tv Open Phones with Stephen Seals CSPAN December 25, 2015 11:09pm-11:43pm EST
impact onnen sla enslaved peopl lives, but they had to take that chance foshts most part on their own accord. >> and are they finding out about the politics and proclamations at the time? >> that's a good question. at this house, randolph, those folks in that dining room heard everything. and anything that they heard, they're going to share it with their family members and friends. next door neighbors, enslaved people, they're going to talk to them. folks across the street. by the time the day or two went by every enslaved person in this town knows what many, many people in the colony, many people in the 13 colonies are not privy too. the folks on this property, the randolphs, they heard everything. and so they, they had a good idea of what was going on. and if you're talking about the proclamation when lord dunmore eventually issues that probl proclamation, everybody has heard about it. it was huge, it was offering
freedom to the enslaved. it was big. it was no way that they could keep freedom quiet. no way. and we are back live here on american history tv on c-span 3 today. and on your screen is the c-span bus at colonial williamsburg, and we have been talking to curators, historians, interpreters here all day on american history tv about what life was like back in the 1770s in williamsburg, virginia. you just heard from one of the african-american interpreters there that we recently spoke to in williamsburg, by the way, active interpretation of slavery began in 1979. here to talk more about that with us is steven seals. he is the senior manage irfor african-american programming. mr. seals, tell us a little bit more about what life was like for the enslaved population. >> well, with williamsburg being
more of an urban setting, you're going to find a lot more work happening within the homes closer to the slave masters. and what tended to mean is that there was less of an opportunity to have time on your own. you're serving that master, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, when they are up, when they're not sleeping, you're tending to them, and even when they're sleeping, sometimes you're tending to the fires or making sure that everything is going all right for them. so you tend to have less time to yourselves. but even having less of that time you still would find that time to be with your family, to be with your friends. they might have tried to take most of that time away from you. but, as human beings, we find those times to make those connections. so, in a lot of ways, their
relationships are not much different than the relationships you have now in that they were mothers and fathers and carpenters, and they had their lives still, even separate from the work that they were doing. >> did they have their family units? and how, you know, how many enslaved people would one family, the interpreter that we were just showing was talking about the randolphs. and how many, you know, would they, of the enslaved population would one family have as their slaves? and did they have, within that enslaved community, did they have the family unit? >> well, they would still have the family unit, but because of the fact that by law, you couldn't be married, but slaves got married anyways. you still had these units. you still had people marrying. you still had children being born. and those those children were
taken away no matter how far they went, you would still try to keep that connection if you could. if you couldn't have that connection, you still had people around you who didn't have those connections either. and a lot of times they would become your family. they were the ones that you would depend on. they were the ones that you would lean on. when you need to find that family, and you're all in this station together, you find a way to be together and to continue to be family units. so you'll see in the history that the family units just continue. they continued to be whether they were truly by law family or by blood family units or not. >> we're talking about the enslaved population in colonial williamsburg in the 1770s. we're taking your questions and comments about this, 202-748-8900. and if you live on the mountain pacific part of the country,
202-748-8901. we're also taking your texts, 202-717-9764. we've been talking all day here from colonial williamsburg with several guests, and our discussion now turns to those that were enslaved in williamsburg. how big was the population, mr. seals? >> well, the population of williamsburg, when it would swell was around about 2,000 people. and think about the fact that of that population half of them were enslaved. there was no way that you could have walked through the streets or gone through a day in the life of a citizen, of williamsburg, and not had slavery be a part of your life in some way, shape or form. >> and what sort of work were they doing? >> oh, all kinds of work. you still had fields and crops
in the city area even though it was a much smaller area. so there was still some field work being done. but you're going to find plenty of housework, people to fix things, for the gentry, you're going to need someone to dress you, for someone to accompany you. you're going to need for someone to be your footman, to help you on the carriage, to drive your carriages for you. any sort of work that could be done, stoke the fires in the middle of the night to make sure that you're kept warm in the middle of the winter, which, virginia can have some very harsh winters from time to time. if it could be done than an enslaved person is probably doing it. >> how did the slave market come to williamsburg? >> well, as far as when you, when you're living in an area of
commerce, and williamsburg was an area where people came. it was the capital, the colonial capital of virginia. so if you're coming to virginia and you need to do some business, or you need to go to court, or anything of that sort, you have to come to williamsburg. it's the capital. so the market is going to need to be there. that's where the influx of people are coming. that's where they're needing to be. so the market needs to be in williamsburg, because that's where most of the people are coming. that's where you need to come to tell sinthings if you need to, vote if you have to, going to william and mary. there are so manygo about deciding how you are going to interpret life for the enslaved community? it is such a controversial, complicated thing. how did tourists react?
