Joseph McGill Jr.’s Slave Dwelling Project returns to Natchez for two-day program

Published 11:55 am Monday, April 10, 2023

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Special to The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — When Joseph McGill Jr. brought his Slave Dwelling Project to Natchez in 2021, he presented his program at Melrose. This week, he is returning for a two-day program that will feature a lecture at Historic Natchez Foundation and a living history campfire conversation at the Auburn slave quarters.

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The lecture, which is titled, “The Education Value of Sleeping in Slave Dwellings: Mississippi Edition,” will be presented at 6 p.m. Friday, April 14. The campfire conversation will be held at 6 p.m., April 15. Both events are free and open to the public. They are part of McGill’s nationally acclaimed Slave Dwelling Project.

Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez National Historical Park, and Our Restoration Nation are hosting the two-day program.

“The Slave Dwelling Project will visit Natchez to encourage the continuation of antebellum historic sites to change their narratives,” said McGill. “This changed narrative now includes the history of all the people, enslaved and free, who were associated with the sites.”

McGill, a recognized authority on slave dwellings, said important questions about the “enslaved are now being answered in the interpretation given at most antebellum sites.” Those questions include: How did the antebellum owners of the properties acquire their wealth? How many people did they enslave? Who physically built the property?

“From the lecture, I want people to know that enslaved people had agency,” McGill said. “Despite what the laws said that they were, and the enslavers thought they were, they were still human. From the campfire conversation, I want the participants to be able to connect the dots to how our founding history continues to influence our current lives.”

McGill said the campfire conversation will focus on slavery and the legacy it left on this nation. “Subjects we discuss but are not limited to include white supremacy, white privilege, historical trauma, Confederate monuments, weddings on plantations, anti-CRT, anti-woke, etc.,” he said.

Carter Burns, the executive director of Historic Natchez Foundation, said he’s looking forward to McGill’s return visit.

“We are thrilled to be hosting Joseph McGill and the Slave Dwelling Project in Natchez,” he said. “We had planned for him to bring the program to town in 2020 but had to cancel the event. We were only able to host a virtual campfire discussion in 2021, so we are happy to have him here in person this year.”

McGill is a history consultant for Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, S.C., and the founder and director of the Slave Dwelling Project. Through the Slave Dwelling Project, he has arranged for people to “sleep in extant slave dwellings,” providing experiences that “brought much needed attention to these often-neglected structures that are vitally important to the American built environment,” McGill said in a biographical sketch.

In addition to giving lectures and educating the public about historic homes and the enslaved, McGill is known for spending nights inside slave quarters throughout the South. In an October 2013 article for Smithsonian Magazine, writer Tony Horwitz noted: “Some travelers dream of five-star hotels, others of visiting seven continents. McGill’s mission: to sleep in every former slave dwelling still standing in the United States.”

Since 2018, McGill has conducted more than 250 overnights in about 100 different sites in 19 states and the District of Columbia. McGill is a descendant of slaves, and his overriding desire is for “individuals and organizations to preserve and mark sites related to the institution of slavery and the legacy of slavery.”

The Historic Natchez Foundation is located at 108 S. Commerce St. and Auburn is at 400 Duncan Avenue, both in Natchez.  Parking is in the rear of Auburn, which is accessed from the second road on the right inside the Duncan Park Gate.

For more information, contact the Historic Natchez Foundation: Call 601-442-2500 or send email to Information about the Slave Dwelling Project can be found at