Examining Culture through the Lens of a Will
See also: Lesson plan
Overview: Very few documents survive that were written from the perspective of enslaved people in Virginia. We learn about their lives through letters, legal documents, plantation accounts, and newspaper stories and advertisements written by white landowners, through oral histories from people who were formerly enslaved, and through archaeology. In order to understand the history of one group of slaves who lived in central Virginia in the 1700s, we will start by reading the will of a wealthy landowner who considered them, by the laws of the day, to be his property. More broadly, by reading this will we can explore what the will of a wealthy landowner tells us about the culture of the time.