with what's start stories to tell. i had to look very closely at myself and the type of history that i was taught as a child. as a child, i was not taught a whole lot about slavery, i was taught it was horrible, taught a whole lot about a slavery. i was taught that it was horrible, that these things happened to my people, that it was a shameful time in american history, and that's what i was t told. so a lot of the history that was being told about slavery was just about the horrors of a tea slavery, the hopelessness of slavery. and as a teenager, as even a young adult growing up, it made it very hard for me to feel positive about the contributions that my people made during the time of slavery. and as i became a person that it was dealing with programming, that reallwiy bothered me.
i want for blacks that come to williamsburg, and whites to come to williamsburg, to see the as e story and their plight of the enslaved as their history, as rt their story.l them i so what i'm looking at the type of interpretation our the type of history that we need to tell, i want it, one, to be told from the point of view from the pero individuals who were enslaved. i want people to know what the enslaved person was going through, not what was being said about them, not what people thought of them, but what they thought of themselves, who they are as human beings, what they are. because the law said that they were slaves, that they were property. but in their minds, in their e. heads, that's not who they saw themselves as. they saw themselves as people. and i want guests to see them as people first as well.. the guests come here, and they see programs about enslaved people, where it's about their
lives, under the umbrella of slavery. so it's still about slavery, but it's about them. con and theirne reactions tend to b wow, i feel a connection to these people. i understand their history now, because i see that as much as ot times have changed, people don't, and they have the same wants and dreams and hopes that i have. so, as an american, i see them as americans. i see them as me.dial >> we want to invite our viewers to start dialing in to take your questions and comments here about what it was like for then slaved person in virginia. in williamsburg, colonial williamsburg. if you live in the easternpo - central part, 202-748-8900. we're also getting texts tooz. 202-717-9684. and stephen seals will be taking
your questions and comments. we've got one viewer who's texted in this, given the fact that in those days they lived in a borderless society, what kept the enslaved person from not running? >> ah. well, the question of to run or not to run is a very loaded question. and the way that i, even back when i was in costume, the way that i would handle that the question is to put it to the inb guests, so i'm going to put it to the viewers to ask themselve. some questions and to think e y about it on this level. you're an enslaved person. and maybe you're trained to, as a kaecarter or coachman. but if you were to run, the law says that you're still propertye so even if you're to go somewhere else, you're still ere going to a place where everyone knows everyone. so where are you going to run te
where people doechn't know who n you? and if you do run to a place where people don't now who you are, are they going to questionw who you are y and whether you'r free or not? because thursdyou're going to a? don't knowd and they you? to also ask yourself the question of, if you're going to run, what if you have a wife or a husband or children? are they going to go with you? and if they are, would you be able to free yourself running off with your family? are you going to be -- is it going to be much easier for to you hide as a runaway slave if l you have your family with you? so if you're going to run, are h you going to run without your family? and if you become fry and your family stays in bon damadage, w will the slaveow master do to te to prevent them from running.er there areyo so many questions t enslaved person has to ask themselves. how are you going to support your family if you end up somewhere elsewhere you need to
ply a trade and they don't know who you are? what are you going to do to p support yourself?able to what are you going to do to support your family? there are so many questions you have to ask yourself as an u bea enslaved person if are you goiny to run off from your master to would you be able to live? would you be able to have a life as a runaway slave? so it was never an easy question as to whether to run or not to'' run. there were just too many questions to think about, even if you were able to get away.an >> stephen seals, given what you said, and you were an interpreter at one time, how difficult is it to get african-americans to want to play this role, interpret this history, knowing what their ancestors went through, and the kind of questions that they might get? >> that's one of the best questions that's ever asked. and i'll answer it this way.
