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At historic Brattonsville plantation, stories of enslaved people are only a few generations away

The Brick House’s restored exterior in January 2021.
Culture & Heritage Museums Staff
The Brick House’s restored exterior in January 2021.

Gwendolyn Glenn: If you’ve ever wondered what life was like in the South Carolina midlands during the enslavement period in the 1700s and 1800s, Historic Brattonsville in York County has some answers. The 800-acre site is on the National Register of Historic Places and has 30 structures still standing on the former plantation.

In celebration of Black History Month, every Saturday, the Historic Brattonsville Museum will host events to reflect on the lives of those who were enslaved on the plantation—the foods they ate and how they were prepared, their skills and trades, and their artistic and cultural legacy. I talked to Wali Cathcart, a participant, and descendant of those enslaved at Brattonsville.

But first Jai’lyn Lowe, Brattonsville’s African American history interpreter explains the meaning of the event’s name, “By Way of the Back Door.”

Lowe: The back door, the name of his acting as a metaphor, because enslaved people, when they would enter the house, they would have to enter through the back door. So through this programing, we're basically focusing on the lives of the enslaved people who lived here and worked here and talk about their lives as well as their legacies.

Glenn: We also spoke with one of the descendants of enslaved people at Brattonsville, Wali Cathcart.

Cathcart: My grandmother was born on that plantation in 1868, But you know, like many other African Americans on the subject of slavery plantations, these were kind of things that they didn't want to discuss much...My grandmother was Fanny Crawford. Her mother's name was the lineup. Lila was the enslaved woman that she was born to in 1868. She was born on April 1842. We have her name on the enslaved list from the plantation that they had to provide to the Union Army at the age of 23 with two children, Daniel and Matilda.

Listen to the whole conversation below. You can find more information at the Brattonsville website.

Historic Brattonsville Plantation
Learn about the experience of enslaved African Americans at the former plantation in York County, S.C., south of Charlotte.


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Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.