Man relives the lives of slaves in Greenwich

On Friday, March 30, Joseph McGill, Jr., will spend the night in the dark, cramped attic slave quarters at Bush-Holley House, a National Historic Landmark in Greenwich, CT, after participating in a panel discussion on the legacy of slavery in America.

McGill, a descendant of slaves, is no stranger to the heat, sweat and backbreaking work that African slaves who were brought to this country bore on a daily basis. As a young man, he himself toiled in tobacco fields.

Now, as a field officer at the Charleston Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, McGill has established the Slave Dwelling Project and has made it a personal mission to preserve humble shelters that serve as a reminder of what life was like for the slaves who worked plantations, more modest farms and businesses in both the North and South.

In connection with the Slave Dwelling Project, McGill has so far spent the night in 28 documented slave quarters. Bush-Holley House, home of the Greenwich Historical Society and one of the few historic homes in New England to address its connection with slavery, will be McGill’s second stay in the North.

“My experiences have all been different, but I’ve come to understand that despite their lack of all but the most rudimentary amenities, these dwellings were the one place where slaves could experience some serenity in their lives,” McGill said.

Prior to his overnight stay, Mr. McGill, along with Coming to the Table, an organization that addresses the legacy of slavery in America, will conduct a panel discussion at the Greenwich Historical Society.

Experts participating in the discussion include Dr. Allegra di Bonaventura, assistant dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Yale University; Dionne Ford, writer, Coming to the Table member and FindingJosephine.com; Grant Hayter-Menzies, biographer, historian and Coming to the Table member; Rev. David Pettee, Coming to the Table member; John Pfeiffer, adjunct professor, Lyme Academy of Fine Arts and Old Lyme town historian; and Dale Plummer, Norwich city historian and chair of the Emancipation Proclamation Commemoration Committee.

The panel discussion is set for Friday, March 30, 7 to 8:30 pm at the Vanderbilt Education Center,Greenwich Historical Society, 39 Strickland Road, in Cos Cob.

Visit www.greenwichhistory.org to reserve online or call 203-869-6899, Ext. 10.

 

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