i can only answer it for the reason why i do it. and for so long the voices of the african in american were not represented in history. it just wasn't.the and for me, being able to interpret is me giving a voice to the voiceless.ize humanizing the dehumanized. and for me, i've come to realize that what they did, how theyen duringed, how they lived, how they had their relationships, the way in which they furpgsed and the way in which they survived and the though only in survived, but the way that theyt flourished, made it so that i'm able to be here today, to be ini the position i'm in to tell the story that i'm telling.ason to that, to me, is not ever a reason to feel shame.did, i that is a reason to feel pride. i feel pride in what my people
did. i feel pride in what my people endured. and knowing that and knowing toy that every day i get to jump out of bed, which i do every morning, and get to tell that story to people means that i'm one of the richest individuals on this planet. and i try to say that to every interpreter that auditions for colonial williamsburg. it is going to be one of the hardest jobs that you will ever have to do in life. but, you know what? it's going to be one of the most fulfilling. and what you get to do every day makes a difference. what more can you ask for in ca life than to make a difference, you know? >> is it hard to fill those positions? >> it can be. it can be. it was hard for me to want to gn take the gjob. it's, in america today, we stiln are not teaching young people, young black people or even younh white people to be proud of
their history.e the good, thgee bad and the ugl. and when you have generations of people, myself included, that have come up to feel like this c is a time that we shouldn't talf about, this is a time to be ashamed of, it becomes really difficult for people to kind of step outside of themselves and what they're feeling and what gi society has made us feel so ld wrong about our history to go, this is really something that in need to do, not just something that i should do, or not just something that i can do to make a living, but this is something that i should do. and that's, that's what i try to convey to individuals that wante to do this sort of work. but it can be hard, because youy really do have to put your own feelings to the side to tell the story in a way that's honest. because the honest story's pretty ugly. it can get very ugly at times, but it has some amazing triumphn in it too, that make it worth to. make it worth it every day.
>> let's get to calls. dillon? >> caller: the question i have is i've watched several programs that the slaves were able to bu. their freedom. and they actually had of commerce or businesses. now that true of williamsburg? and also, was there indentured servitude in the colonies in williamsburg, and would an african-american person be able to be an indentured servant and? be able to leave and start their own life? >> there were numerous black businesses and black business people in the area. commerce, williamsburg being the kind of the conduit of commerce in virginia, there would have se
been merchants of all different colors, of all different creeds coming here to conduct business. everyone has to live, everyone has to sell what they need to t sell.17th c there was indentured servitude. but there was a point in the ene 17th century where the laws changed. and when the laws changed, there became a distinction between white indentured servitude and black slavery. when the first blacks came here in 1619, there wasn't a jchanism of slavery set up for britishus north america. so when they got here, they weren't specifically originally thought of 100% as slaves. we do know from some of the records that there were some of them that ended up being kept id servitude for the rest of their lives, but for the most part, many of them were treated indentured ser vachtss, and tha, practice continued for a little bit longer, but then that
distinction ended up being made, and you did still find white indentured servants, but you didn't find black indentured servants, you found blacks that ended up being enslafred. >> on facebook, jay has this question, how candidate experience of enslaved african-americans of differ from the experience of the enslaved in other colonies or more rural areas. >> ah's in well, urban slavery definitely o has its differences, but it's very interesting that a lot of people will, will come in going oh, well, house slavery must to have been better, right? you're indoors, you're in a house. you're getting to, you know, have more time to yourself, that sort of thing. and in actuality, as you might have heard earlier, that just wasn't the case.
