tv American Artifacts Saving Slave Houses CSPAN February 26, 2021 10:02pm-10:41pm EST
since 2011, architect and historic price ovation is, jody hill, has been visiting and compiling a database of former do a sleeve dwellings in the united states. her interdisciplinary work includes architectural documentation, photography, interpretation and preservation of slave history. up next, on american artifacts. we traveled the southern virginia, where their north carolina border to visit the
former brand in plantation with joe be hail and learn about her saving slave houses project. she's joined by several archaeologists than preservationists and a team from kremlin incorporated who came along to document brandon plantation with a series of 3d later stance. >> we are here to do laser standing in documentation of a slave house that is here. and this is part of a independent project that i'm doing that's called, saving slave houses, which is a database of all the known slave houses in the united states. and it is a depository of information and documentation of slave houses in the united states and i have partnered with, which is the company that makes the survey equipment that are used to do kind of the
highest level documentation that is available to us today, which is 3d laser scanning. >> it's important to do this because, this is a type of preservation. so leave houses are buildings that are disappearing from the landscape, and so by documenting them, that's one way of preserving them. documenting them and through my database is also a way to share and to get it out there and to learn from them. so, this is a way for people to learn about these buildings and learn them and make them available to a wider audience without having to necessarily come out. a lot of these sites are hard to get to, and also a lot of the sites are privately owned. so, you know, property owners don't necessarily want people, you know, constantly coming out to their sites to look at these structures. but the property owners have
been very helpful and willing to work with me but at the same time, you know, it's easier to have something that's available online somewhere that you can get to. so in total, i have done survey work at about 150 sites end of the hundred and 20 to 30 of those have been in virginia. i've been focusing in virginia the last couple of years. so i found this place through a coworker and mentor of mine who has -- originally he worked at -- so he documented things there now he's an art historian and now works for a private practice. but he knew about this site and told me that it's one that i he knew i'd want to check out. >> so here is here today, can you tell us what we're seeing? >> yes, so his name is mark, and this site is special because it has a sub floor pit,
so a sub floor pit is a hole in the ground and you find them in slave spaces and they are in front of the fireplace and they were used for both as root cellars, but also for storage of personal items that the enslaved people may have had. and they range in size, and shape and just a wide variety of them. some are would lined, some are brick lined, some are just just holds, just 30. but, so this one is special because this building is raised on peers, so this one is stone lined and part of it is above the ground because the building is raised and so today, in addition to three delays are standing the building, we are also going to open the pit to protect it, the floorboards were nailed close to keep things out of it.
so we are going to open it back up to look at it and also to scan it. >> how can you tell? >> the fact that this all marks on this goes straight up and down, that's a reciprocal motor driven soil so that would sort of put it in 19th century sometime when they start circular sawing lumber close to the middle of the 19th century. this would seem to be before that. >> so it was built at the time of construction. >> one thing i find interesting about these is that, the opening is so large. like i mean, i don't know why you might necessarily need such a large opening. like this one looks like it was intentional and was constructed at the same time as the building was constructed, so when they built the floor, the
framed out to have this whole. they knew that they wanted this hole as opening before so they provided framing for it. and underneath of it, because the building is on peers, and raised off the ground, when you look to the edges, there is stone. so you can see that it is lined with stone on the outside of it. so it is protected from the outside. i can't tell kind of how deep it goes into the ground in relation to the great outside. >> it's a little lower. >> they, i looks like it goes down a little bit. but yeah, this is basically storage. a big hole that was used for storage, i think. >> do you know where the kitchen would've been? >> now. i mean, unless they were using
this space for the kitchen. >> so mark, is this the original flooring? >> all that looks pretty convincing. and this floor, it's pine and it has texture, it has where, and it's got a lot of wear up by the heart. >> so that has a lot more where. >> it's the same on the other side. >> so this looks like it may be the original floor, yes. >> what would in there? >> i'm guessing primarily like a root cellar. food items, because there would be a cooler space but also maybe personnel and nerves that
they would've had. it's hard to say without doing archeology, that's when it's really imported to archeology because then you have a much better understanding of what's was in there. >> what kind of things have they found in these holes when they have done the archeology? >> we can positively archaeologists. >> personal items, buttons, buckles, beads, fragments of ceramic a lot of evidence that they are keeping fruit, vegetable's in these root cellars. so, here, only help sick understand the daily lives of these people when we choose to excavate these hidden spaces. >> my name is crystal paycheck, i run the -- with our archeological fieldwork. >> and why are you here today?
