Guest Blogger: Dr. Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire Visiting Assistant Professor, Anthropology “Historical Archaeology and the Enslaved of Beaver Dam”

This is the first of five posts from Dr. Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire’s Ethical Archaeological Research seminar (ANT-380) summarizing the results of their preliminary work on the Beaver Dam Plantation in Davidson, North Carolina.

The role of archaeology is to study societies of the past by examining their material record and the landscapes they inhabited. Historical archaeology juxtaposes the written record to these evidences to gain an even richer understanding of past societies. This written record may come from archives or can literally be found on the artifacts found during excavations. In this, historical archaeology has two incredible advantages as a social science: (1) it offers a rich type of evidence that is unavailable to non-historical archaeology and (2) offers a vast amount of material culture while paying attention to landscapes in ways that are typically evacuated from strict historical lenses. Historical archaeology can thus fill-in the many blind spots of the historical record, which tends to be written by the powerful or literary elite of the past; in this, historical archaeology can be framed as “anti-history” (Lee-Dawdy 2016). In other words, this anti-historical power can shine a light on past realities which were either erased or muted by history; those of past people suffering from intersectional inequities.

For decades, historical archaeologists have documented the lives of people whose stories were muted. This approach has had great success in studying the socioeconomic context, personal practices, challenges, and violence which characterized the lives of the people who were enslaved by plantation owners in the USA and beyond. More recently, historical archaeologists have also studied the realities of the post-emancipation life of African American households (Franklin et al. 2020). This broad research field is known as African Diaspora Archaeology and is spearheaded by members of the Society of Black Archaeologists, who are actively encouraging accomplices to contribute in steering the discipline towards an antiracist future (Flewellen et al. 2021).




A view of the Beaver Dam Plantation house from the hypothesized location of the historical cemetery used by the enslaved (photo by the author).

In this series of blog posts, my four students – Mandy Muise, Paul Mullinax, Isabel Nowak, and Sara Wilson – from the Ethical Archaeological Research seminar (ANT-380) and I summarize the results of our preliminary work on the Beaver Dam Plantation. This past semester, we studied the archival record, the landscape, and the potential for a community-engaged archaeology project at the site. The remaining estate is a small park – located at 19600 Davidson-Concord Rd – owned by Davidson College and currently leased to the Town of Davidson. Our work has identified important features of this landmark which have been effectively muted from its history and contemporary landscape: namely, the probable locations for the homes and cemetery of the enslaved who lived and labored on these grounds in the 19th century. This project has antiracist roots and goals: it aims to redress history through a historical archaeological program to give back the voices to those who’ve been muted by history.

The design of this project was influenced by experienced historical and community-engaged archaeologists and by the rich and recent literature on the Archaeology of African Diaspora and Community Engaged Archaeology (Agbe-Davies 2017; Atalay 2012; Battle-Baptiste 2017; Colwell 2016; Dunnavant 2014; Engmann 2019; Flewellen 2017; Flewellen et al. 2021; Franklin 2019; Franklin et al. 2020; Fryer 2020; Joseph 2016; Kawelu 2014; McAnany 2020; McDavid 2007; Odewale 2019; Ogundiran and Falola 2007; Reeves 2004; Shackel 2013; White 2016, 2017).

We, the five members of this project, are white. We’ve strived to use our various privileges to position ourselves so that we may launch a small, ethically-grounded project seeking to collaborate with the local Davidson community to identify and achieve antiracist goals. In fact, any future research as part of our project will be developed in collaboration with members of the Davidson Community. The powerful lenses of historical archaeology and our preliminary findings give us confidence that this project could transform Beaver Dam into a place of positive historical awareness that would benefit the broader community.

Funding for this project was provided by Davidson College’s Stories (Yet) to be Told program.

Bibliography

Agbe-Davies, Anna

2017    Where Tradition and Pragmatism Meet: African Diaspora Archaeology at the Crossroads. Historical Archaeology 51:9-27.

Atalay, Sonya

2012    Community-Based Archaeology: Research with, by, and for Indigenous and Local Communities. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Battle-Baptiste, Whitney

2017    Cruise Ships, Community, and Collective Memory at Millars Plantation, Eleuthera, Bahamas. Historical Archaeology 51(1):60–70.

Colwell, Chip

2016    Collaborative Archaeologies and Descendant Communities. Annual Review of Anthropology 45:113–27.

Dunnavant, Justin

2014    Rehistoricizing African Archaeology through the Archives: The Intellectual Life of William Leo Hansberry. Archaeological Review from Cambridge 29(2):34-49.

Engmann, Rachael A. A.

