For nearly 150 years, this house told a story about the African American experience
For nearly 150 years, this house told a story about the African American experience The Jones-Hall-Sims House, stripped down from 140 years of additions and siding, was acquired in 2009 by the National Museum of African American History and Culture and has been rebuilt as part of an exhibition called “Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation.” (Todd Stowell)
For nearly 150 years, this house told a story about the African American experience
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"When I was a little girl," says Chanell Kelton, "I used to tell my friends that my house is one of the oldest houses in Maryland."
 
In fact, the two-story home where Kelton took her very first steps was built around 1875. It was the first house built in what became the free African-American community of Jonesville. It's in rural Montgomery County. Named after its founders Richard and Erasmus Jones, ancestors who Kelton lovingly referred to as her "uncles," the community gave former slaves their first concrete taste of freedom.
 
"During the holidays in what we would call the old kitchen, we would always have our holiday dinners," Kelton, 32, recalls. "Just sitting down and having that meal in the original part of the house was a very spiritual moment. It felt like our ancestors were right there with us."
 
That home was acquired in 2009 by the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. It has been rebuilt as part of an exhibition. It is called "Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation." Visitors are able to stand inside of the house. It was a symbol of pride and possibilities for a family that once worked at a nearby plantation. The Smithsonian staff calls it the "Freedom House."
 
"Written on its very bones was a giant symbol for freedom, for rising up, for coming out of slavery, for putting a stamp on the world that signified standing tall in the era following enslavement," says curator Paul Gardullo. "It has two floors. That was the thing that stood out to us as well, the way in which it stood apart and separate from what would be thought of as a slave cabin. It was a home, a tangible symbol of reconstruction. It evokes the aspirations as well as the limitations of that period."
 
Gardullo says evidence shows that Richard and Erasmus Jones, who may have been brothers, were enslaved on the Aix la Chapelle plantation. That is in Montgomery County, Maryland. About 5,400 enslaved people were held there prior to the Civil War.
 
The first parcel in the Jonesville community was bought by Erasmus in 1866. That was the year after the war ended. Gardullo says Richard Jones bought the land where the "Freedom House" stood about nine years later, for $135. That is according to a deed in Maryland Historical Trust files.
 
Jonesville is now located within the city of Poolesville. It was among many all-black settlements that cropped up in the area, including Jerusalem and Sugarland. They joined other such communities around the nation including Rosewood in Florida and Nicodemus in Kansas.
 
Gardullo says the construction of the house and the surrounding buildings help tell the story of how people who had been enslaved could build a home, like other Americans. They had the skills and wherewithal to do this in a country where they were second-class citizens. The Jones-Hall-Sims House, named for the related families who lived there over the years, is much more than simply the story of a single, beloved house.
 
"It's the demonstration of a way of life that many people in America have sort of forgotten in the stereotypical story of African-Americans that many have. A story that goes like: slavery, sharecropping, urban ghetto, when it's way more complicated than that," Gardullo muses. "You've got these communities that were being created and sustaining themselves and living off the land despite economic challenges and political challenges and racial violence in some cases."
 
The original house is a log building. It measures approximately 16 by 25 feet. The way it was built tells historians what the Jonesville community was like. It was crafted from hand-hewn logs from Maryland. The logs were joined by hand. There was a kitchen, what Kelton calls the "old kitchen," along with a chimney and fireplace. It was whitewashed on the inside and outside and had a wooden floor. There was an upstairs level and windows on that level as well.
 
"All of these things let us know the community was filled with black artisans who could do this, who were skilled at creating and constructing their own complex structures," says Gardullo. "But having a home with two stories where you could look out over your land is more than just a sense of pride of ownership. It's also a view to know that if there is someone coming down the road, and if you had a gun, somebody could be sitting up there watching the land."
 
Kelton says her grandparents told stories about the original inhabitants of the house. It was a place where huge family reunions and pig roasts were held every year. Her grandfather continued the tradition of black artistry in the town. He was a craftsman in the construction field.
 
Kelton says she loved growing up walking the paths of her ancestors. She ate fresh food from the garden. Fruit trees were planted by the home.
 
"It was just a wonderful experience, being surrounded right there in nature, walking through the same woods where my ancestors walked, seeing the same trees, feeling the same grass," Kelton says. "I know my ancestors and grandparents are very thankful. I can just see them smiling down now. So I'm grateful for the fact that the Smithsonian is helping to keep the legacy and the spirit of the Jones-Hall-Sims House alive."

