Our week stretched and challenged us both creatively and soulfully; next week we shall take time for reflection. In the meantime, we finish out this week constructing a bake sale and practicing our original poems for our annual DGS Literary Tea.
On Monday, students divided into small groups to answer six key questions as preparation for our field trip on Tuesday.
Who is Elias Hill?
Who is Rufus Bratton (the one that lived in 1870)?
Who is Jim Williams?
What is the Union League?
What is the Ku Klux Klan?
What is the American Colonization Society?
Each group took notes on two questions from provided sources and taped their notes on walls all around the loft. Then, everyone visited the notes they had not taken to learn about the other groups' findings. We will discuss these questions in more detail next week, but the information allowed them to have a better understanding of the story they experienced on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, we visited Common Ground at Allison Creek, an historic site and open nature space provided to the community by Allison Creek Presbyterian Church. We started our tour in the church building, which is an historic structure that is still used today. Students played a pump organ, saw Liberian musical instruments, and heard about the families that would have attended the church when it was founded in 1854. They first sat on the main floor, where white congregants would have been and looked up to notice a balcony where enslaved African Americans would have been forced to worship. Sam, our tour guide and long-time pastor of ACPC, explained that where we see a railing today there would have been a screen so that the white congregants would not have had to potentially view the enslaved people above. We examined pews and noticed wedges today support them, but that in 1854 they had been slanted so that lazy attendees would have slid off their seats if they started to fall asleep. Students were allowed to go up in the balcony and to observe the building from different perspectives.
We then continued to the church cemetery that is protected by a low wall, and was historically used to bury white members. A few graves displayed metal crosses; these marked burial sites for Confederate soldiers that fought in the American Civil War. This cemetery is still in use. As we kept walking, we exited the formal cemetery and entered the trail system which runs through the woods. At the entrance to Clay Hill Graveyard, Sam told the story of the families buried there and the story of Elias Hill.
Elias was born into slavery, but when he was young, his father bought his mother's freedom. Because Elias had suffered from a disease (likely polio), his mother was told to take him as well; he would have been a burden to keep. As a grown man, Elias remained unable to walk and had to have his front teeth broken so that he could be heard. Despite his overwhelming challenges, Elias became a Baptist preacher and a leader in his community. During Reconstruction, the KKK came through his community, and during a wave of violence and murder, Elias was dragged into his yard and beaten. He lived. He ended up testifying against KKK members from his community. The story continues to Liberia and back to Clay Hill.....
We will reflect on the many facets of Elias's story this coming week as part of our review.
After a break for lunch, students walked the trails to mark them for Common Ground. Common Ground recently received an invitation to join the Carolina Thread Trails system and the All Trails app. We submitted the trails as suggestions and hope they are included shortly.
Thank you to Allison Creek for hosting us! We thoroughly enjoyed the trip and look forward to visiting again someday in the future.