2019    “Archaeo, That Useless Subject”: Excavating the Past through Autoarchaeology and Community Outreach Education. Ghana Studies 22:173-190

Flewellen, Ayana Omilade

2017    Locating Marginalized Historical Narratives at Kingsley Plantation. Historical Archaeology 51(1):71–87.

Flewellen, Ayana Omilade, Justin P. Dunnavant, Alicia Odewale, Alexandra Jones,

Tsione Wolde-Michael, Zoë Crossland, and Maria Franklin

2021    “The Future of Archaeology Is Antiracist”: Archaeology in the Time of Black

Lives Matter. American Antiquity 1-20 .Online Article.

Franklin, Maria

2019   Enslaved Household Variability and Plantation Life and Labor in Colonial Virginia. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 24:115-155.

Franklin, Maria, Justin P. Dunnavant, Ayana Omilade Flewellen, and Alicia Odewale

2020    The Future is Now: Archaeology and the Eradication of Anti-Blackness. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 24(4):753–766.

Fryer, Tiffany C.

2020    Reflecting on Positionality: Archaeological Heritage Praxis in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association 31(1):26–40.

Joseph, J. W.

2016    Marks from the Past, Signs of the Future—the Dikenga of Historical Archaeology. Historical Archaeology 50(3):5–23.

Kawelu, Kathleen

2014    In Their Own Voices: Contemporary Native Hawaiian and Archaeological Narratives about Hawaiian Archaeology. The Contemporary Pacific 26(1):31–62.

Lee Dawdy, Shannon

2015    Anti-History. In Social Theory in Archaeology and Ancient History: The Present and Future of Counternarratives, edited by Geoff Emberling, pp. 328-342. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

McAnany, Patricia

2020   Imagining a Maya Archaeology That Is Anthropological and Attuned to Indigenous   Cultural Heritage. Heritage 3:1-11.

McDavid, Carol

2007   Beyond Strategy and Good Intentions: Archaeology, Race, and White Privilege. In An  

Archaeology of Civic Engagement and Social Justice, edited by Barbara Little and PaulShackel, pp. 67-88. AltaMira Press, Lanham.

Odewale, Alicia

2019    An Archaeology of Struggle: Material Remnants of a Double Consciousness in the

American South and Danish Caribbean Communities. Transforming Anthropology 27(2):114–132.

Ogundiran, Akinwumi, and Toyin Falola

2007    Pathways in the archaeology of transatlantic Africa. In Archaeology of Atlantic Africa and the African diaspora, edited by Ogundiran Akinwumi and Toyin Falola, pp. 3-45. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Reeves, Matthew B.

2004    Asking the Right Questions: Archaeologists and Descendant Communities. In Places in

Mind: Public Archaeology as Applied Anthropology, edited by Paul A. Shackel and Erve J. Chambers, pp. 71–81. Routledge, London.

Shackel, Paul

2013    Working with the Difficult Past: Examples from the University of Maryland. Annals of Anthropological Practice 37(1):57-71

White, William A. III

2016   Creating Space for a Place: The River Street Archaeology Project. Arizona Anthropologist 27:69-82.

2017    Writ on the Landscape: Racialization, Whiteness, and River Street. Historical Archaeology 51(1):131–148.

Guest Blogger: Ayla Amon*, Curatorial Assistant at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, “The Autobiography and the Bible**: A Tale of Resistance”

Daguerreotype of Omar ibn Sayyid showing him directly facing the camera as the focus of the image – a rare position for an enslaved person. (Image courtesy of Davidson College, Archives, Special Collections and Community)

“In the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate…”[i] So begins the first sentence of the 1831 autobiography of Omar ibn Sayyid (c. 1770-1863), a man enslaved in North Carolina.[ii] This Arabic-language handwritten manuscript, currently housed at the Library of Congress, is the only known autobiography of an enslaved person that is written in a native African language. At sixteen pages of text, it is the longest document of the fifteen that Sayyid left behind. In it, he details his life in both Futa Toro – the land “between the two rivers”[iii] in what are today Senegal and Mauritania – as well as the United States. The autobiography tells the story of Sayyid’s life, his religious beliefs, and his views on slavery in his own, unfiltered words.


The first page of Sayyid’s autobiography (folio 1a) on which he writes the Qur’anic Surat al-Mulk, beginning with the Basmala. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

This document is only part Sayyid’s rich life story, and it showcases one of the most striking and ubiquitous aspects of Sayyid’s writings: his use of Arabic as a means of resisting his enslavement. In an era when it was illegal for enslaved persons to read and write, not only was Sayyid encouraged to do so by his enslavers, but he also found within the practice a space of personal power to directly question and challenge his captivity.

