Slave narratives belong to South Carolina
By the time she received her bachelor's degree in history in May 2008, Deanna Panetta had become the world's foremost expert on John Andrew Jackson, a slave who escaped from a Sumter, S.C., plantation in 1846.
Slave quarters, McLeod Plantation. (Charleston County, S.C., Historical American Buildings Survey.
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"It was a great professional experience that I wouldn't have gotten without this Creative Inquiry experience," says Panetta, who is working on a master's degree in public history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. "Having the hands-on research and working with a team on a publication is something unique, something you don't get in regular classroom work. For instance, a classmate and I went to the South Carolina Historical Society in Charleston with Dr. Ashton and spent a good bit of time going through the archives, digging through interesting papers."
The students became familiar with all six narratives, but each focused on one. The title of the anthology, "I Belong to South Carolina," came from the narrative of John Andrew Jackson, whose story Panetta shepherded into its final form.
Having escaped from his Sumter plantation, Jackson made his way to the docks of Charleston where he was waiting for an opportunity to hide among cotton bales being shipped to the North. When a group of white people asked him, "Who do you belong to?" he responded, "I belong to South Carolina."
"That sums up all of the narratives," Ashton says. "They all belong to South Carolina and it's important that their stories belong to South Carolina history."
The students worked hard and were held to high standards of scholarship.
"I would give them deadlines for writing the introductions for each narrative and when they submitted their pieces I would mark them up and suggest changes and ask them to rewrite it," Ashton recalls. "Then I would ask them to make more changes."
The students, accustomed to being given a deadline for a class assignment and getting a grade on what they handed in, asked what the REAL deadline was.
"I said, when we're proud of it," Ashton says. "When it's beautiful. When it's right."
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