Crafting Freedom Workshops

NEH-Sponsored National Landmarks of American History and Culture “Crafting Freedom” Workshop

“Crafting Freedom: African-American Entrepreneurs of the Antebellum South” has been offered 20 times to over a thousand educators since 2004. It is CFI’s signature workshop. Participants have come to North Carolina from 42 states and three foreign countries to participate in this professional development experience. Regrettably, it will not be offered in the summer of 2021. The information below describes the landmarks visited and other specifics. The future of the Crafting Freedom Landmarks Workshop offerings is uncertain. Please check back in 2024.

Union Tavern — Milton, NC

The Union Tavern, in the village of Milton, NC is a “hands-on” furniture museum featuring furniture made by free black cabinetmaker, Thomas Day (1801-ca.1861). The Tavern was Day’s furniture shop and home from 1848 until his death. There he built the largest furniture business in the state and became one of the most successful black entrepreneurs in the South. He has been described by the New York Times as a “major antebellum figure” because of his expert craftsmanship, his business success, and increasingly, because of his ties to abolitionists in the North. Laurel C. Sneed, workshop director, has been researching Thomas Day since 1995 when her ground-breaking research uncovered his family origins in southern Virginia. She will speak about Thomas Day’s formative years and how he came to Milton, as well as about findings re: his ties to northern abolitionists. Jerome Bias, a cabinetmaker following in Day’s footsteps, will demonstrate traditional cabinetmaking techniques and discuss Day’s furniture from a woodworking perspective. Joseph Graves, an interpreter at the Union Tavern, will speak about Thomas Day’s business acumen.

Milton Presbyterian Church — Milton, NC

miltonThe Milton Presbyterian Church is just a few steps from the Tavern. Vanessa Richmond Graves, (no relation to Joseph) will lead a discussion about Day as a father to three children and as member of the predominantly white church where he constructed the walnut pews still in use today. Fred Motley, a Thomas Day re-enactor, will portray Thomas Day reading a letter he wrote to his daughter when she was at school in the North.

The Burwell School — Hillsborough, NC

burwellThe Burwell School in historic Hillsborough, the colonial capital of North Carolina, was a boarding school for elite white girls from the area and home to Elizabeth Keckly * (1817-1907) who was enslaved there as a teenager and young adult. Keckly became the most important black woman in the fashion and dress design business during the Civil War era. She also wrote a best-selling memoir or “slave narrative” that describes her youth at the Burwell School and her later years behind the scenes at the Lincoln White House as a dress designer and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln. William A. Andrews, internationally acclaimed scholar of African-American slave narratives, will discuss this literary genre and how it developed during the slavery era. He will place Keckly’s postbellum narrative in historical context and compare and contrast it with others. Sneed will lead a discussion on the ways the lives of Keckly and Day intersected in Hillsborough and beyond. Rebecca Ryan, director of the Burwell School, will provide a brief biography of Keckly, focusing on her formative years and major experiences that shaped her. Participants learn how Keckly, as an enslaved entrepreneur operated a successful dressmaking business that supported a household of 17 people; how she “crafted freedom” by purchasing herself and her only child; and how she leveraged her elite status as a White House insider to start a charity for black veterans of the Civil War. Participants will tour the school and grounds. In connection with these presentations, African-American seamstress/dress designer, Nellie “Chubb’s” Miles, will later make a presentation entitled “Soul-Stitching with Chubb’s” about how she learned to sew growing up as a sharecropper’s daughter on a tobacco plantation near Hillsborough. Her presentation demonstrates how sewing continued to be a survival skill for poor rural black women well into the 20th century.

Historic Stagville — Durham, NC

stagvilleHistoric Stagville Plantation, just North of Durham, was the largest plantation in North Carolina in the mid-nineteenth century. It has rare, intact slave quarters and structures built by enslaved craftspeople. At Stagville, NEH Summer Scholars will develop an appreciation of the range of skilled artisanship required to sustain a large antebellum plantation. They will witness the impressive handiwork of brick masons, carpenters, and others. There will be presentations made by site staff, as well as by workshop faculty. Historian, Reginald Hildebrande will discuss the role religion and spirituality played in the lives of the enslaved at Stagville and in the lives of 19th century African-Americans in general. At a later session, Juanita M. Holland, scholar of 19th century African–American art and material culture, will illuminate the variety of art and craft production that enslaved people created.