Sayyid’s autobiography is not the only place he comments on themes of faith and forced servitude. His handwriting also adorns an Arabic-language Bible, currently housed at Davidson College, that he received from his enslavers around 1819. He wrote the Basmala – the same Qur’anic phrase that begins his autobiography – above the Book of Genesis, and his marginalia sprinkled throughout the Bible offers praise to Allah. His notations are most prominent in the Old Testament, where he creates new titles for some of the books by transliterating them into English – a practice that appears in many of the documents he wrote.[iv] Focusing on these books speaks to Sayyid’s interest in how slavery is presented in the Bible, particularly concerning the legal status of enslaved persons, treatment of the enslaved, and manumission.


This opening page of Book of Lamentations shows one of Sayyid’s alternate titles. Rather than the printed “al-Marāthi Irmiyā al-nabi,” (Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah) (line 1) Sayyid writes (line 2) “Lmntsn Zrmāy,” an Arabic transliteration of the English “Lamentations of Jeremiah”. (Folio 536, Arabic-language Bible of Omar ibn Sayyid, Courtesy of Davidson College, Archives, Special Collections and Community (DCs 0211-4,5,6))
 

Sayyid moves further into an examination of enslavement in his own writings. The Qur’anic verse he quotes in his autobiography, Surat al-Mulk (67),[v] can be read as a commentary on his enslavement – and a challenge to it. It asserts that the absolute power of dominion belongs with Allah alone, not man, thus subverting the social power of his enslaver. Neither the slavery of the Qur’an nor the slavery of the Bible, which both include provisions for kind treatment and manumission of the enslaved, align with the brutal race-based chattel slavery Sayyid experienced in the United States.


Image of the “Illegal to Preach” case in Slavery and Freedom at the National Museum of African American History and Culture showing Sayyid’s Bible (far right) opened to the final page of Revelations where Sayyid writes “al-hamdu lillah hamdan kathiran” (“Praise be to Allah much praise”). He also includes his name, as well as that of his mother, ‘Umhan Yasnik. (Photograph by John Lutz)

For the first time since Sayyid’s death in 1863, both of these manuscripts are in the same city, Washington, D.C. The autobiography at the Library of Congress, and the Bible on loan to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. One can only assume that Sayyid would appreciate how the work of an enslaved African Muslim resides in the capital of a country that once denied both his humanity and religion – a final act of resistance that writes African Islam into the religious, social, and political fabric of the United States.

*Ayla Amon is a Curatorial Assistant at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and Visiting Lecturer at University of North Carolina Greensboro. She studies African Islam, the African Muslim Diaspora, and the African Muslims forcibly migrated to the United States during the transatlantic slave trade.

**The Sayyid Bible will be on display in the Slavery and Freedom Gallery of the National Museum of African American History and Culture through July 24, 2021.  

[i] Called the Basmala, this phrase, “bismillah ir-rahman ir-rahim,” is the first line of the Qur’an and is recited before every chapter (or sura), save the ninth.

[ii] More information on Sayyid’s life, including a page-by-page translation of his autobiography, can be found in Omar ibn Said and Ala Alryyes (trans.), A Muslim American Slave: The Life of Omar ibn Sayyid (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2011).

[iii] Sayyid writes, “bayn al-bahrayn” (folio 14). Omar ibn Said. The life of Omar ben Saeed, called Morro, a Fullah Slave in Fayetteville, N.C. Owned by Governor Owen. Manuscript. 1831. From Library of Congress, Theodore Dwight, Henry Cotheal, Lamine Kebe, and Omar Ibn Said Collection, https://www.loc.gov/item/2018371864/ (accessed January 14, 2021).

[iv] A full exploration of Sayyid’s Biblical marginalia is the topic for another blog post, but some additional examples can be found in Jeffrey Einboden, “Davidson Marginalia,” Northern Illinois University, https://www.niu.edu/arabic-slave-writings/davidson-marginalia/index.shtml, and Allan Austin, African Muslims in Antebellum America: Transatlantic Stories and Spiritual Struggles (Routledge, 1997): 136-137, 140.

[v] The Arabic word “mulk” derives from the tripartite root “malaka” – to own or have dominion over. Sayyid writes the entire sura though he erroneously omits 67:29 and repeats 67:30 twice.

The true art of memory is the art of attention*: Recognizing Sharon Byrd

Sharon joined the Davidson College Library as a Cataloger in 1979. Although she quickly realized that the job of cataloging wasn’t for her, she knew right away that Davidson was. Throughout her 42 years here, Sharon worked as a reference librarian, a special collections librarian, the head of public services, and interim library director.