>> so jobie invited my colleague and i from the archeology department to the spaces that she serving, and we really wanted to come to kind of experience the space to feel what these cabinets would have been like, to walk through, to live in, to walk up and down the steps. we often at monte carlo excavate a lot of these spaces months they're not on the landscape anymore. so to be able to be at one that is still standing is just a different experience. we wanted to be here today for that. >> so, when you reflect on what you are seeing, what are your thoughts? >> that's a good question. it's really humbling to be in the spaces four -- of these people that were slaves. they were here who living and working, they didn't get a break, they weren't paid for their services, which they were
still existed so trying to navigate through these paces today in the 21st century, it's humbling. i think i get a better sense of what the room would've felt like, obviously there's nothing in it today. but they just feel the space and walk through it gives me a better idea of what it is that we are looking for that's not on the landscape anymore. i think it's really important to come to the spaces, to come to the plantations, record what is here because one day this building might not be here. i think it's important to recorder past and to know what it is that makes us who we are today, as a nation, as a people. it's important to remember these people that lived here to, so to be able to document their experience in the building in which they lived, to compare this building with what we have at monticello, try to get some understanding of the same experience across time and across space. i think it really helps inform
archaeologists have sites like brendan can really help us inform us at monticello and across the south and across the east coast. so i think it's important to document the spaces for sure. >> so this is the equipment that i use and this collects a p.s. coordinates of a building, so i've collected it for the building and then i created a digital survey form, that has the information i'm interested in and i can fill it out hand it links to that gps coordinate. so then when i met these points out where the buildings are, we click on that point, all of this information that i've put in comes up at that point. this project started as part of my masters thesis project when i started as an architect, then i went back to school to get my degree --
masters degree in historical preservation after having gone on the real world, practicing for wild and realized i wanted to do was historic preservation. so i went back to school and get my masters degree and when i was in school, for my masters thesis, i started doing research with the historical hurricane building survey, which is a government program that started in 1936 to get architects back to work. and so, an architect to -- document historic significant directors across the united states. and part of that documentation was slave houses. not necessarily intentionally, but they did document slave houses and sometimes, a lot of times it which is just -- we got one photograph or you could see that a slave house in the background of a picture behind the main house. and so, for my masters thesis,
i looked at that collection and identified all of the sites that had a slave house senate. to the american building survey had 485 sites that have a sleeve house. and then i also looked at the wpa sleet narratives that were done at the same time in the 1930s. just kind of hoping that there be some relationship between -- according to the next project, according to the sleeve narratives get back to work and they were doing their own thing and doctors were doing their own thing. but, in my mind, there would've been some overlap about chance. so, i also did research with the narratives and -- so there are about 3500 narratives. and i went through all of those, identify the ones that
describes the house during slavery so there slave narratives that described their house during in slavery. and i went through those and of those have the 485 slave houses that overlap. so you have described a specific slave house. so you have the actual words of the people living in the spaces describing these spaces, which is just amazing. those are the interpretations that we should be using when we interpret these spaces. and so from that, that just and
can i see any of that in the spaces now that i go back to look at and my fieldwork of going back in and doing my own documentation the building started when i was working on my project in school, i was a summer intern at house, a summer architect and that helped with my research, and they asked me, how many have you seen, i was like, none. i was like, i'm in the archives doing research and they were like, oh, you know you should go out and see some of these and when i was in turning for the some of them i went out and saw some of them and we started and when i started going and visiting some of these i just kept going and knowing that i really enjoyed seeing the spaces in person, it's not the same as the pictures. although documentation is
amazing and, you know, the photographs are amazing but it's completely different to actually visit the structures and stand inside the space and so i kept doing the field work because it's exciting, i enjoy it, and it also answers a lot of questions to me and others, how many of these buildings still exist, that's a better question. and in order to further the presentation of these buildings we need to be able to answer these questions, get support from others, and how many are you looking at,. i'm trying to answer that question, how many are still out there or at least provide a case study. 1936, there were this many in the state and now there's only this many left. that's what i'm working on and, yes, to fund this it's funded by me and i looked for grants
