the 1970s.

1935 Italian General Emilio De Bono proclaims slavery to be abolished in the Ethiopian Empire

1936 Britain eradicates slavery in Northern Nigeria

1942 Ethiopian Empire abolishes slavery

1945 In the subsequent defeat of Nazi Germany and Japan, workcamps for slave labor (primarily Jewish encampments in Nazi Germany and colonists in Japanese-dominated lands) were gradually closed by the liberators.

1946 Fritz Sauckel, procurer of slave labor for Nazi Germany, convicted at the Nuremberg trials and executed as war criminal.

1948 UN Article 4 of the Declaration of Human Rights bans slavery globally

1952 Qatar abolishes slavery

1959 Slavery in Tibet is abolished by China after the Dalai Lama flees.

1960 Niger abolishes slavery

1962 Saudi Arabia abolishes slavery

1962 Yemen abolishes slavery

1963 United Arab Emirates abolishes slavery

1970 Oman abolishes slavery

1981 Mauritania abolishes slavery

Mar 31, 2011 2:10pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Mfitz001 wrote:
To AdeleIn Texas: he’s just one gufella who is interested in history, in this case his own immigrant history, much like some folks are interested in Ellis Island studies. Get over yourself. Ah, but the fact that you make a point of mentioning our president’s middle name (and spelling it incorrectly at that) makes your own agenda quite clear. Your just a racist.

Mar 31, 2011 3:31pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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