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Slave Dwelling Project gives a voice to enslaved people by telling their stories

Published on Thursday, October 17, 2019

Slave Dwelling Project gives a voice to enslaved people by telling their stories

Joseph McGill doesn’t want people to forget about slavery.
He has traveled to more than 90 sites in 24  states to spotlight the experiences of enslaved people.
McGill brought the Slave Dwelling Project to Bennettsville last weekend, where he slept in the Jennings-Brown House.
The Slave Dwelling Project was part of the Bennettsville Bicentennial Celebration.
“The Slave Dwelling Project is about finding slave dwellings wherever they exist and asking the owners if you can spend the night in those spaces,” McGill said.
He added not a lot of attention is paid to those places.
“The nice beautiful homes in front of them are talked about, the people who get the credit for building those places are talked about and the people who lived in those nice beautiful homes are often talked about,” he said. “But what is not often talked about is the people who physically build those places.”
He was concerned about this element of the story not being told so for the last nine years, he has traveled all over the country looking for dwellings.
“Sleeping is easy,” McGill said. “Anyone can do that but the conversations we have before the sleepovers are the most powerful tool that we now have.”
In doing this, McGill engaged the participants in a conversation about slavery and the legacy it left on the nation.
Next year for the 10th anniversary of the project, he would like to add another presidential site and other states to the portfolio. Twelve of the former presidents were slave owners. Currently, he is negotiating with going to places in New Hampshire and Michigan.
Before going to the Jennings-Brown House, he met students of the Children’s Defense Fund After School Program at Blenheim Middle School of Discovery. 
Later that evening, he held various conversations in a variety of venues.
Servant Emman’el Branch of Effingham, Ga., a journalist and photographer with Black History Bible Prophecy News, slept at the Jennings-Brown House on Oct. 11 with McGill.
He felt McGill was doing an outstanding job of preserving the story of the vanishing slave dwelling places.
“It was surreal. When you start to think about the enormous amount of free labor, the souls, the blood, sweat, and tears.”
Branch felt privileged and honored to be able to be a part of the work that needed to be passed along to young people before it vanished.
The next day, Living History demonstrations involving cooking, brick making and chair making were held on the grounds of the Jennings-Brown House.

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Author: Dan McNiel

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