House Museums Increasingly Telling the Story of the Slaves Who Labored at the Great Homes

Pat Young

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Long Island, NY
From the article:

Increasingly, the people going on house tours are looking for more history and are trying to satisfy “a hunger” for history and truth, Ms. Browning-Mullis in Savannah and Ms. Northup in Charleston said.

A search for more factually accurate information about slavery and African-American history in Georgia is what led Jason Lumpkin, a pastor in Atlanta, to the Owens-Thomas House with his wife and two daughters in March. Mr. Lumpkin was surprised with how well the experiences of the enslaved were explained, and he appreciated that he did not have to specifically request information about black people as if it were supplementary.

“A few years ago, we did a tour where slavery was just glossed over and I had to ask about it to hear about it,” he said. “I don’t feel like that was the case at the Owens-Thomas House. They were intentional to talk about slavery and the issues associated with it and address them head on. I appreciated the fact that as bad as it was they were honest and in-depth.”

Mr. Lumpkin said that in addition to passing down stories about ancestors who were enslaved, he and his wife try to find different ways of teaching their daughters about their family history, and that history is incomplete without a discussion of slavery.

“I don’t trust the school system to tell them the true story of slavery,” Mr. Lumpkin said. “Knowing there are discrepancies out there in how that history is told, it’s even more important that as parents we be intentional in making sure our daughters understand and learn outside of school, and tours like this are a way to do it.”
 

luinrina

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Jul 30, 2018
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Germany
I visited Berkeley Plantation today, and they're currently constructing slave cabins on the grounds. They're to open this summer. One looked pretty much ready to open its doors, the other one was still missing half a wall and the roof. If I remember the sign correctly, they want to show visitors how the slaves lived.

There was also a model in the little museum but I didn't have time to read the panels and it was too dark in the room to take a picture.
 
Joined
Aug 18, 2014
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Florida via Chicago
This is very exciting to hear. Especially since I read an article this weekend that the usual sponsor for the Gettysburg re enactment backed out. They said the numbers attending are falling off and interest isn't there with the under 40 group. To them is all about money. They don't care how important it is then to share it with this generation. To know your history is to find your own identity.
 

santaisreal

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Aug 16, 2019
Charleston Post and Courier just had a story in the last week about tourists not wanting to hear about the dark side of plantations and homes. I have visited Aiken-Rhett House as well as Drayton Hall and neither did much at all to interpret the history of slavery. In fact at Drayton Hall the tour guide was more interested in telling us about the time Jackie Kennedy Onassis visited. When it came to slaves, it was more like "they slept and worked over in the yard somewhere."

Standing in the courtyard at Aiken-Rhett and taking it all in was better than the audio tour telling you about all the fancy silverware the family owned.

And is there anything worse than people wanting to get married at these places ignorant of where they stand?
 

7thWisconsin

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Nov 21, 2014
For most of my adult life, I've felt that we've been seeing and telling a lop-sided view of how people lived. We go to Williamsburg, for instance, and see how the wealthy and relatively wealthy lived, without comparison with others and we internalize "this is how everybody lived." We want that because it most resembles how we live, so we buy into that vision. I applaud the effort to tell the slaves' story. It is, after all, history. Mount Vernon does a good job with this.
 

Pat Young

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Long Island, NY
For most of my adult life, I've felt that we've been seeing and telling a lop-sided view of how people lived. We go to Williamsburg, for instance, and see how the wealthy and relatively wealthy lived, without comparison with others and we internalize "this is how everybody lived." We want that because it most resembles how we live, so we buy into that vision. I applaud the effort to tell the slaves' story. It is, after all, history. Mount Vernon does a good job with this.
Roughly half of the people in Williamsburg were enslaved African Americans in 1770.
 

cake1979

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Aug 30, 2019
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The South Shore of the Mighty Ohio
There are a few although not many. It's great to have so much effort put into preserving historic homes but it always seems so hollow and a little jarring without the whole story, doesn't it?
In 1860, more than 12% of the total US population was enslaved. More than 1/3rd of the South’s population was enslaved. To tell the story without a huge percentage of the population is ridiculous. You discuss these evils to learn from them.

Interestingly, I have visited My Old Kentucky Home in Bardstown twice, with about 20 years between visits. In the early 90’s there was nary a mention of slavery. Thankfully that changed, albeit a little. I also noticed that Monticello is focusing more on Jefferson’s enslaved workforce, including archaeological digs and replica slave quarters. Montpelier is doing the same. As @7thWisconsin noted, Mount Vernon has been there for years. It’s a tough subject, but one that I want my children to understand. How can you ignore it?
 

W. Richardson

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Jun 29, 2011
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Mt. Gilead, North Carolina


It is way too often the story we do get, but I never just accept a story. No one should ever just accept a story. I am glad to see them starting to include the slave issue into the fabric of the WHOLE story. Hopefully this will continue.

I am for ALL history, for every one's history, but not at the cost of another's history. There is room enough for ALL.

Nice article Pat and thank you for sharing this.

Respectfully,
William
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
Charleston Post and Courier just had a story in the last week about tourists not wanting to hear about the dark side of plantations and homes. I have visited Aiken-Rhett House as well as Drayton Hall and neither did much at all to interpret the history of slavery. In fact at Drayton Hall the tour guide was more interested in telling us about the time Jackie Kennedy Onassis visited. When it came to slaves, it was more like "they slept and worked over in the yard somewhere."

Standing in the courtyard at Aiken-Rhett and taking it all in was better than the audio tour telling you about all the fancy silverware the family owned.

And is there anything worse than people wanting to get married at these places ignorant of where they stand?

I can see both sides..Whether i go to Thomas Jefferson's house or Vanderbilt's Biltmore estate, I'm aware they had servants, butlers, maids, ect.....I still go to mainly hear and learn about Jefferson or Vanderbilt however...…..
 

risha

Private
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Charleston Post and Courier just had a story in the last week about tourists not wanting to hear about the dark side of plantations and homes. I have visited Aiken-Rhett House as well as Drayton Hall and neither did much at all to interpret the history of slavery. In fact at Drayton Hall the tour guide was more interested in telling us about the time Jackie Kennedy Onassis visited. When it came to slaves, it was more like "they slept and worked over in the yard somewhere."

Standing in the courtyard at Aiken-Rhett and taking it all in was better than the audio tour telling you about all the fancy silverware the family owned.

And is there anything worse than people wanting to get married at these places ignorant of where they stand?
Unfortunately grade school, high school and colleges are not teaching much about slavery so these homes are seen as wedding venues instead of the human tragedy and suffering arenas they actually were.
 
Joined
Mar 19, 2019
Unfortunately grade school, high school and colleges are not teaching much about slavery so these homes are seen as wedding venues instead of the human tragedy and suffering arenas they actually were.


I just searched for the word “wedding.” There was a HUGE thread about 2 or so years ago about having weddings at plantations.
 

jackt62

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Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
I've visited plantations near New Orleans and Charleston. In both cases, guides talked about the lives of the enslaved on those plantations. There are also reconstructions of slave quarters that contain artifacts and historical descriptions.
 
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