Slave Dwelling Project Spends the Night at Sweet Briar

Amherst, VA - Joseph McGill has spent the last two and a half years sleeping in old slave dwellings to raise awareness and keep them preserved.

Sunday night, he and eight others grabbed their sleeping bags and spent the night on the floor of the 19th century cabin behind Sweet Briar House. The school says the cabin used to house both enslaved and freed blacks who worked at Sweet Briar during its days as a plantation.

For some, they are pieces of American history where tired hands and weary souls could rest. Joseph McGill started the Slave Dwelling Project to make sure they aren't forgotten. The South Carolina man has slept in 38 former slave dwellings in 12 different states.

"At the beginning of the Civil War there were 4 million slaves. They lived somewhere," McGill said after giving a lecture at Sweet Briar College.

But this was the first sleep over of its kind for Mike Hayslett, an adjunct professor and naturalist at the school.

"We also don't often stop and mentally or emotionally or even spiritually acknowledge the pains of our humanity," Hayslett explained of his decision to participate.

Crystal Rosson's journey began in February, when her grandfather was on his deathbed. Three days after he died, she heard about a cabin his family once lived in.

Turns out, her great-grandfather was a brick mason and helped build much of Sweet Briar College. She never thought his home would still be standing or that facebook would lead her to a higher cause.

"Dr. Rainville had posted a post on facebook. And I did some research on him and his project and thought it was pretty amazing and wanted to be involved," Rosson said after learning about the Slave Dwelling Project.

She grabbed her sleeping bag and joined Joseph McGill.

"It's all about awareness and getting folks excited about these places and incorporating the story of these places into the American story," McGill explained of his mission.

And a story that led Crystal Rosson home.

"There is a lot of power in knowing where you come from," Rosson said.