Monday, July 11, 2011

NEH Post 2: Burwell School

I'm back with more of my workshop with the National Endowment for the Humanities. Sorry if you aren't a history buff and were looking for another book post; one is on its way later tonight or tomorrow :)

So anyway, we spent the next morning (Saturday) on the road to close-by Hillsborough, NC to see the historic Burwell School. Some background: The Burwell School was a home that was occupied by Rev. and Mrs. Burwell and their 6(?) children. The Rev. Burwell brought his family to Hillsborough to pastor a church there, and the local doctor asked Mrs. Burwell to consider beginning a girls' academy, which she accepted. Thus, the Burwell school began with boarders and day students. The curriculum was interesting when we got a chance to see the list of courses. The house itself wasn't all that large for boarding students.

None of that information was the purpose of visiting the school; this is: Mrs. Burwell held an enslaved person by the name of Elizabeth Keckly. Elizabeth, or Lizzy as she was called, was an integral part of the girls' school and actually learned to read and write as part of her time at the Burwell School. Eventually, Elizabeth Keckly became an free woman working as a seamstress. Her work was much sought after and her most famous client and was none other than Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln. Elizabeth ultimately became a close friend and confidante to Mrs. Lincoln as her personal seamstress in the White House. Lizzy eventually wrote a memoir entitled Behind the Scenes: 30 Years a Slave and 4 Years in the White House. It is said that her relationship with Mrs. Lincoln deteriorated because of the publication.

Anyway, so much of that story began at the Burwell School. Here are some photos of the inside of the home/school. The property originally had 12 (!!) buildings, including a stand alone kitchen and a "necessary house," which is...well, we call it a restroom now :) I also took a photo of one of the school houses for your enjoyment/curiosity

It's not an original, but this is an example of what the girls would wear at the school. The more petticoats over your hoop skirt, the better! Another important fact: more material and layers meant more wealth.

An example of the bedding arrangements. This is half of one room and as you can see it has to sleep at least 3 girls. Imagine, boarding at a school and sleeping in the same bed with someone you did not know!

This is one of the original school houses. Inside, there are (guess!) chalk boards and long benches. There are no traditional desks. I can't imagine going to school in this room in the summer in so many layers of petticoats!

It's not so much part of the trip, but we did finish this part of the day with a Barbecue lunch on the school grounds. I know I've mentioned previously that this program is for teachers Nationwide and Internationally, but this was the truest moment of that fact so far. It was so interesting to see people from other parts of the United States (and beyond!) enjoy southern barbecue, baked beans, hush puppies and the like. Also, I tried a new food that day, too. Along with what I would consider the traditional fare, there was a dish called corn pudding. I had never had it before but I was on an adventure, so I gave it a try. It was AMAZING!! I'm going to try my hand at making it before summer is over. Anyone got a good recipe?

I hope you enjoyed seeing my trip through my eyes. Next post will contain information about my first Durham Bulls Game! I'm trying to catch up while I'm on vacation at Oak Island, but hey, a girl has to get her tan on sometime!!

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