Visiting Scholars

  • William L. Andrews is the E. Maynard Adams Distinguished Professor of English Senior Associate Dean for the Fine Arts and Humanities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the leading scholar of Slave Narratives in the world. He will provide a seminar entitled: “Behind the Scenes: Elizabeth Keckly’s Narrative in the Broader Context of the Slave Narrative Literary Genre.”
  • Reginald Hildebrand, Associate Professor of of Afro-American Studies and History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will give a lecture on how the enslaved “crafted freedom” with the spiritual music they created. His lecture is entitled: “There is a Balm in Gilead: The Role of Religion and Religious Music in the lives of the Enslaved.”
  • Juanita M. Hollandis an art historian specializing in interpreting African American art and artisanship for non art historian audiences. Her lecture “A Hidden Host of African-American Artists: Crafting Freedom through Art” features black artists/ artisans: Edward Mitchell Bannister; David Drake; Harriet Powers and Edmonia Lewis.
  • Michele Ware, Associate professor of English at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) and former Chair of the English Department at NCCU, will give a lecture on “Crafting Freedom Through Words: George M. Horton, Frances E. Watkins Harper and Charles Chestnut”
  • Dr. Peter Wood, Professor of History emeritus – Duke University will provide a lecture entitled: Another Approach to Crafting Freedom: David Walker. This talk will address those who advocated crafting a path to freedom by any means necessary.

Visiting Artisans

  • Jerome Bias, Traditional Furniture Maker who is following in the footsteps of Thomas Day.
  • Nellie “Chubb’s” Miles, Traditional Seamstress/Dress Designer who is following in the foot-steps of her mother, grandmother, and great grandmother

Schedule and Workload

Crafting Freedom will take place over an intensive five day period which starts on a Thursday evening and ends on the following Tuesday at noon. Participants spend over 40 intensive hours during the day and several evenings in lectures/presentations, in exploration and study at the landmarks, in instructional development activities and in independent study or research. Instructional development sessions focus on the abundant material freely available on the NEH-funded Crafting Freedom website, www.craftingfreedom.orgClick here to download a PDF summary of the workshop schedule. (The schedule is subject to minor change.)

There will be some assigned readings prior to attending the workshop. Additional media and material will be provided at the workshop. Thursday evening will begin with an orientation and presentation of workshop themes. On Friday and Saturday, a tour bus will take participants to the landmarks where site interpreters, as well as Crafting Freedom faculty will make presentations. Sunday and Monday are reserved for more lectures, instructional planning and independent study to include: hands-on craft demonstrations and activities, an orientation to the extensive research resources such as Documenting the American South on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before leaving the workshop on Tuesday, each participant will turn in a plan for a proposed lesson or instructional activity to be implemented during the 2017-2018 school year. Participants will be asked to incorporate primary source documents, lesson plans, handouts, web videos and/or powerpoints from the Crafting Freedom website into their instructional plan.

NEH Summer Scholars are encouraged to bring a laptop computer (or tablet device) because of the focus on the Crafting Freedom website materials. There will be a few computers available, as well as some printed copies of textual material downloaded from the Crafting Freedom website. On the 4th day of the workshop ( Monday) NEH Summer Scholars will tour the various collections of the Wilson Library at UNC-Chapel Hill where they will learn about the vast digitized Documenting the American South collection and other primary and secondary source material housed at Wilson. A few lectures will also take place at Wilson.

Leaders of the Workshop

Laurel C. Sneed, Executive Director of the Crafting Freedom Institute, will be the workshop co-director. She also serves as the director of the Thomas Day Education Project (TDEP) which she co-founded with her husband, Charles “Charlie” D. Sneed in 1994. Charlie is a former journalist and classroom teacher who will be involved with the “behind the scenes” logistics and many of the “odds and ends” that come up with the workshop. Elsabet Fisseha is the Assistant Director for the workshops. She has been working with the Thomas Day Education Project for over a decade; first, as an undergraduate assistant in the early 2000s and later as the Workshop Registrar from 2010- 2013. She has extensive experience in project management and administration and will be in close communication with all applicants and participating Summer Scholars.

