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Harvest Festival and Drum Circle at Historic Stagville


Explore the crafts and harvest traditions of one of North Carolina’s largest plantations at the free Historic Stagville Harvest Festival, Oct. 21, noon to 6 p.m. Daytime demonstrations, vendors and crafts will give way to an African drum circle around an evening campfire with a master musician.

During the afternoon, the site will be full of demonstrators and vendors showcasing the kinds of work done by enslaved craftsmen. Interpreters will share stories of life and work during autumn. Visitors can observe blacksmithing, wood turning, basket weaving, textile work and dried gourd art. Guests might try some of the crafts!

Get your hands dirty and learn historic brickmaking at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Children and adults can try the method once used to make more than 100,000 bricks for the houses at Horton Grove. There will be other children’s crafts available all day.

Visitors can take mule cart rides at Horton Grove, and discover how mules were so essential for farm work and transportation in 1850. The cart ride will bring visitors to see the Great Barn, a massive mule barn at Stagville.

At 2 p.m., April Turner and Art as Life Production will perform “Dancing Stories,” a performance of West African storytelling, music and dance, where visitors can get instruments and play along! This performance at Horton Grove will reflect the West African traditions preserved and protected by enslaved communities at Stagville.

From 5 to 6 p.m., visitors will join Master Musician Kwabena Osei Appiagyei around the evening campfire as part of a drum circle at Horton Grove, which once again will resonate with the same music that enslaved families might have made to celebrate the end of harvesting work in the fall season. Instruments will be provided, and traditional drummers are welcome to bring their own instruments to participate! 

Stagville is the former site of one of the largest plantations in North Carolina, owned by the Bennehan Cameron family and home to over 900 enslaved people. Historic Stagville State Historic Site interprets the lives of over 3,000 individuals who experienced slavery at Stagville, as well as the story of the Bennehan-Cameron family. Historic Stagville preserves a fraction of the buildings and land from the plantation, including a slaveholder’s house (1787-1799), four houses of enslaved families (1851), and a giant barn (1860).

For more information, call 919-620-0120. The site is located at 2821 Old Oxford Road, Durham, NC 27712. It is nine miles north of downtown Durham, about 30 minutes from Chapel Hill, and about 45 minutes from Raleigh. It is part of the Division of State Historic Sites within the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

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