to do a lot of my work and things like that that translate to those individuals and things like that. usually they are just smaller ones but i can make a small grand go a long way. >> three feet, seven inches. >> three feet? >> which case, it would be nice to -- >> this plant pipe is called a saddle bag plan or saddle bag partition wall so there's two variations from a saddle bag but primarily it has a central chimney and a room on either side, it has a back-to-back chimney place. back to back fireplace, sorry. so this is the plan type. this room that we are standing in right now because of the size of the opening of the fireplace and also the location to the main house and the fact that there is a pit in the other side and maybe this side,
we think this might have functions as a kitchen because the opening at the fireplace is larger on this side and it made us question why would a group seller be on the other side if the space was used as a kitchen? maybe because if this was primarily where there's a lot of cooking than it would have been a lot hotter in this space and so to have a root cellar, the point of the root cellar was to keep things cool so they used the other space for the cooler side to have the root cellar and this is where a lot of the cooking may have taken place. >> how old do you think this pot is? >> that metal piece is a crane but i'm guessing that's original. probably the pots are, wouldn't surprise me if they were probably original too. or at least fairly old. yeah, the crane, the crane is because that's kind of part of the fireplace.
>> would people have lived in here? >> absolutely. >> and how would that work? is the upstairs original? and they would have slapped up there? >> yeah. the upstairs is original. but there are not hearths in the upstairs. a lot of times in the loft space you do find hearths, also fireplace openings which is definite an indicator that people were living up there but this one does not have that but that does not mean they weren't living up there. they were living up there which is why there is a partition wall up there and a door opening up there and a staircase, you know, an enclosed staircase leading up there. that was living space upstairs. you can never really tell for sure without documentation of exactly where people were sleeping or how many people were living in these spaces but for kitchens those were always
also living spaces and my understanding because kitchens always used and what you kind of learn or hear from things is, you know, once you lift the hearth in the kitchen, in never went out. just because it took so long to light back then the fireplace and get it running and it took so long to do everything that it was always running. you always had to have hot water or whatever on hand, someone had to be there to watch that fire and also just from the slave narratives they always talk about if they were the cook when, their mother was the cook, and we live in the kitchen, and there's also evidence of the narrative that supports this. kitchens were also living spaces. >> and the other room over there? >> known exactly what people
were being fed in this kitchen? can't say what was being cooked or how often and how much you needed to be cooking at one time but i'm guessing that was also probably a secondary cooking space for them. without all the modern technology they have today, there is no way i could do survey work on my own. so that's why i'm very thankful that we have all this and that i have access to it because otherwise even just the digital measuring device that i use, i can't hold the end of one tape measure and block the other so i use a laser to measure things. now i'm taking some measurements of the room and the doors and the windows. i just finished measuring the fireplace but i will do this
for each of the different spaces in this building and also overall dimension of the building and that's part of my digital survey form that i have that's linked to the gis coordinates. when i map it, all this comes up. >> i'm richard hassler, i work as a market manager and i've been involved in the atlantic slave trade project which is a philanthropic project that tremble has been working on for three or four years now. as part of that project, jobie hill has asked us to come and help document some of the sleeve houses in the virginia area. this particular house we are trying to capture laser scans of the entire exterior and interior of the house and when we laser scan, we run our skin are on a tripod and then
replace it with a camera that can take panoramic slr images and we can map that as the color from those images onto the laser scan and that provides a point cloud of three dimensional point cloud from which we can pull models using our sketch up software or which you can use our other software packages to pull measurements and other kinds of useful information out of it. >> how did trimble get involved in doing this philanthropic project? >> okay, one of the vice president is very passionate about africa and has spent many years there and as part of that, he has the ability to kind of help trimble choose what kinds of projects to use in this is when he was very, very passionate about so we got together with the organization in the past who documents world heritage sites around the world digitally and started to work
with them using our technology to document sites run spot that were important to the atlantic slave train. we have hit some sites in mississippi, south carolina, the virgin islands, we did a sugar factory down there and we will continue to do that. we are building a relationship with both educators and academics to continue the project and find some co-funding through different kinds of grants working with the academic community. we have several historians who have been kind of tying in with us lately and including unesco, we've been talking to them about making sure we have some ties with them to both help us get into different international locations but also to make sure that the projects we choose our of historic interest. in boulder valley school district in colorado we've been working with educators there to add some of this information into their curriculum which they have successfully done last year, so they have as part
