The Dallas Morning News
Historic cabin gets special visitors
Former residents, descendants of slaves, tell of growing up in tiny plantation-era house
WASHINGTON — It’s been years since Isabell Meggett Lucas has been inside the tiny house she was born in, a former slave cabin where her ancestors sought refuge from the hot South Carolina sun.
But the 86-year-old woman never envisioned that when she finally returned, the wooden two-room house would be viewed by millions of people inside the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture as an example of what home life was like for slaves in the South.
Visiting the new museum, open for a little over six months now, gave Lucas and her family a chance to share with museum curators a first-hand glimpse of how descendants of African slaves lived in the post-Civil War and Jim Crow South, their joys and pains, and how they survived a hardscrabble life without electricity or other modern comforts.
“It’s my home. We all lived there together, and we were happy,” said Lucas, speaking softly as she stood outside the clapboard cabin used during slavery at Point of Pines Plantation on Edisto Island, S.C.
Smithsonian officials scoured the countryside looking for representations of slave cabins for years before choosing the Meggett family cabin, curator Nancy Bercaw said.
Lucas, her sister-in-law Emily Meggett and their family viewed the cabin Monday and Tuesday, where it was rebuilt as part of the Slavery and Freedom exhibit in the museum almost exactly as it was when the last occupant lived there in 1981. It is believed to be one of the oldest preserved slave cabins in the U.S. It sat on the Point of Pines Plantation from 1851 until it was moved plank by plank to the museum.
But Lucas, who lived there from birth until age 19, remembered something about the cabin that isn’t in the exhibit.
“It had a big long porch on the outside,” she said. “My mama would sit on that porch. The cool wind would be getting ready to blow off the rivers and such. The wind would blow and we’d sit on the porch … when we would get tired, everyone would lay on that porch under blankets and quilts and go to sleep.”
That’s the importance of having access to the people who lived in the house, because the porch was gone by the time officials first saw the cabin, Bercaw said.