Woman Sees Her ‘Slave Cabin’ Birthplace in African-American Museum
BY SUSAN JOHNES
A cabin that housed enslaved people starting in 1853 was restored in the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.
A woman who was born there saw her former home in a museum exhibit. Isabell Meggett Lucas, 87, was amazed to see the two-room wood house where her family of 11 had lived on Edisto Island, South Carolina.
Lucas lived there from birth until age 19. She said she never knew all this would come to pass and expressed her excitement after remembering her historical memories.
The cabin is on display in the slavery and freedom section of the museum. Lucas shared her childhood memories of the house.
She said she used to sleep in one room with her nine brothers while her parents slept in the other room. Lucas was raised by her grandmother, who she thought was her mother.
Her paternal grandparents lived in the same community, in separate cabins. As kids, they used to spend most of their time outdoors, doing chores, playing games or being chased by the family horse.
The cabin lacked electricity. Therefore, the kids fetched wood for the stove among other chores. Additionally, it did not have a refrigerator, bathroom or running water.
Lucas said that the house did not have much. However, the family was happy since they had a garden behind the house where they grew okra and beans. Besides, they raised chickens and hogs for meat.
Lucas’ mother moved out in 1981 when the owners sold it. The cabin was given to the Edisto Island Historical Preservation Society and eventually passed on to the Smithsonian. It was taken apart piece by piece and reconstructed in the same way as it stood when it was moved to the museum.
The museum is still collecting information about the cabin, including the oral history from Meggett.
The 84-year-old Meggett said she remembers coming over before she married Lucas’ brother. She remembered Sunday afternoon games of hopscotch, jump rope and baseball in the nearby grass, where a base would be an old brick and the children could run free through the lawn and fields.
People should know the history of how they had to live in the past. Our grandparents had to work so hard. Just imagine the hard farm work with minimal labor.
The matriarch said she tries to share their family’s history to her younger relatives about what life was like back then. “The presence of the cabin in the museum will help people learn about what life was like in the past,” she said.
Lucas added that people could look at that house and the pictures around it and know that everything didn’t come easy back then. It’s just only that the slaves didn’t have a choice.
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