Slave Cabin Project Moves to the Privately-Owned Goodwill Plantation

Posted on: July 26th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 6 Comments

Written by Joseph McGill, Jr.

One of the restored slave cabins at Goodwill Plantation.

One of the restored slave cabins at Goodwill Plantation.

My stay at Goodwill Plantation marked the first time in my slave cabin project that I would stay in a cabin restored by a private donor. It was also the first of which I did not make the initial contact. Upon arrival, I was greeted at the front gate by Tom Milliken, the gentleman who coordinated my opportunity to stay on the property. Our first order of business was to meet the owner of the property, Mr. Larry Faulkenberry.

We spent the next three hours talking about the history of Goodwill Plantation and his efforts to restore the slave cabins and maintain the historical integrity of the property. He mentioned - and I saw - archival evidence of some of his personal research done about the slaves that once inhabited the plantation. He also mentioned the yearly pilgrimage to the property that has been established by a local African American church. We could have talked even more but we were reminded we had not yet toured the property.

One of the slave-made dikes at the plantation.

One of the slave-made dikes at the plantation.

Mr. Faulkenberry took me on a personal tour, where he mentioned that the bought the property with the intent of selling it for profit however he fell in love and decided on keeping it instead. We toured the man-made dikes that were built by slave labor and made it possible to control the flow of water necessary for growing rice inland. The highlight of the tour was the Mill House. Inside this structure were authentic operational machines that ran by a water wheel. Mr. Faulkenberry was thrilled to give me the history of each piece of machinery and I was just as thrilled to learn about them.

When we finally made it to the slave cabin it was a little darker than I had wished. Up until this point, I had been accustomed to getting to the cabin with enough light to do a thorough inspection. This inspection had to be done with a flashlight. Mr. Faulkenberry and I checked all the cracks and crevices that the flashlight allowed. As I prepared my place to sleep, I was harassed by a cockroach that I managed to kill. When I was about to drift off to sleep, I felt something crawling on my leg and discovered that it was a spider. I killed the spider and placed it right by the cockroach that I killed earlier. When I woke up about 3:00 am I discovered that both dead bugs were gone. Getting back to sleep from that point was a challenge but I managed to do so. When I woke up around 5:00 am I had the time to reflect and do some exploring of the immediate area. As day light approached I managed to take some great photographs of both of the existing slave cabins.

At 7:20 a.m. Mr. Faulkenberry showed up just as he had promised to lead me off of the property. I thanked him for his generosity. On my ride home, I continually thought about Mr. Faulkenberry. Not only did he have the means but also the willingness to restore the slave cabins on his private property, which was an unpopular decision, but the right thing to do. It is because of Mr. Faulkenberry and people like him that this element of American history will not be forgotten.

Joseph McGill, Jr. is a program officer at the Southern Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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6 Responses

  1. Laura

    July 26, 2010

    Mr. McGill,

    I just wanted to say I’m really enjoying your posts. Will you be continuing this project? It would be great if you made a website with the stories of restored cabins– how and why they’ve been preserved– for people who might also want to visit.

  2. Miguel Angelo Hicks

    July 26, 2010

    Mr Mcgill, Joe, I am honored to have had the pleasure of reading your articles and helping me share an important part of our American heritage with my German friends here in Stuttgart, Germany. If I may make a suggestion, please video and narrate your future trips.

    Kindest and most heartfelt regards,

    Miguel

  3. Hermina

    July 26, 2010

    Joe, this is one of the most fascinating preservation projects to peak my interest. This will most definitely help historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists tell the FULL story of how this country was built. I am really proud of your success in raising awareness of the importance of preservation slave era architecture and the daily lives of enslaved peoples.

    All the best,
    Hermina

  4. Dr Robert Zaworski

    July 26, 2010

    Joseph McGill, Jr.:

    I enjoyed the article about you and the slave cabin project in the latest issue of The Civil War News. Historians who are interested in civil war artillery have a registry for all known existing genuine Civil War era pieces and I would hope that sometime some historian would start a registry for all of the known existing slave cabins. Just a thought.

    Sincerely,
    Robert E. Zaworski, M.D.
    Past President, Atlanta Civil War Round Table

  5. Tawny

    July 27, 2010

    7/26/10

    Dear Joseph McGill Jr.,
    First I would like to start by saying Thank You, because of you and people like you it keeps our history alive and helps us not forget. I stumbled across this article because I was looking specifically (searching google) for African American culture here in Phoenix, AZ so that I can expose my half breed child to her African American culture, as well as, her Irish side. Her father, of Irish decent knows his history all the way back to their clans in Ireland and Scotland. After visiting the Irish Cultural Center’s website and calendar events, I started thinking, Maggie needs to learn about my history too. To my dismay there isn’t an African American Cultural Center here in Phoenix so that we can immerse ourselves in African American culture, and perhaps since there aren’t many black people here, there may never be. Nevertheless, these articles mean a lot to me and I will share them with Maggie and my other two daughters.

    I am elated that you took it upon yourself to take on this project. You had a choice as to whether or not you wanted to sleep in the slave cabins, our ancestors did not have that choice. I know that I wouldn’t have been able to sleep in cabins, or if I did, I would have been up all night!! It is much more than merely sleeping in slave quarters though. This project represents so much more to me. Especially, when I am living in a state where not long ago Martin Luther King Day wasn’t even celebrated here. It is so important that we not forget what our predecessors went through, as we would not be where we are today.

    Thank you,
    Tawny

  6. Michelle Lanier

    July 27, 2010

    I am so glad that you are doing this and thoroughly enjoy reading about your journeys!

    -Michelle