Students in graduate programs in history at Virginia Commonwealth University spent the fall semester studying the enslaved population at Wilton House, the main building at a former, 2,000-acre tobacco plantation in Richmond. The house, built in 1753, was the home of the Randolph family. It was visited by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
“At Wilton House Museum, the star of their tour has always been the house itself. They want to be able to tell the stories of all the people who lived and worked there, including the enslaved people who did all the labor,” said Sarah Hand Meacham, an associate professor who specializes in colonial American history. “We wanted to find their individual stories, and to learn about their lives and experiences.”
Each student was assigned a particular area to investigate. Among the topics explored were the burial practices of slaves, a group of slaves who were meant to be freed in 1840, and the healthcare practices of slaves.
The research will be used as the basis for exhibits at the Wilton House Museum.