Along the way, she’s seen many changes to the library (card catalogs, anyone?), but the passion for her work has remained constant. It’s rooted in her desire to support students, faculty, staff, and alumni in all their research endeavors. Generations of Davidsonians have been the beneficiaries of “Mrs. Byrd’s” warmth, curiosity, and professional knowledge. Countless research papers, articles, and books couldn’t have been written without her generous assistance!

Just as remarkable is Sharon’s memory for the students, faculty, and staff she worked with and the events she experienced throughout her career. When alumni return to campus, she recognizes them and remembers their major, the name of their roommate, and the sport they played. When a current student comes into the library, it’s not unusual for Sharon to recognize their connection to alums and regale them with stories from their parents’ time at Davidson.  This trait is especially appreciated by her colleagues in the archives who have given her the unofficial title of “Institutional Memory.” 

All of Sharon’s colleagues are so grateful for her enthusiasm, thoughtfulness, and positivity. Throughout the years, we have been the fortunate recipients of thoughtful gifts, kind words, and encouragement at just the right moment. Sharon, you are more than a colleague; you are a mentor and a friend. It’s hard to imagine Davidson without you, but we wish you the very best in a well-deserved retirement. You tell us you’ll be travelling, volunteering at your church, walking with your dog Pace, and indulging in your husband John’s cooking and baking. We will miss you, but we look forward to hearing about your adventures when we inevitably run into you in the post office!

*With thanks to Samuel Johnson

Guest Blogger: Cara Evanson, Research and First Year Experience Librarian, “History of Our Library Our Conference”

Cara Evanson is the Research and First Year Experience Librarian and has worked at Davidson since 2011.

From May 13th to 21st, library staff were searching the E.H. Little building. But not for lost books or items students left behind during finals. They were participating in a conference, of sorts, albeit one that had taken a unique form in this pandemic year.

The origins of Our Library Our Conference, an in-house conference for library staff at Davidson, date back to 2015. At the time, I had been having conversations with colleagues about wanting more opportunities to learn about and celebrate staff expertise and work happening across library departments. While catching up on an issue of College & Research Libraries News I came across an article titled A Conference of Our Own: Creating an In-House Professional Development Opportunity. Written by librarians Shellie Jeffries and Christina Radisauskas, the article describes how they planned a day for their colleagues at Aquinas College dedicated to “sharing, teaching, and exploring with each other.” After reading it, I was excited to try out their idea and create a conference by and for library staff at Davidson.

Our Library Our Conference was first held in 2016, and over the years this annual conference has shifted in response to circumstances and feedback from the library staff.

Our Library Our Conference First Year, 2016, Left to Right, Jon Hill, Jean Coates and Joe Gutekanst

It has taken on a more informal vibe, and conference “field trips” to spaces like the music library, rare book room, and mailroom have become an ongoing feature. In 2020 the conference was held on Zoom and included a Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! style trivia contest spotlighting library staff stories and projects. This year, the conference planning committee created a scavenger hunt with each clue showcasing library staff collaborations and accomplishments from the year. The scavenger hunt could be completed individually and socially distanced at any time during the week.

Field Trip to the Music Library, 2019, Jon Hill sharing his expertise and enthusiasm

What hasn’t changed over the years is the purpose of the conference – for library staff to share with each other, learn from each other, and explore with each other. Regardless of the format, the conference is a chance to reflect on and celebrate our roles and the work we do. And it couldn’t happen without the hard work of the planning committee. Alexa Torchynowycz, Joe Gutekanst, and Sharon Byrd have stayed on through two years of pandemic-adapted conference planning. A big thanks to them, and to the whole library staff for making 6 years of this conference possible!

Serendipity in the Archives

Some people think that everything that happens in a library is strictly planned and ordered.  That’s what librarians and archivists do.  They gather, organize, arrange, describe…all planned out and orderly.

Not always!  One of the words that often comes up is “serendipity.”   The dictionary definition is:  

noun: serendipity; plural noun: serendipities:   The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. 

That plays out in many ways, and often, several times a week.  Just recently, department members of ASCC (Archives, Special Collections and Community) had prepared a class libguide on 19th century Davidson buildings.  As we looked for photos of the original Chambers building, one of the names which came up was Alexander Jackson Davis, an architect who had worked on the building. The following week as I was looking for something else in our Archives Storage area, I came upon a box with a note taped to the top which read:

Miss Shore, These are Photostats of the original architectural plans for old Chambers building (completed 1860) – the architect was the famous Alexander Jackson Davis of New York & these are his drawings (the Frank Lloyd Wright of his day).  These copies cost us $50 – I hope we can find a tray for them in the map stand.  Many thanks. C.G.D.”  The original is in the vault.