Laurel is an educator and has been an instructional designer and producer of educational media and materials for over 35 years. In addition, in 1995 she conducted the research that discovered Thomas Day’s origins in southern Virginia in consultation with a team of historians led by John Hope Franklin. She has been researching Day and the free black experience ever since. The Thomas Day Education Project (TDEP) began offering teacher workshops and creating media/materials on Thomas Day and related topics in the late 1990s. Sneed has produced award-winning educational software programs on history topics including the NEH-funded smart game, “Exploring the World of Thomas Day.” Sneed also served as executive producer of the “Crafting Freedom Materials Project” a freely available web-based resource, funded by NEH, that will be a key resource used in this workshop.

Frequently Asked Questions

May I bring family members or pets with me to the workshop?2018-09-24T15:13:51+00:00

We discourage participants from bringing family members. This is an intensive residential professional development experience for K–12 educators. We are on the go from early in the morning and sometimes go until late in the evenings. Only participants are authorized to attend activities. There is little time to spend with those who are not part of the workshop. We know that pets are “family” to many. However, the workshop hotel does not accommodate any pets.

Should I rent a car?2018-09-24T15:14:41+00:00

All participants are required to ride the tour bus to all activities; however, some have found it useful to rent a car. The times a car comes in handy are Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings when meals are “on your own.” A list of local cabs and transportation options will be provided. In the past, some participants who came early or extended their stay for a few days rented a car. If you stay late, “At Your Service” shuttle can drop you off the last day of the workshop at a rental car agency at RDU airport. That way you will not have to pay for a car throughout the workshop. Or if you arrive early, you may rent a car at RDU and drive to the hotel. After using the car for a day or more, return it to the airport car rental agency and arrange for “At Your Service” to pick you up there on Thursday when the workshop begins. Sometimes there are special week–end car rental rates which make car rental more desirable.

If you have other questions or concerns, please contact Elsabet Fisseha at [email protected] .

We look forward to meeting you!

Crafting Freedom Workshop Flyer to print and post will be available soon.

The application guidelines are not yet available but will be posted in the Fall of 2016.

When and where will Crafting Freedom take place?2018-09-24T15:15:03+00:00

There are two sessions of the workshop serving 36 participants each: Session I: June 15-20, 2017 and Session II: June 22-June 17, 2017.

The workshop will take place in the heart of the Research Triangle area of North Carolina near the border of Chapel Hill/Durham, about 25 miles west of Raleigh and 10 miles west of the Raleigh–Durham (RDU) Airport, an East Coast hub for several airlines.

How much is the stipend and what does it cover?2018-09-24T15:15:24+00:00

In general the stipend is $1200 but those participants who elect to not incur housing costs will receive a stipend of $600. Here’s the official NEH policy about this:

Stipend provisions: Only those participants who incur housing costs in a residential workshop week will receive a stipend of $1200. All commuting participants who incur no housing costs, regardless of workshop type, will receive a stipend of $600.

From the stipend some costs will be deducted such as workshop hotel costs (for those who stay at the workshop hotel), meals, and tour fees. Participants must pay for transportation to the workshop in advance of receiving the stipend. Generally participants outside of North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina fly into RDU, but some drive or take Amtrak. Except in rare instances where a participate has traveled from outside of the continental United States the $1200 stipend covers all costs : hotel, meal, round trip airfare/other transportation expenses to the Workshop, tour fees and a few group meals when touring sites or working at the hotel.

May I get CEUs or other credit?2018-09-24T15:15:45+00:00

Though the Crafting Freedom workshop is not able to provide official CEUs or other credits, we will furnish all NEH Summer Scholars with a workshop certificate verifying the number of hours they participated in this professional development experience. This certificate may be presented to the official in one’s school or district who is authorized to approve in-service credit.

What and where are the accommodations?2018-09-24T15:16:05+00:00

Since Crafting Freedom is a “residential” educational experience and because there will be some required activities in the evenings, all participants are urged to stay at the workshop hotel. The cost for one room (for one person) for five nights is approximately $460; the cost for five nights is approximately $230 if the room is shared with another participant. This room rate includes a buffet breakfast, high-speed internet access, a business center with several computers, a 24-hour fitness center, and a pool. We will help find a room-mate for those desiring to share a room with a fellow NEH Summer Scholar. Several meals will be provided when touring or working at the hotel and these will be deducted from the expenses stipend.

