Oatlands Plantation opens new exhibit and pays homage to slaves who built it

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“It’s very serene. To see the roots of the trees. They remind you of your ancestry. The roots are deep. They’re beautiful. The way they spread out…You just have a feeling your ancestors are here,” said Ellen Thaxton as she sat on the stoop of a building her ancestors built. 

Thaxton is a sixth-generation descendant of Oatlands Plantation slaves. The living history museum recently opened its newest exhibit, which pays homage to her ancestors and the hundreds that lived and worked there until 1860.

The project was descendant driven. Last January, the museum received a grant from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund to build an interpretive center. The plans were approved in late May. 

“One of the things that was very important to us and to the descendant community was having the people and the names be forefront,” said Lori Kimball, director of programming and education at Oatlands Plantation. “That’s what it’s about. The people.”

The names identified by the museum are displayed on the door. The museum encourages its visitors to do some genealogical research at a computer inside the exhibit. It also includes photographs and original artwork.

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