Last week I got a catalogue from a rare book dealer which included a prospectus for two books of poetry by A.R. Ammons, a North Carolina poet from Whiteville.  Thanks to a retired Davidson English professor, Dr. Elizabeth Mills, we have several books of his in the Rare Book Room, including the two described in the prospectus.  How lucky to find this item to add to the Rare Book Room collection.  (Not lucky.  Just serendipity again.)

About two weeks ago, an outside researcher sent a request to Archives for information on Presbyterian religious studies and worship at Davidson.  Luckily, since we are currently unable to have outside visitors, Jessica Cottle had just sent a list of many of our digitized resources to a student researching in the same area.  Click.  Sent the list to the researcher.  Serendipity strikes again.

And, last week, we were talking with Meggie Lasher about a possible “nature walk” through Davidson’s arboretum.  We told her about the resources we had about the arboretum, including a map.  Almost immediately after the meeting we had a request from a professor about the arboretum.  No problem.  The materials were already at hand.

We do have a saying in the department that “things come in threes.”  Wonder which of these things we’ll be asked about again soon?

Justice, Equality, Community Project Archivist: A 3 Year Retrospective

I was hired as the Justice, Equality, Community (JEC) Project Archivist as part of the campus-wide Justice, Equality, Community (JEC) grant initiative at Davidson College in August 2017. The 3.5 year JEC grant aimed to “reimagine humanities curricula through the lens of three ideas that cut across cultures, time, and disciplines: justice, equality, and community…to demonstrate the critical role of humanistic inquiry in public discourse, global problem-solving, engaged citizenship, and democratic leadership.”

To accomplish these lofty goals, the initiative included funding for research partnerships between faculty and students, a series of practitioner-in-residences, community-minded experiential learning projects, and archival collecting and digitization efforts centered on questions about race and religion in the greater-Davidson area. As the JEC Project Archivist, I was responsible for the following tasks in support of the grant’s archival component:

  • Identifying and digitizing JEC collections.
  • Integrating JEC materials into at least 5 new courses.
  • Expanding archival collections related to JEC.
  • Leading public programming about JEC materials, both on campus and in the larger community.
cover the coeducation edition of the davidson journal
Recently digitized special edition of the Davidson Journal celebrating 25 years of coeducation.

Let’s take a look at how we faired with these four goals and the work that remains. In the last three years, we have digitized:

Davidson College Magazine October 1908 page 50 of Volume 25 1908-1909. Quotes include "a store building is being built on Main street, and there is also a new meat market with cold-storage facilities."
Davidson College Magazine October 1908, page 50.

We incorporated these digitized materials into at least two dozen course sessions, outreach programs like “An Evening with…” and multiple presentations to local historical societies. The collections were also used to support some of the research efforts of the Davidson College Commission on Race and Slavery. We then used the student work collections as examples when speaking to student activists and leaders about the importance of saving their records and establishing dialogues to help us learn how to more equitably and respectfully do that work through the JEC Student and Alumni Advisory Council.

Front page of the January 26, 1996 Black Student Coalition newsletter, "The Rainbow Revue."
Front page of the January 26, 1996 Black Student Coalition newsletter, “The Rainbow Revue.”

These class sessions and outreach initiatives led to several multi-year course collaborations that resulted in donations to the archives in some cases and high-profile projects in others. For example, the hard work of Dr. Jane Mangan’s HIS 259: Latinos in the United States course resulted in nearly two dozen oral history interviews documenting the Latinx experience of Davidson (now viewable, here). Another oft cited project is Disorienting Davidson, a multi-year student-led project that informed the senior thesis work of H.D. Mellin ’20.  Mellin utilized many of the collections later made digitally available by JEC grant funds over the course of several semesters for this groundbreaking student project. Their work also helped archivists identify highly sought-after collections that informed the digitization selection process.

While collaborations within the department and across teams have led to significant strides in terms of access to archival collections and course collaborations, much work remains in terms of community outreach and collections development around the issues of justice, equality, and community. In recognition of that need, the Justice, Equality, Community Archivist position was made permanent at Davidson College in March 2021.

To access the digitized collections mentioned in this blog post, please email archives@davidson.edu.

