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Sleeping with the Ancestors: How I Followed the Footprints of Slavery, Joseph McGill Jr. and Herb Frazier

Author Event
June 11, 2024 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. ET

In this enlightening personal account, a man steeped in our country’s history and myths tells the story of his groundbreaking Slave Dwelling project—his surprising mission to sleep overnight in former slave dwellings that still stand across the United States. His account reveals the fascinating history behind these sites and sheds light on larger issues of race in America.

Historic preservationist and Civil War reenactor Joseph McGill Jr. has logged more than 200 nights sleeping in slave dwellings at historic sites in twenty-five states and the District of Columbia. His quest to share the experience of the enslaved took him throughout the South, but also the North and the West, where people are often surprised to learn that such structures exist. He visited the homes of U.S. presidents, government-owned parks and places where enslaved people rebelled against slavery. With Herb Frazier, a journalist, McGill gives readers an important and unexpected emersion into the history of slavery, especially its obscured and ignored aspects. Sleeping with the Ancestors bears witness and saves an essential history of the nation. Following an extended illustrated presentation, the authors will answer your questions.

Joseph McGill Jr.

Joseph McGill Jr., of Ladson, S.C., is founder of the Slave Dwelling Project. He was previously a field officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He is the former executive director of the African American Museum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and the former director of history and culture at Penn Center, St. Helena Island, South Carolina. McGill was also a park ranger at Fort Sumter. He appears in the book Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. He is also a member of the South Carolina Humanities Council Speakers Bureau and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Professional English from South Carolina State University.

Herb Frazier

Herb Frazier is a Charleston S.C.-based writer. He is senior projects editor at the Charleston City Paper. Frazier has edited or reported for five daily newspapers in the South. He is the author of Behind God’s Back: Gullah Memories. He is a coauthor of We Are Charleston: Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel with Marjory Wentworth and Dr. Bernard Powers Jr. Frazier’s forthcoming book is Crossing the Sea on a Sacred Song.

Cynthia Evans

Cynthia Evans is Research Director of American Ancestors’ 10 Million Names project, a collaborative project dedicated to recovering the names of the estimated 10 million men, women, and children of African descent who were enslaved in pre- and post-colonial America. She is a researcher, historian, and genealogist with more than ten years of experience in African American history and research and five years of experience managing a genealogy center in Austin, TX.. There she partnered with other local archival institutions to create Austin’s first African American Genealogical symposium.  She holds an M.A. in Museum Science.

Presented in partnership with Boston Public Library and GBH Forum Network

Our Special Thanks to American Inspiration Series Sponsors Susan K. and John D. Thompson