of their curriculum now some of the impact an education organization has managed to work with boulder valley to get atlantic slave trade, this kind of material into the curriculum. >> and then you get off on martin? >> what kind of crops? >> we are talking about the 19th century probably tobacco at this point. that certainly what it is now. the tidewater was big into tobacco in the 18th century. i'm not so familiar with the agricultural history in this area in the antebellum period but i would guess tobacco was the mainstay but you would also have grains, wheat and corn in addition to that. those would probably be the three main crops. >> and is there any way to know how many slaves lived in here or how many they needed for
that? >> i'm not sure how many that would be. but to have a house of that substance you have to have quite a bit of a courage under cultivation to make that possible. this was a substantial house for the period even antebellum this was a pretty substantial place. >> i actually don't know so much about this plantation as i do other plantations but i do know this is brandon plantation which is the last name of the family that owned it and even today the current owner, she is part of the brandon family. her last name is also brandon. there's other plantations with the same name. there is an upper brandon, lower brandon plantation that are also nearby and those plantations have been more heavily studied and documented then this one. this one has not been as heavily studied or documented. i don't necessarily know why
that is the case but that's also another reason why i think it's important to document these structures just because it hasn't been as heavily studied so there isn't existing documentation that's out there so it's important that someone like myself come along and documented because it doesn't exist yet so that's one of the reasons why i'm excited about doing that today. i always have to kind of remind myself and others is that when you come back to sites, always remember you are missing a lot of the buildings. in order to paint a clear picture of what life is like, you have to be able to identify what buildings are missing. here, i mean, usually you always have the main house. and here we have the main house. this structure which was possibly used as a kitchen, also living space for enslaved people, kitchen quarter, we have a privy, we have a smokehouse, we have a well, a
smokehouse and well-being next to a building or often next to a kitchen. there are certain buildings that are kind of clustered together because of their functions. smoke houses, dairies, a source of water you typically find it next to a kitchen because kitchens rely on those things. at this site and now across the road is hard to tobacco barns that were also originally part of the original plantation, but look this canadian trade for now. you know what i mean? so you have to just kind of, in order to kind of get a good picture, understand how it would've been moving around the site and where the form -- where the crops would have been, you have to know where all those kind of buildings would have in. i just don't know where that would have been for this plantation. it's been divided, there's
roads cutting through a lot of the spaces now, which were definitely not their historically. so it's kind of hard to paint a good picture of what it would've been like. and i also don't know how many people were even here. either both at the main house or the enslaved community. so without knowing that, you know, it's hard to be able to really say the paint an accurate picture. so one of the questions that people always have when we talk about slave houses, well how many people live here? that's where people always want to know because a lot of times, you know, the spaces were more heavily populated than where you think of today for traditional family of, you know, mother, father, two to three children. like that's not what it was like historically for either enslaved families or, you know, swiveling families. the families were just larger and they had more children so families were just bigger back then. so if was even a single family
or multi family housing, they were just usually more people living in it. so it's just kind of automatically a different picture. so i just don't know exactly how many people were here. so it's hard to kind of paint that picture. >> the status of it now? >> the status of it now is, i guess you can say it's stabilized, but no one is living -- the main house is not used on a regular basis. it's used when i think the family comes out to do some hunting in the area. but no one is living in this structure. i don't know exactly when the last time people were actually living in the structure, using the structure. i am happy to say that this structure is not being used for storage, i mean a lot of places, the outbuildings are used just for storage. the storage of and just kind of
big things that clutter the space and when that happens, that accelerates the deterioration of the spaces because when you have clutter, that's going animals and rodents and nets invites them in and that's what starts to accelerate the deterioration. so luckily, this one is nice and, you know, cleaned out and so you have cobwebs and other things like that but otherwise, it's in really good shape and so i think that's really helped preserve the building. just a fact that there is no clutter in it. >> so this is a long pace work. when this is all done, what would this look like as far as your records go? >> lots of photographs. all have chase correlates and there will be data that needs to be processed.
