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Horton Grove Part of Heritage Tourism

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DURHAM — "Heritage Tourism" -- looking for our roots -- is the fastest growing category of tourism in North Carolina and man other states. An African-American history professor at North Carolina Central University says the search for heritage is leading many people back to old southern plantations.

According to historian Alice Eley Jones, Stagville Preservation Center has been a state historic site since the mid- to late 1970's. The state purchased it.

"The first fascinating thing about these houses is that they actually were built as most houses were in the south, by slave builders," Jones says. "And, second, that they've lasted."

Alice Jones loves to tell the story of the lives that once filled these Horton Grove slave homes on the Stagville Plantation. The story she loves to tell is how those lives rose from the ashes of slavery.

"Some of the ex-slaves just wanted to run around and travel the world after having been enslaved for generation after generation. Some just said their future lies here. On this farm, I can get a tenured contract for my labor. Certainly the blacks who were the best able and in the best place in time and history to help themselves were the black artisans and builders.

So in terms of having to build the first colleges and universities, these people could offer their skills.

Jones says many people who come to Stagville respond on emotional terms. "The slave experience is not ambivalent. It creates very definite feelings and very definite emotions. We have people coming to view this human experience and sometimes they just need to be comforted and work their way through it. You just never know what kind of reaction you're going to get from people when they come through that door."

Historic Stagville is open to the public during weekdays. You can find it north of Durham, seven miles from 501 on the Old Oxford Highway.


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