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween56/nearly-150-years-house-told-story-about-african-american-experience/

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why does the cabin have two floors?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (51)
  • leslieb-goa
    2/02/2017 - 11:01 a.m.

    The cabin has two floors because they couldn't all fit in just one floor and so they made an another floor so that all people will be having a hard time to live with other people and especially for those who have a large family they won't all fit in one tiny little room if it only had one tiny room those who have a large family some might want there own room and that is why they built two rooms so that all there family members could all fit in the house he people could all fit and if they did not have two floors some people will fit.According to the text on paragraph 3-4-5 it is saying why they built a other floor to the house that all the members could live there.TO expand my answer i'm going to say now you know why they built the two floors at or in the house so that they could all fit in the house.

  • lukeh-orv
    2/02/2017 - 02:39 p.m.

    The Smithsonian staff calls it the "Freedom House." "Written on its very bones was a giant symbol for freedom, for rising up, for coming out of slavery, for putting a stamp on the world that signified standing tall in the era following enslavement," says curator Paul Gardullo. Gardullo says Richard Jones bought the land where the "Freedom House" stood about nine years later, for $135. That is according to a deed in Maryland Historical Trust files. Gardullo says the construction of the house and the surrounding buildings help tell the story of how people who had been enslaved could build a home, like other Americans. The Jones-Hall-Sims House, named for the related families who lived there over the years, is much more than simply the story of a single, beloved house. "You've got these communities that were being created and sustaining themselves and living off the land despite economic challenges and political challenges and racial violence in some cases." The original house is a log building.

  • devynm13-
    2/03/2017 - 08:46 a.m.

    The cabin has two floors because the African Americans that lived there could look down at the street below them. Also, if there were more than two people staying in the small cabin, they had extra room.

  • danielb-kul
    2/04/2017 - 11:39 a.m.

    I wouldn't mind having a building that runs in my family. It is crazy to think that the building is still standing. I don't if I could trust such an old building though.

  • carson-kul
    2/04/2017 - 12:11 p.m.

    This is really amazing on how long it was able to stay in tact from 1875. And i can only imagine how spiritual those dinners must have been in that kitchen. Just to be able to say your ancestors were a key part in history, you had to feel proud of your family name.

  • ljadyn-dav
    2/05/2017 - 04:56 p.m.

    In response to "Why does the cabin have two floors?," I think that the cabin has two floors because it signifys freedom. "The Smithsonian staff calls it the "Freedom House." "Written on its very bones was a giant symbol for freedom, for rising up, for coming out of slavery, for putting a stamp on the world that signified standing tall in the era following enslavement." Another reason is that it made it seem more like a home, It says in the article "It has two floors. That was the thing that stood out to us as well, the way in which it stood apart and separate from what would be thought of as a slave cabin. It was a home, a tangible symbol of reconstruction. It evokes the aspirations as well as the limitations of that period."in the end this home was very special and its two floors were unique for its time.

  • brookeg-kul
    2/06/2017 - 11:45 a.m.

    It is cool that they are making the house a museum. The girl was lucky that the house stayed in her family all those years and that they know the traditions that they used to do. It is interesting that they can learn about what the community was like by looking how the house was built.

  • ksenyas1-pla
    2/06/2017 - 01:55 p.m.

    This article is about a historical house that was built in 1875 in an African-American community in an era of civil war and slavery. This house was two stories and symbolizes the stories of hundreds of slaves who were held captive, forced to work through awful conditions. The Smithsonian acquired and renovated the house enough to have it on display at their African American History and Culture Museum so others ca learn about the houses history and keep the legacy alive. This relates to civic engagement because since slavery was a huge part of our history, it is important to be well informed about the topic and the conditions that people endured. Learning about this house would make a person more educated about the specifics houses story, which would give them incite on slavery and widen their perspective of a different time period.

  • johnz-pla
    2/07/2017 - 01:29 a.m.

    The article discusses a historical log cabin that was reconstructed to be displayed at the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. The house was built by former slaves after the Civil War and housed many generations. This article is connected to civic engagement by showing how the house is used to educate about black history in this country. Visiting museums is one way citizens can gain a better understanding of history, and understanding history can better inform decisions made in the present. The house itself is a symbol of freedom, and it is our responsibility as citizens to uphold and exercise our freedom.

  • lesliea-ver
    2/10/2017 - 09:15 a.m.

    I think that this is actually a very interesting article because this house has so much history. Also it said that when the family ate in the house that they felt a presence with them like from their ancestors.

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