Two one-week workshops for eighty school teachers on African-American entrepreneurship in the antebellum South, as represented by Thomas Day and Elizabeth Keckly.
This workshop uses the lives of two independent artisans to illuminate the African-American experience in antebellum America. Thomas Day, a free black artisan in Milton, North Carolina, was "one of the most prominent furniture makers in the antebellum South." Elizabeth Keckly from Caswell, North Carolina, who purchased her freedom from slavery, became proprietor of a shop in Washington, DC, where she was a dressmaker for and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln. The lives of Day and Keckly illuminate a "central paradox of American history: how the institution of race-based slavery coexisted with the expansion of political rights and economic opportunities for most Americans in the 19th century" and how the entrepreneurial activities of free artisans, although not typical of the time, advanced independent economic, social, and political life in the Southern black community. The participants visit Union Tavern, the home and shop of Thomas Day; the town of Milton; Burwell School, where Elizabeth Keckly grew up in slavery; and Stagwell Plantation. Among the key topics are the advancement of African-American freedom through business enterprise, management activities on slave plantations, artisanship, and artistic expression. The workshop faculty includes Laurel Sneed (Apprend Foundation), Peter Wood (history, Duke University), William Andrews (English, University of North Carolina), Juanita Holland (independent historian), Michele Ware (English, North Carolina Central University), site staff, and contemporary African-American artisans. Master teachers assist the participants in the development of lesson plans. The participants read Keckly's memoirs and recent writings by scholars, including William Andrews and Peter Wood.