but even in virginia, you still had a lot of field, field slavery. you still had a lot of ences plantationam slavery.to i would say that as far as differences among the colonies, you aren't going to find a much more -- you're going to find, depending on what sort of crops you're planting, different typea of work being done. but the fact that tobacco was the cash crop of virginia, thet tobacco is a very labor-intensive crop. so you're not going to find the types of field slavery happenino in virginia to be any it was quote-unquote less work intensive. in a lot of ways, it was just ae work intensive. now in the northern colonies
where there was slavery as well, you will find that there's a lo less agriculture. so the slavery was more family-oriented, was more house-oriented, was more that sort of work oriented, but still having to wait on your master 24 hours a day,7 days a week meant that that servitude was very ll. well.rueling as so you're going to find some differences, depending on the type of society that you're in, in the colonies, depending on which colony you're in.in flori but the work tended to still be rather similar. >> mary is next in new port ecos richey, florida. >> caller: hi, my question for mr. seals is this, i'm just wondering if there are any historical records about what if any relationship there was how. between the slaves and native-americans such as the ear
kwoi, cherokee. i love the show. i can't tell you how much i'm he enjoying this. and thank you, mr. seals for your answer. >> well, it's appreciated to have you call in. i love that question, because w. actually have a program here called from freedom to slavery that actually deals with that. many of the, many of the natives of north america gave sanctuaryd to enslaved individuals that ran to them. so a lot of times the enslaved individuals would be brought into their society, would become part of their society, could marry into their society, have children, have jobs, have businesses. the particular program that we do here now actually deals with a treaty that meant that many or those enslaved individuals that ran to the natives had to be brought back. and when they were given back,
they were brought back into, n h into slavery again. soc so they went from being free and be being a citizen within a society within a native society to coming back again and being property once again. so many of the native cultures did take in the enslaved, and cny of them did become a part ofit that culture. and became citizens of that e ro culture, having a say within that culture. so that actually did happen quite a bit. we do have records of that. >> curt in abington, virginia, you are up next in american history tv. your question or comment.y >> caller: good afternoon, mr. seals. i'm really enjoying this discussion. can you tell knee, during the colonial and revolutionary erasn was there any legal protection for enslafred persons of any kind, and was there any hint of an abolitionist movement during
those eras?, >> wonderful question. as far as the law goes, because you have to look at it on two a levels. you have to look at it as what is actually the written law, and then you have to look at it as a to what was the actual in-practice law. so if you're looking at what the written law was, the enslaved had protections in respects of if a slave was to be murdered, killed for lack of a better term, no reason whatsoever, that was considered murder. you could only in essence, kill your slave in the manner of correction, if you're punishing them in some way, shape, or ford and they happen to die within that correction, then the law did not protect them. they were not protected under that. now having said that, if someone was to murder one of their
slaves, they would have to be reported to the law four thr th order to be prosecuted.se it and who's going to turn them in? well, the other slaves on the wi plantation or in the house can'e turn them in, because it was against the law for slaves to be able to testify in court.this so who's going to be the witness? who's going to be able to stand there and say this person was killed in cold blood.lly di we want them, we want their hap killer to be brought to justice. that just really didn't happen, and it couldn't happen, because you wouldn't have been able to have a witness.l so under the letter of the law, there were protections, but if you're talking about the actual way in which the law was set forth and the way in which it was actually used, you don't be find a whole lot of records at all of people being prosecuted
for killing a slave, for killing an enslaved person. >> linda, plano, texas. welcome to the conversation. toe >> caller: thank you. i have a question.i' i was fortunate enough to get of a partial degree in black studies and i'm trying to get some recognition of black history in the school system in plano, texas, and i've been working for over a year to no avail. the textbooks don't even mentioo slavery. it goes from 1791.n rosa then it jumps to the peanut guyi and then it goes to rosa parks. so there's no information about the inventions, the wars that we fought in, the things that we built, like the layout for eastc washington, d.c., and i've been struggling to get the school system to at least recognize black history month.ck
