Episode 386: Joseph McGill, Sleeping with the Ancestors

Sleeping with the Ancestors: How I Followed the Footprints of Slavery In this special Juneteenth episode, as we honor the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, we will delve into the work of those working to preserve slave dwellings across the United States, safeguarding the essential stories these structures embody.

In our conversation, our guest will share why former slave dwellings are vital to our nation's history and what they reveal about those who once lived in them. As we explore these poignant remnants of the past, consider: Why is it important to preserve these humble yet powerful symbols of history? What stories do they hold that we risk losing if they are forgotten? And how can understanding this part of our heritage shape a more inclusive and truthful reflection of our nation's past?

Joseph McGill, executive director/founder of the Slave Dwelling Project and author of Sleeping with the Ancestors: How I Followed the Footprints of Slavery.

Featured image courtesy of The Slave Dwelling Project. 

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Ben Franklin’s World is a production of Colonial Williamsburg Innovation Studios.

Episode Summary

Joseph McGill Joseph McGill is a public historian, scholar, and executive director/founder of the Slave Dwelling Project. He joins us to discuss the importance of preserving colonial era housing for the enslaved communities with details from his book, Sleeping with the Ancestors: How I Followed the Footprints of Slavery.

During our conversation, Joseph reveals: History of slavery in the United States; impact of history preservation; how living history programs impact historic sites; and establishing a career in public history and historic preservation.

What You’ll Discover

• Public Memory and preserving colonial era structures
• Impact of Living History Programs
• Slavery in Early America
• Using documents and artifacts at historic sites
• Working with descendants of formerly enslaved communities
• Professional Development in historic preservation

Links to People, Places, and Publications

Joseph McGill
Sleeping with the Ancestors: How I Followed the Footprints of Slavery
National Trust for Historic Preservation
National Park Service
Freedmen’s Bureau, National Archives
Port Royal Experiment

Sponsor Links

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
The Power of Place: The Centennial Campaign for Colonial Williamsburg
BFW Listener exclusive deal with NordVPN

Complementary Episodes

Episode 075: How Archives Work
Episode 079: What is a Historic Source?
Episode 089: Slavery & Freedom in Early Maryland
Episode 312: The Domestic Slave Trade
Episode 331: Discovery of the Williamsburg Bray School
Episode 360: Kyera Singleton, Slavery & Freedom in Massachusetts
Episode 378: Everyday Black Living in Early America

Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

You’ve shared the story about visiting the Anne Frank House Site in Amsterdam, and how pivotal this experience was in your journey to develop the Slave Dwelling Project.

In your opinion, do you think your life would be different if you never visited that site?

Questions, Comments, Suggestions

Do you have a question, comment, or suggestion?

Get in Touch! Send me an e-mail or leave a comment.


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