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Black History Month at the Sam Davis Home in Smyrna, TN

by DAN WHITTLE on

AASLH Member since 2006 

To commemorate February as Black History Month, the Sam Davis Home and Museum staff has created a special exhibit, entitled “African Americans on the Davis Plantation – Curator Talk and Tour Series.”

Historians, educators, parents, grandparents and children will have the opportunity to learn never before told details about slavery as it was practiced at the Davis plantation.

There will be a topic-specified guided tour of the historic house and grounds when participants will learn more about those who labored here as slaves, including Uncle Charlie.

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Historians around the globe know about Tennessean Sam Davis, the famous Confederate Coleman scout who chose death by a hangman’s noose rather than disclose identities of fellow Southern Civil War sympathizers.

However, few know about “Uncle” Charlie Waldron, who was born into slavery when his mother, Sally Waldron, gave birth to him either on, or near, the former Davis family plantation in Smyrna during the 1840s.

Even fewer know about the conditions Uncle Charlie survived as a slave to the Davis family leading up to the Civil War.

However, thanks to modern-day caretakers of the historic Sam Davis Home and Museum, the largest tourism attraction in Smyrna, here-to-fore untold details of his and other slave lives are being made public.

“For example, there are no records showing how plantation owner Charles Davis (the father of Sam Davis) treated his slaves,” said Christina Runkel, director of collections and interpretation at the Sam Davis Home and Museum. “However, due to an archeological dig by students from Middle Tennessee State University, we know that Uncle Charlie was curious, not only about his ancestors, but about Native Americans and their life styles too.”

Due to the artifacts found in the interpretive dig beneath the cabin Uncle Charlie lived in for years, the students found multiple arrow heads and other items from the Native American culture that preceded the slave era of the United States, Runkel described while pointing out a brick likely built by the hands of slaves.

“This particular brick shows the prints of a foot, likely the foot of the slave who helped operate the kiln that bricks were fired in,” she said. “This other brick shows the stroke of a hand likely swiped on the brick prior to the kiln.”

“Slaves who had masonry talents were highly valued because they could construct structurally safe chimneys and make bricks for safe walkways,” Runkel added. “Many large plantation farms had individual kilns.”

On Saturday, Feb. 8, Runkel will orchestrate an in-depth talk and tour when guests will get an inside look into the museum’s featured exhibit.

There will be a topic-specified guided tour of the historic house and grounds when participants will learn more about those who labored here as slaves, including Uncle Charlie.

There is another opportunity, this one free to the public, for parents and grandparents to share this important American history with children.
“On Sunday, Feb. 23, we will celebrate the rich musical history of African-Americans during after the Civil War,” Runkel said. “That will be part of the free Family Day from noon to 4 p.m. that is suitable for children of all ages. Families will get the chance to play an orutu (a stringed instrument), a thumb piano, a finger drum and more with this hands-on program while learning the role that music played to African-Americans laboring on the Davis plantation with songs.”

For more information, contact:

Christina Runkel
Sam Davis Memorial Association
1399 Sam Davis Rd
Smyrna, TN 37167-2744
Work Phone: (615) 459-2341
education@samdavishome.org

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