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Grant number: BH-50670-14

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Apprend Foundation (Durham, NC 27713-2219)
Laurel Sneed (Project Director: March 2014 to present)

Crafting Freedom: African-American Entrepreneurs in the Antebellum South

Two one-week workshops for seventy-two school teachers on African-American entrepreneurship in the antebellum South, exemplified by Thomas Day and Elizabeth Keckly.

"Crafting Freedom" refers to the ways that African Americans, despite their enslavement or second-class status even as free blacks, were active agents in their own and others' liberation during the era of slavery. The workshop concentrates on Thomas Day (1801-ca. 1861), a furniture maker, and Elizabeth Keckly (1818-1907), a dress designer for the wives of Washington’s elite. In concert with a dozen other "freedom crafters" presented in the workshop, their stories individually and collectively convey the themes of 1) crafting freedom by making money as artisans and entrepreneurs to purchase freedom or to gain greater opportunities for themselves and others; 2) crafting freedom by using cunning and political savvy to resist slavery and to create a more equal and truly democratic society; and 3) crafting freedom through creative expression in the form of hand-made art and craft objects, as well as through poems, essays, and political writing. In addition to the primary examples of Day and Keckly, the teachers explore the stories of twelve other Southern black artisans, entrepreneurs, and abolitionists presented in the Crafting Freedom website: Henry "Box" Brown, Reverend John Day, David Drake or "Dave the Potter," Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, George Moses Horton, Harriet Jacobs, Lunsford Lane, Edmonia Lewis, Harriet Powers, William H. Singleton, Sally Thomas, and David Walker. A broad range of approaches is used to convey the "lived experiences" of these individuals, such as visits to landmarks where they lived and worked, lectures, re-enactments, short videos, hands-on artisan demonstrations, and study of primary source material. 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. Led by Laurel Sneed (Apprend Foundation), workshop faculty include William Andrews (English, University of North Carolina), Juanita Holland (independent historian), Michele Ware (English, North Carolina Central University), and Peter Wood (history, Duke University). Master teachers assist the participants in the development of lesson plans.

Project fields:
African American History; U.S. History

Landmarks of American History

Education Programs

Total amounts:
$172,203 (approved)
$172,203 (awarded)

Grant period:
10/1/2014 – 12/31/2015