Friday, July 15, 2011

Bringing Truths to Light

St. Mary's College of Maryland student, Ryan Girgerty becomes an ambassador of Joseph McGill's Slave Dwelling Project.

Joseph McGill slept here.

Last Saturday afternoon, Joseph McGill arrived at Sotterley Plantation ready to spend the night in our original 1830's Slave Cabin, after a long day's travel from South Carolina. We were honored to officially become part of his nationally recognized "Slave Dwelling Project" (formerly known as "Slave Cabin Project") and receive his critical validation that "Sotterley is doing it right."

Sotterley's focus is not merely about the many residents of the big house (a.k.a. the Plantation House), but rather, encompasses the over 300 years of history of ALL who lived and worked here.

For those wondering why the name change of the project from Slave Cabin to Slave Dwelling, the answer is yet another truth ... there were places in the North were slaves lived and worked. According to McGill, this story is not readily discussed or taught and it needs to be included.

When asked what his purpose is for sleeping in the slave dwellings, McGill responded, “In saving these places it gives us an opportunity to bring the stories of African Americans off the back pages. We as African Americans are byproducts of those who endured. In telling their stories we are honoring them.”

St. Mary’s College of Maryland student Ryan Girgerty accepted McGill's invitation to sleep in the Slave Cabin's loft, which is smaller than his dorm room. Putting it into its true perspective, McGill spoke of the numbers of people/families who lived in one small cabin. Prior to extinguishing the lantern light, McGill shed the light of truth on the days of toil and turmoil ... and the significance of remembrance. And not only has Girgerty become an ambassador of the truth, but all who met and attended McGill's presentation at Sotterley are invited to become ambassadors.

It's about the truth. And it's about time.

Joseph McGill is a Program Officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the Southern Office in Charleston, South Carolina. He is the founder of Company "I" 54th Massachusetts Reenactment Regiment in Charleston, the regiment portrayed in the award winning movie “Glory”. McGill is a Commissioner for the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission, a board member for the proposed International African American Museum, a founding member of the South Carolina African American Historical Alliance, and a member of the South Carolina Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. He is the former Executive Director of both the African American Historical Museum and the Cultural Center of Iowa, and of History and Culture at Penn Center - the first school built during the Civil War for the education of recently freed slaves.

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