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Join ‘real talk’ about slave history

Natchezians have the opportunity to be a part of something very important on April 17.

Joseph McGill of Charleston, S.C., who is a history consultant for Magnolia Plantation there, will be in Natchez to spend the night inside the slave quarters at Melrose.

He has spent more than 250 nights in about 100 different sites in 19 states and the District of Columbia where slaves once lived.

Natchez is very fortunate to have so many historic homes still standing, which serve as an important part of our lives and economy today. Tourists by the thousands come each year to see those historic homes and spend time in our beautiful city.

But do they learn about the entire story while they are here?

Thanks to people like Ser Sesh Ab-Heter Boxley, who through research and persistence, drew attention to Forks of the Road, which at one time was one of the largest slave-trade locations in the county, and Deborah Cosey, who has restored the former slave quarters of the long-gone antebellum Concord, known as Concord Quarters, those who visit Natchez are beginning to also hear about the lives of those who built and maintained these homes and the lifestyles of their “owners.”

As McGill said, “We know well about the nice, beautiful big house. What’s missing from that story are the lives of the people who enabled all that.”

McGill typically invites others in a community to come to the slave quarters and share the experience of spending the night there. He also typically hosts campfire discussions with those in attendance about slavery.

It’s a shame that because of the pandemic, his time in Natchez will be a virtual event. Natchezians need to gather together to have this discussion about this uncomfortable topic.

We need to sit together and learn about the real experience of the enslaved people who were here. We need to hear the truth and understand the truth about what their lives were like and what they contributed to what is Natchez today.

Natchez is beginning to tell that story, and that’s a very good thing. It’s not until we understand fully the life and contribution of the enslaved here will we be able to present appropriately the real story of Natchez.

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