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Stagville: Black & White Exhibit

North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh, NC | Museum of the Cape Fear, Fayetteville, NC (2014-2015). Please look below the images for more information.

Stagville: Black & White

“These images aim to remind us that every day we live on a foundation built by those who preceded us—and that at present we are leaving our own legacy for future generations.” —Dr. Brenda Scott, Photographer

Throughout its existence, the area called Stagville has borne witness to numerous historic scenes. Located approximately 10 miles north of downtown Durham, NC, it has seen travelers use a nearby Indian trading path, the arrival of European settlers, and subsistence farming before the American Revolution.

Stagville beheld its rise as the largest plantation in North Carolina and as home to about 900 enslaved people—and the richest man in the state. The locale also experienced the eras of emancipation, sharecropping, and growth of big tobacco companies. Today, the area is open to the public as a state historic site, Historic Stagville.

Although focused on one site, this exhibition aims to inspire viewers to think about places in their own communities and to view them through a different lens—consider the places’ beauty, the resilience of the surviving architecture, and the stories of the people who lived there. The exhibit conveys the direct connection of people today with people from the past and demonstrates the importance of preserving and protecting historic sites such as Stagville.

The History of Stagville

On the eve of the Civil War, the North Carolina Bennehan and Cameron family plantation holdings figured among the largest in the South. By 1860 approximately 900 enslaved people worked the nearly 30,000 acres, with Stagville resting at the land’s heart.

Earlier, Richard Bennehan’s 1776 land purchase from Judith Stagg had given Stagville its name. Bennehan’s daughter married into the Cameron family, and the land remained in Cameron hands through the early 20th century.

In 1954 Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company purchased the land, donating Stagville to the State of North Carolina in 1976. Historic Stagville opened as a state historic site in 1977. Today, the historic site consists of three tracts comprising 165 acres and is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday.

The Bennehan House

The Bennehans built their home in 1788, enlarging it in 1799. All of the building materials had to be carried overland, including windows and nails from England, since no roads or passable rivers were nearby.

Plantation houses in North Carolina typically were not as large as those in the rest of the South. However, the Bennehan House was sizable for its time and location; the great room had approximately the same square footage as an entire subsistence farmer’s home. Still visible today are a number of features common to Georgian architecture, including large chimneys, the side gable roof, six-panel doors, mantels, and H- and L-hinges.

Stagville as a Plantation and Beyond

Believed to be the largest antebellum agricultural structure in North Carolina, the Great Barn was built by enslaved workers in 1860 to house mules. The roof was constructed with queen’s trusses, scarf joints, and pegs —technology also used in shipbuilding. The tin roof likely dates from the 1950s, the time of Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company.

Many tobacco barns also stand in the area. One near the Bennehan House was erected sometime between 1810 and 1830. The structure is the only North Carolina tobacco barn from this era on its original foundation. Other nearby barns date from the period when Liggett and Myers owned the land.

Horton Grove: The Enslaved Community at Home

In 1823 Richard Bennehan purchased the area called Horton Grove, which became home to nearly 100 enslaved people. One structure in the grove, Horton House, was built before the American Revolution and could be the oldest home in Durham County on its original foundation. The house and the surrounding Horton Grove area take their names from the original owner, William Horton.

In 1850 Paul Cameron had the slave quarters we see today constructed with bricks within the wooden building framework, along with rock foundations supporting wooden floors, to ward off disease caused by insects and rodents.

After the Civil War, many formerly enslaved families stayed on as sharecroppers, living in their old quarters. The largest of the slave quarters is Hart House, where the Hart family resided into the 20th century.

Acknowledgements

Brenda Scott gratefully acknowledges the following individuals and institutions for their assistance with this exhibition.

Patrons

Bull City Art & Frame Company

George & Sue Neece

Radiocentrix

Sponsors

Anne’s Old Fashioned Food Products, Ayden, NC

Miranda Yeager

Special Contributors

Rev. Jesse and Mrs. Janice Alston

B.E.B.

Camera Works, Durham, NC

Dennis Cole, Academy of Art University

Gael DeBeaumont

Glynn & Kay Wise Denty

Emanuel Dunegan

Kimberly Floyd

Bertha Hart

Ricky Hart

Helen Hart-Bell

Wilbert Johnson

Charlene Justice-Bass

Laura Kurtenbach, Academy of Art University

Lauren May

Beverly McNeill

Alton Mitchell

Tony Rocha

Angela Russell

Cissy & David Spindler, Academy of Art University

Adrienne Todd, Broad St. Hair & Co.

Vincent Brothers Publishing

Emily R. Warner

 Donna Zimmer

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