Related Posts:

Guest Blogger: Alice Sloop, Sr. Staff Assistant, E.H. Little Library, “Handling a health care crisis—Now versus Then”

Over this past year, much of our collective attention has been drawn to the health care crisis brought on by the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic.  We have all struggled, personally and collectively, with decisions made to keep ourselves and our communities safe from this deadly virus.  This all-consuming struggle has gotten me to thinking about how health crises were handled in the past here in North Carolina by our ancestors.  One of my ancestors and distinguished Davidson College Alumnus, Dr. Eustace Henry Sloop, gives us a glimpse into medical issues facing our forebearers in the late 1800s to early 1900s.

Eustace Henry Sloop (1877-1961) came to Davidson in 1893; he was the youngest Freshman in his class (only 16 years old). (p.146, Alumni Catalogue of Davidson College)  Early that year, he met the woman he would later marry, Mary T. Martin. Mary’s father, William Joseph Martin, was a member of the faculty at Davidson and hosted a party for incoming Freshman.  Mary describes Sloop as “a tall, slender, shy youngster with light brown hair and the nicest smile”.  (p.17, Miracle in the Hills)  Mary writes in her book Miracle in the Hills that her father came to Davidson “after the war”  to “teach geology and chemistry and serve also as bursar” and that he was “greatly needed.” (p.12, Miracle in the Hills)  William Joseph Martin taught from 1869-1887, became Vice President in 1884, and acting President 1887-88. (p.25, Alumni Catalogue of Davidson College

Sloop graduated from Davidson College in 1897. He continued his education at Jefferson Medical College, earning his M.D., and became a physician to the mountainous community around Crossnore, NC. (p.146, Alumni Catalogue of Davidson College) He married Mary Martin in 1908. (p.21, Miracle in the Hills)  Mary Martin Sloop (1873-1962) had also earned her M.D. and together they served in what was then a very rural, underserved community.  The nearest hospital was in Asheville, NC, “a long ride on a springless wagon over a rough road.” (p.224, Miracle in the Hills)    

The Doctors Sloop traveled to homes on horseback, treating and sometimes operating on patients in their cabins. The image below is from 1917.

Their safest operating space for years was outside under an apple tree.

black and white image of operation under an apple tree

They fought to bring electricity to the community, and Dr. Eustace Sloop constructed a powerhouse (shown below) to bring electricity to Crossnore.

They also sewed cuts shut with hair from the horse’s tail, and grieved for children in pigtails as young as 13 years old starting families of their own in poor conditions.

 Some issues that the Doctors Sloop faced are still part of our COVID-19 story today.  Mary writes of food insecurity, lack of needed medicines, fear of vaccinations, workers making little wages in unsecure jobs, and lack of adequate school facilities. “Simple things… for instance, that people with contagious diseases shouldn’t have visitors…were hard to get across”, Mary writes. (p.224, Miracle in the Hills).  One of Mary’s patients states a typical fear of vaccinations as follows: “I a’int no fool and you can’t tell me that stickin’ a hole in a young’un with a needle can cure diphtheria or keep off typhoid fever”. (p.223, Miracle in the Hills).

 Despite the ongoing health issues described in the story of Doctors Eustice and Mary Martin Sloop that we still face today, their story is also one of great accomplishments. During their service to the Crossnore, NC community, they established the Crossnore School and Hospital.  Their two children also sought higher education.  Daughter Emma became a physician like her parents and ran the Crossnore Hospital for many years, serving people from miles around.  Son, Will, became a dentist.  Today, the school is a boarding school for orphans and children unable to live with their biological parents.  It also includes an active handloom weaving facility that both supports the school economically and employs locals.  Both roads and access to health care are greatly improved. Although the Crossnore Hospital is no longer in operation, the fear of a loved one dying before reaching a hospital is also gone.  This small, mountain community is no longer as isolated, fearful, and uninformed.  As we, too, look forward to healthier days ahead, may we be less fearful, less isolated, and better educated.

Footnotes

  1. Alumni Catalogue of Davidson College 1837-1924. Ed. By Thomas Wilson Lingle. The Presbyterian Standard Pub. Co. 1924.
  2. Miracle in the Hills by Mary Martin Sloop, M.D. McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. 1953.

Guest Blogger: Anna Avinger, Davidson Senior Biology Major, “Growing Community”

Anna Avinger is a senior biology major on the pre-medicine track. This article stems from her independent study on community gardens. Fellow senior Ethan Landen and Anna became interested in this topic after their semester abroad in Australia, where they studied sustainable agriculture and ecology.

As the global pandemic rages on, community gardens in Charlotte continue to thrive. Here is a list of three community gardens that each have a different strategy for success. While they all have their own objectives and strategies, they share similar ideas: provide more access to food, increase sustainable efforts, and build community. 

