In 1860, Somerset Place was one of the most successful plantations
in North Carolina--and its owner one of the largest slaveholders in
the state. More than 300 slaves worked the plantation's fields at
the height of its prosperity; but nearly 125 years later, the only
remembrance of their lives at Somerset, now a state historic site,
was a lonely wooden sign marked "Site of Slave Quarters."
, first published in 1989, is the story
of one woman's unflagging efforts to recover the history of her
ancestors, slaves who had lived and worked at Somerset Place.
Traveling down winding southern roads, through county courthouses
and state archives, and onto the front porches of people willing to
share tales handed down through generations, Dorothy Spruill
Redford spent ten years tracing the lives of Somerset's slaves and
their descendants. Her endeavors culminated in the joyous,
nationally publicized homecoming she organized that brought
together more than 2,000 descendants of the plantation's slaves and
owners and marked the beginning of a campaign to turn Somerset
Place into a remarkable resource for learning about the history of
both African Americans and whites in the region.