and i know this because my but grandson is in the school system, and i'm working hard, yo not just for black people, but because it's history. so what can you recommend that i try to do to get this done?t' >> well, i would say this. things like that are one of the reasons why living history whati museums, and museums in general, are so important. because no matter what's happening in a society, no matter what choices are being made within a legislature, as us far as what's going to be taught, living history museums,w museums use the actual documentation to be able to tell the story in the way that it needs to be told. as far as what i would suggest to try to get that information v
out there is to go to those museums, is to go online.id we live ine a wonderful time ef can connect to someone who's all the way on the other side of the earth in two seconds by pressing a but tton. i don't know what the possibility is of bringing guest speakers into your classroom wod through technology in a way that gets that story out there. another thing that i would h suggest is down there you have a lot of people who have learned the history, the history's been passed down through.get th storytelling is a wonderful way to get those stories out there and to get things told, to have them come in and tell the story. there are wonderful con publications, remembering re slavery is a wonderful publication to get, because it s the library of congress recordings of actual ex-slaves,
talking about what it was like to be slaves. and there's something about what hearing someone who actually had to go through it. their actual voice, talking as about what they had to go ce through as t slaves, and then talking about what they had to go through once they were freed that you can't ignore, that a textbook can't take away. that's probably what i would ssm suggest as far as starting to get that word out there. as far as getting it into your classroom. because you really do need to find a way to bring it into your classroom in some way, shape, or form. >> more tola come from colonial williamsburg. but one last phone call on this topic. tim in philadelphia. go ahead. >> caller: i was calling to see what new directions would the african-american interpretation site be taking at colonial
williamsburg?e we g will there be new sightings or added story lines?rt a where are we going with the current program today? >> the short answer is yes. but the, but the more, the more accurate answer would be to say that where we, where we're goine and where we need to go is that when a guest comes here to colonial williamsburg, black, white, other, the one thing that i want to mach sure that they it leave understanding is that iet. slavery was woven into the fabric of 18th century, british north american society. and there is not a way that yout could have gone through a day in the 18th century without some way, shape, or form having it be a part of your day.o matter so where programming is headinge towards is that no matter what
building you go to, no matter what program you go to, no matter what specious you have, yo you're going to learn within that experience, history. you're going to learn about theo contributions of the founding mothers and fathers and the individuals that did the work for those founding fathers and founding mothers. you're going to learn that if eh you're in a house that has 31 8s people ilan it, where 28 of theh were osenslaved, you're going tp hear the stories of those 28 enslaved people just as much as you are going to hear the store eve t -- story of the three people who were waited on by those 28 people. what we want to have is not y, u separate programs but have the program be a whole, that when you come to see history, when you come to be a part of history, you become a part of all that history, and the story of george washington, and the au story ofse eve of the randolph
house and the story of thomas the jefferson or jupiter of monticello are all american stories. and when you come to see those stories, you see that every or single person who lived in the colonial times, no matter what their color was, whether they were native, whether they were black, whether they were white,h whether they weree a man, whethr they were a woman, it is your story as an american, it is your story as a member of the world.. and those stories need to be wah toldav everywhere. that's where we're heading. and yes, we will always have new programs that tell stories aboua the enslaved where their stories are told as them being people, not as slaves but as people, ase people that had lives that were just as rich as anyone else within the world of the 18th century. that's where we're heading towards. that's where we're going.sburg. that's the destination. >> a lot more to come, it sounds
like, from colonial hank you williamsburg, and um assurei'm lot of ouran viewers have been s enticed to visit. we thank you, stephen seals for welcoming c-span, the c-span d buses, and helping us bring the sights and sounds of williamsburg to american history tv. thank you.shop >> thank you.mory t next, we'll be visiting the black smith shop and public armory to learn about the role u of the w black smith in the colonial era, and after that, you're going to go behind the ht scenes ohef williamsburg's coste design center and see where all the historical area costumes are researched and created. thank you for joining us here on american history tv today. i'm ken schwartz, i'm the