Wilmore Garden

Wilmore Garden

The earliest community garden in Charlotte – Wilmore Garden – is one of many gardens within the organization, Charlotte Green. This organization has started several small gardens in urban neighborhoods all over Charlotte. Within each of them, community members can claim a small plot of land to plant and harvest their own crops. The gardeners learn from each other and grow in relationship with each other as they work. Board member, Cissy Shull, says that people are always at the Wilmore Garden working. When I went to Wilmore Garden, it was raining, but there were still people there, cleaning up the communal shed and organizing tools. The gardens provide people with something to do, something to be proud of, and something that brings the community together.

Davidson Community Garden

Davidson Community Garden

Davidson Community Garden was founded in 2010 by Eddie and Connie Beach as a part of the Davidson United Methodist Church. This garden is communally managed and harvested. Volunteers from all over Davidson come together on Saturday mornings to help out. Most crops are delivered to the food pantry at Ada Jenkins, a local non-profit. Eddie Beach emphasizes the impact of the garden on Davidson’s strong sense of community. “A story that I really like is that there was a grandmother who had the responsibility of getting her grandson to Davidson Elementary School, and he didn’t want to go. But he did like the scarecrows in the community garden, so she would get him out of the house by saying, ‘we’re going to the community garden to see the scarecrows.’ So, he’d get over here and look and be happy, and it was just a way to get him to go to school,” Beach said. “That is the kind of thing that really adds another dimension to the garden.”

Smithville Community Garden

Smithville Community Garden

Built on her grandparents’ land, Smithville Community Garden holds a special place in Natalie Mayhew’s heart. She explains that the garden was founded to bring people into the community. The founders wanted people to know about Smithville. Mayhew described the history of Smithville: Her great great grandmother worked for the Smith family picking cotton as a slave, and the family gave her and many other black slaves land to call their own. That’s how the community was born. Recently, as one of the remaining historically black communities, Smithville has been trying to fight gentrification efforts. In doing this, the Smithville Community Coalition, which runs the garden, works to emphasize the sense of pride and historical influence of the community. The garden has been a success. It gives people a place to come together and learn about Smithville, and it provides a wonderful place for rest and relaxation.

Through my research, I learned that the overwhelming emphasis of these gardens is to build community, which means different things for different gardens – whether its individuals working side-by-side on their own plots, families coming together for a common service project, or bringing in people from outside the community to raise awareness. There’s always more to it than planting seeds and harvesting produce.

Guest Blogger: Alice Sloop, Sr. Staff Assistant, E.H. Little Library, “Davidson From Day One – The Sloop Family”

Alice Sloop has been employed in the E.H. Little Library since 2000.

What does a gentleman born in 1771, a table circa 1834, an 1860 Davidson graduate, dozens of Alumni, a Davidson College Trustee, and a current Davidson employee have in common?  Answer:  a single family heritage.  The Sloops have been an integral part of Davidson College since the very beginning of the idea to start our beloved school.

Our family historian, Dr. Robert Felts Sloop, Jr. (b.1934-) documents the beginnings of the Sloop family interest in education in North Carolina with his 3rd great grandfather “Colonel” James Jamison (b.1771-d.1846).  Back in 1834 when the Concord Presbytery met in James Jamison’s home near Prospect Presbyterian Church (located near Mooresville, NC), resolutions were drawn up on his table to “establish a school for young men to educate them for the ministry and other occupations”.  This school would become Davidson College. This table on which these resolutions were signed now sits in the Smith Rare Book Room at E.H. Little Library.

Sloop Family Table, Alcove, Smith Rare Book Room

The story of the family’s donation of this table to Davidson College is a funny one according to Dr. Sloop. Colonel James Jamison died in 1846 and is buried in the Prospect Presbyterian Church cemetery. His son, Franklin (Frank) Jamison inherited the table and when he died, it was purchased “for a dear price” by Mrs. Agnus C. Jamison Bailey, our 2nd great aunt.  Subsequently, at another Presbytery meeting in Mrs. Bailey’s home in Back Creek, a Dr. Monroe learned about the history of the table and suggested that it be given to Davidson College.  Mrs. Bailey stated that she paid too much for it and was unwilling to give it away! Some time later John Jamison (another son of Colonel Jamison) had a daughter named Sally Kerr Jamison who banded together with sisters Minnie and Eugenia and bought the table from their sister Agnus.  So then, Sally, Minnie, and Eugenia donated the table to Davidson College.  Dr. Walter Lingle, President Emeritus, would later write a thank you letter to the family.

Letter October 8, 1947 Walter Lingle, President-Emeritus Davidson College to Mrs. J.W. Johnson

This story is only one of many fascinating Sloop family stories related to Davidson College. 

