Joseph McGill, Jr. sleeps in slave cabins. His day job is with the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Southern Field Office in Charleston, but his “night job” is to experience what it might have felt like to be a slave. He has slept in slave quarters in South Carolina and Alabama, and this month will expand this geography to Texas. We are eager to welcome Mr. McGill to Texas as our keynote speaker for the 2011 Annual Historic Preservation Conference on March 31-April 2 in Austin and to share his experiences of sleeping in two slave cabins in Texas.
In anticipation of our keynote speaker’s arrival, we’ve had the pleasure of doing some interesting reconnaissance work. We soon realized that finding a standing, intact slave quarter in Texas was easier said than done. Ravaged by weather and neglect, most of the slave cabins on Texas plantations no longer exist. With the help of folks out in the field (thanks Bryan McAuley, site manager at Levi Jordan Plantation and San Felipe de Austin State Historic Sites), we were able to find some diamonds in the rough. Mr. McGill will sleep in two shining examples of slave cabins in Texas, one being at the Egypt Plantation in Wharton County on March 29 and the other at the Seward Plantation in Independence on March 30.
Both plantations are owned and cared for by descendants of the original plantation families. Hank and Peggy Ward at the Seward Plantation and Bud Northington at the Egypt Plantation are deeply committed to preserving their respective plantations and the history they hold. Hank and Bud share similar stories – they both are endowed with ingenuity, a craftsman’s talent and the patience and perseverance it takes to restore and maintain the many buildings and structures on their plantation. Both men do most of the restoration work with their own two hands. And they are excited and willing to share their plantation’s history with the public. We feel honored to have experienced these special places through the eye’s of their owners and stewards and are grateful they will both host Joseph McGill, Jr. for his first slave cabin sleepovers in Texas.
- Register now to hear Joseph McGill, Jr. talk about his experiences at the “Keynote Challenge” and “Sleeping in Slave Cabins” session at the 2011 Annual Historic Preservation Conference in Austin on April 1.
- Attend a special event to welcome Joseph McGill, Jr. at the Egypt Plantation on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 starting at 6 p.m. The public is invited to a food tasting, book review, artistic renditions and prayer vigil, sponsored by Naomi Carrier of the Texas Center for African American Living History and the Egypt Plantation.
- We will feature stories on both plantations and don’t miss Joseph McGill, Jr. blog posts on his experiences staying at the Egypt and Seward Plantation slave cabins in early April.