The Slave Dwelling Project, like so many museums, historic sites, and institutions of higher learning, entered 2020 with robust and ambitious plans. We were well on our way to celebrating our 10th anniversary by organizing a fall conference on the theme “Ten Years of Changing Narratives.” But the outbreak of COVID-19 dictated the postponement of those conference plans and the adjustment of our work to the realities of social distancing and remote communication.
During 2020, people around the world were also confronted with the appalling murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, and too many others. An array of changes followed: Confederate monuments rapidly came down; iconic images of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben were removed from product packaging; and some notable names were changed. Lady Antebellum became Lady A, and The Dixie Chicks simply called themselves The Chicks. Despite some resistance, the 1619 Project continued to challenge the White male historical narrative in this country. Internationally, England’s National Trust began examining that country’s relationship to slavery and colonialism, and in Brussels, the Royal Museum for Central Africa confronted its representation of colonized African and indigenous peoples. Here in the United States, museums, historic sites, institutions of higher learning, and the Slave Dwelling Project have acknowledged our shared and urgent responsibility to contribute to the historical narrative and address the issues at the heart of the present-day social justice movement. Therefore, our sixth national Slave Dwelling Project Conference—to be held virtually September 30 through October 2, 2021—will focus on this question: What are we doing now and what will we continue to do to change the narrative in changing times?