Guest Blogger: Alice Garner, “A Lady in the Shadow: The Elusive Truth Masked in the Bourgeois Society” (Part Three)

This post was written by Alice Garner, a member of the Class of 2024, for an assignment in Dr. Devyn Spence Benson’s AFR 101: Introduction to Africana Studies class. For the past five years, the Africana Studies Department has collaborated with Davidson College Archives, Special Collections and Community to uncover the experiences of Black individuals at the college. Garner is an intended Psychology Major and possible Latin American Studies minor from Norwich, Vermont. Her interests include the intersection between the African diaspora and Latin American history and childhood developmental psychology.

Trapped in a subordinate position within society, Mary Lacy took pride in controlling the slaves within her household, using it as a way to forge her own identity. Women, such as Mary Lacy, were merely viewed “as a unit of production and reproduction under men’s dominance,” as they were denied the ability to form their own opinions or ideals as a whole.[1] The normative for women in society was to succumb to coverture: a concept that a “married woman had neither independent minds nor independent power.”[2] In an attempt to distinguish her place in the patriarchal realm, “[to] encompass [a] feeling of identification,” Lacy derived “principle and practicality” by believing herself to be an “owner” and “manager” of the slaves. In her letter to Bess on January 2 of 1857, she writes: “I had set my mind upon a little girl” to buy as a slave.[3] Disregarding the objectification set upon the child, Lacy’s use of “set my mind upon” infers that she finally felt like she was in control of something and had the “upper hand” to a decision made in the household—a rare find in a world where women’s traditional role operated completely separate from one of “work and politics.”[4] Lacy turned a trivial pursuit for a new worker in their household into an “almost universal dilemma,”[5] as ‘ordering’ these slaves served to be the one way in which she, as a slave-holder’s wife could exert her power where typically she would be “alienated from [her] own society,” trapped in a bubble within their household.[6] This dehumanizing treatment to those “racial[ly] inferior” of the white bourgeois class revealed in the language of Lacy’s writing served as a “feminine guise” to mask the desperation a woman felt to hold a place in society as a slave-holder’s wife.[7]

Screenshot of text from January 2, 1857 letter from Mary Lacy
Text from January 2, 1857 letter where Mary Lacy expresses her interest in acquiring a young girl as a slave. View the whole letter here.

Mary Lacy’s letters not only reveal the atrocious behavior of the slave-holding women at the time towards the slaves which occurred nearly every day in the 1860s in North Carolina, but they also have a strong tie to Davidson College which are unbreakable. As wife to a previous President at Davidson, her baneful acts are coincidentally elusive, as they are not actively publicized by the college. This contradicts the slogan embodied by the college, “#DAVIDSONTRUE”, one which according to the college marketing website is defined by “deep sincerity, unquestioned integrity, and fundamental decency.”[8] If truth at the college is such an “elusive” concept, then why must students excavate to uncover the racist actions committed by the former President’s family?[9] Mary Lacy’s letters serve as an important reminder that we, as Davidson students, bound by the Honor Code which serves as one of the defining principles at the college, are entitled to this information and that it is imperative, that no matter which class we are enrolled in, we learn the truth about the college’s history.


[1] Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, “Black and White Women of the Old South.” Within the Plantation Household (The University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 46.

[2] Linda K. Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (Williamsburg, Virginia: University of North Carolina Press, Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1980), 152-153.

[3] Carlina Green et. al, “January 2, 1857.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[4] Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family, from Slavery to the Present (New York: Basic Books, 2009), 113; Laura F. Edwards, “At the Threshold of the Plantation Household: Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Southern Women’s History.” The Mississippi Quarterly 65, no. 4 (2012): 578.

[5] Jones, 115

[6] Fox-Genovese, 53.

[7] Fox-Genovese, 50; Fox-Genovese, 51.

[8] Davidson College, “#DAVIDSONTRUE” (Davidson: Davidson College, 2020), https://www.davidson.edu/about/davidsontrue.

[9] Ibid.


This is the third post in a three-part series about Mary Lacy, the wife of Drury Lacy, the third President of Davidson College. In our collection, we are fortunate to retain a collection of Lacy Family Papers, which includes correspondence from Mary Lacy to her step-daughter Bess. In Spring 2017, Dr. Rose Stremlau’s History 306: “Women and Gender in U.S. History to 1870” class transcribed, annotated, and analyzed these letters. Their work can be found on this website. To view digitized items from the Lacy Family Papers, please explore Digital Davidson, our platform to view born-digital and digitized versions of archival materials, special collections, and college scholarship.