Local project helps students understand the history of slavery in North Carolina

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Amid all the challenges of the modern world, it’s sometimes difficult to remember how far we’ve come.

As a former history major at Wake Forest University and history teacher, John Williams tries to show the reality of history to his students at McMichael High School, where he’s principal.

“So many times, students don't realize that there are slave properties very close to where they live,” Williams told FOX8 at Old Salem. “The slave cabin we went to today was only ten minutes from McMichael High School. Many of them didn't know that there was a farmhouse that was built in 1816 and that there was a slave cabin there and that 17 slaves lived on that property and worked the land and made great contributions to our society and community.”

Joseph McGill saw something similar in young people.

So nine years ago, he began a program called “The Slave Dwelling Project.”

He takes students and teaches them about what he calls, “the small house behind the big house.”

“Knowing that these people existed and that there are slave dwellings at these sites was that void that needed to be filled,” McGill said. “So going to these places and not hearing me represented is what started The Slave Dwelling Project."

He’s now taken students and others to slave dwellings in 23 states.

“We were with a group, maybe three or four weekends ago, where they were all saying, 'Wait til I tell my parents about this!'” said Prinny Anderson, who works for The Slave Dwelling Project. “So for some of them, it's new information...and that's great.”

On visits to Old Salem, co-chair of the Hidden Town Committee, Cheryl Harry, wants students to understand the lives of the people who once lived there.

“We know a lot about the people that were here and we try, when students come, to show them the personality and the humanity of all the people who were here,” Harry said.

The kids really take to it.

“I was in history class and the teacher said, 'Hey, you guys want to go on a field trip that will take two days and is very historically enriching?' And I was like, 'Sure!'” said Karina Alamiri, a McMichael student . “I've been learning about a culture I'm really disconnected from.”

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