and then, it can then be kind of exported into different types of final products that both brick and i have an information that the company has compiled and that really just varies in what we kind of need and want. but 3d models will be generated, with those three models, there's different products that can accept or so you get different versions. these buildings and the people that lived and work in these buildings are very important part of our history and so i think it's important to tell their story truthfully and one way of doing that is through the architecture. and the architecture is, you know, part of the material culture that still survives today. that you can visit and you can experience and it's kind of a vehicle to tell their story and so that's how i've been using the architecture.
but, it's also -- the work i'm doing is also important because when i kind of started doing this research, i found that there is information about the structures and these people, but it's kind of everywhere and there is little bits of everywhere and so i've taken a lot of time, years to compile it and kind of get it in one place and also to make it digital and it's taken me a long time to do this and i'd like to be able to show others, and so not everyone has to go back and do just thinking i'm doing. because it's taken me so long to do it, that i want others to be able to benefit from it and have access to it, so they can then move forward and do research with it and then, you know, produce meaningful research and studies from it and not have to spend a lot of time compiling and doing the research and doing. although i love it, i enjoy
doing it. but it does take a lot of time and energy to do. and every side i go to, i learn something new. have met a lot of great people doing it. visiting the structures and being inside of them is just that different than seeing a picture of them. also, the private properties i'm going to, recently -- i've always discovered interesting things about the buildings, but property owners are opening up to me and sharing things that they have with me so for example, i just went to a site and demand there has cover lights or blankets from two of them from an enslaved woman. and they're in really good condition. and they're just amazing to see and so when i was there, he showed them to me, and i never would've known about them unless i went out to the site, you know, spent the time of the property owner and talk to him
and that's why he shared them with me and that's amazing! and so, to be able to see things like that that i would've never even known about her seeing because they are not in a museum, they're not anywhere that i would've known about publicly, they're just sitting in someone's public home. so that's truly amazing. i'm getting to see things that private property owners have and are willing to share with me. >> you can learn more about joe be hills project at her website. saving slave houses dark horse. and you can view this and all other american history tv programs at c-span.org slash history. you're watching american history tv, every weekend on c-span 3. explore our nations past. american history tv on c-span 3.
american history tv on c-span 3. exploring the people and events that tell the american story every weekend, coming up this weekend, saturday at 6 pm eastern on the civil war, the discussion with h.w. prince, author of the zealot and the emancipator. john brown, abraham lincoln and the struggle for american freedom. sunday on real america at 4 pm eastern, we marked the 80th anniversary of the u.s. so, with three films including the 1971 film, u.s. so with 30 years of service, hosted by late entertainer bob hope. and in 1972 defense department film, documenting a trip to vietnam by semi davis jr..
at 6 pm on american artifacts, author of 18 tiny deaths, the untold story of francis glass mueller lee and the invention of monitoring forensics shows several dollhouses crime scenes and tells the story of missile, who constructed the dram is in the mid 19 forties and helped pioneer the science of crime scene investigation. at 8 pm on the presidency, a discussion on elizabeth powell. george washington's political confidant and a look at a surviving eight-page letter which provides a glimpse into her role as a washington's confidant. explore the american story. watch american history tv. this weekend on c-span 3. >> every saturday at 8 pm eastern, on american history tv on c-span 3, go inside a different college classroom and hear about topics ranging from the american revolution, civil
rights and u.s. presidents to 9/11. >> thanks for your patience and for logging into class. >> with most college campuses closed due to the impact of the coronavirus, watch professors transfer teaching to a virtual setting to engage with their students. >> gorbachev did most of the work to change the soviet union. but reagan met him halfway, reagan encouraged him, reagan supported him. >> freedom of the press, which will get to later, i should just mention, madison originally crossed it of the freedom of the use of the press and it is indeed freedom to print things and publish things. it is not a freedom for what we now refer to, institutionally as -- >> lectures in history on american history tv on c-span 3. every saturday at 8 pm eastern. lectures in history is also available as a podcast. find it where you listen to podcasts. >> each week, american history tv's american artifacts visits museums and historic places