Season 1 Foundations
Episode 3 - Know Your Resources: A Place to Call Home
We all understand the concept of home - a place where, even if just for a moment, we can feel reprieve from the trials and tribulations of the outside world. This was especially meaningful to enslaved Black Americans. As we undergo the process of tracing our our roots, understanding how our enslaved ancestors lived, loved, and made home in tragic circumstances, can be a meaningful way of connecting to the past.
"A slave house is like every other American home – a sacred place. A slave house was where family was, so it was a place where enslaved people found strength and comfort from one another; but at the same time, it was a place that imposed physical limitations and psychological trauma. A slave house simultaneously embodies suffering, yet perseverance and strong family bonds." (Saving Slave Houses).
AOS expert guest, Jobie Hill is a licensed preservation architect. She is on a mission to document and systematically archive the homes of enslaved Americans to disrupt the notion that the structures and the people who lived within are unworthy of a respectable place in history. For years, historians have surveyed main plantations homes to preserve the record of these historic structures, but slave houses have been largely left out of the narrative. Fortunately, Jobie is set on creating the first national database of its kind that collects architectural information for the primary purpose of learning about slave dwellings and the people who lived within them.
Jobie relies on architectural technology to properly document the structures of the slave houses, but she also refers to slave narratives to obtain a richer understanding of the experiences of the enslaved.
Recalling the large fireplace made Jane think of spending time with her family, the meals they ate together and how precious these times were to her while she was growing up.
"My favorite example of the five matched sites is the Taylor Plantation in Alabama. It is a rare HABS site that can be matched to the ex-slave narrative of Jane Holloway. This site is also exceptional because not only is there a narrative about life on the Taylor Plantation, but a photograph of Jane was also taken during the interview – and it survives! This site and Jane’s interview provide insight into the lives of enslaved people on a small plantation. During slavery Jane lived with her mother Carrie, her father Taylor and her brother Maryland. Jane and her family lived in a one room log house. She remembers that the room itself was not very big, but the fireplace was. Recalling the large fireplace made Jane think of spending time with her family, the meals they ate together and how precious these times were to her while she was growing up." (Jobie Hill)
Jobie is a licensed preservation architect and founder of the Slave House Database.
The Slave House Database (SHD) is an interdisciplinary national study of slave houses in the United States. The mission of the SHD is delivered through a central repository of information and data pertinent to all known slave houses in the United States. It is designed to be a crosswalk for diverse fields to access and reference. It can be used to identify, locate, analyze and interpret slave houses, as well as connect to other resources. The SHD is a flexible and dynamic tool that has the capacity to yield a vast array of information about surveyed slave houses that can be tailored to a user’s desired outcome. The information can be packaged into customized formats such as reports, images and drawings about site features, architectural features, and interpretative information. The SHD is designed to be a resource for researchers, descendants, museums, organizations, and the public to study and interpret the surviving evidence of slavery.
To learn more about her work and the Slave House Database, visit: http://www.savingslavehouses.org/.