How do I make hotel arrangements?2018-09-24T15:08:28+00:00

You will book your hotel accommodations at the workshop hotel through the assistant director and registrar, Elsabet Fisseha ([email protected]). Please do NOT make hotel reservations through the hotel’s front desk. This will cause confusion and possibly double–booking. The cost of your hotel room will be deducted,with your permission, from your expenses stipend so you will not pay for it directly. If you wish to share a room, Elsabet can help you find a suitable roommate. [See No. 2 below] If you book a double with a roommate, the cost for five nights is approximately $230 which will be deducted from your stipend. The total cost with tax for a single (without sharing with a room-mate) for five nights is approximately $460 to be deducted from your stipend. These rates are “negotiated workshop rates” and include a hot buffet breakfast, high-speed internet access, a business center, a small fitness center, a pool, and a flat screen TV with cable and coffee-makers in each room.

Am I eligible to apply to Crafting Freedom?2018-10-18T15:43:45+00:00

K-12 teachers and other K-12 educators are eligible to apply to and attend Crafting Freedom. Regrettably, it will not be offered in the summer of 2019. Check back in August of 2019 to see if the National Landmarks workshop will offered in the summer of 2020.

How can I arrange to get a roommate?2018-09-24T15:10:19+00:00

Elsabet Fisseha ([email protected]) will send you a short “booking form” in early May via e-mail to book your room at the workshop hotel. Please fill it out and return it to Elsabet by email. It will include a section on “matching roommates” so that you can be linked – if desired – with a compatible roommate. Note: Everyone needs to fill out the booking form even if you aren’t staying at the workshop hotel because it gathers important information related to your stay.

When will I receive the stipend to cover my expenses?2018-09-24T15:10:52+00:00

You will receive the stipend on the last day of the workshop minus the costs of several pre-paid meals, tour fees, and the cost of your hotel room. The amount of the deduction will be posted by January, 2017. This means you will have to pre-pay only for your travel to the workshop. If you miss any portion of the required workshop presentations or activities for any reason – including health, family issues or delayed flights – there will be a pro rata deduction from your stipend. An hour begins after 15 minutes of being tardy.

How do I travel to the Workshop?2018-09-24T15:11:21+00:00

By Air: Please book your air travel to Raleigh–Durham Airport (RDU) early to get the best deals. You need to arrive in the afternoon of the date the workshop begins (i.e. June 18th or June 25th) no later than 5:00 PM. Please plan to board your return flight no earlier than 3:00 PM on the following Tuesday (i.e. June 23rd or June 30th). This will enable you to arrive at RDU two hours before your flight departs. “The Crafting Freedom” workshop has made arrangements with a shuttle called “At Your Service” to be a dedicated shuttle service for the workshops. Once you arrive simply call “At Your Service” at 919–922-1117. Jo Ann, the driver, will answer and tell you where to go for pick–up.

Important: If for any reason you miss your connection or your flight is delayed please call “At Your Service” so Jo Ann can adjust her schedule accordingly. You will arrange directly with Jo Ann for pick-up and you will pay for “At Your Service” directly ; it costs $40 round-trip. Note: There are also taxis at the airport and other ground transportation, but participants give high marks to “At Your Service” for excellent customer service and reliability.) Important: As soon as you have flight information please provide it in this form: •Your Name •Airline/s •Arrival Flight # •Date/Time of Arrival •Departure Flight # •Date & Time of Departure •Your Cell Number.

Then, email this information to At Your Service: [email protected]

By Car: If you are driving, see the workshop hotel website for driving directions. The workshop hotel is the Hampton Inn and Suites of Durham, NC on Farrington Road.

By Bus/Train: You may also choose to take a bus (Greyhound) or train (Amtrak) to the workshop. There are stations for both in Durham, NC, your destination city. From the Amtrak or Greyhound station, you will need to take taxi transportation to the Hampton Inn and Suites of Chapel Hill, North Carolina on Farrington Road. In some cases, At Your Service may be able to pick you up. See above information on this dedicated air port shuttle service.

Can locals commute to the workshop?2018-09-24T15:11:44+00:00

Because Crafting Freedom is a “residential” educational experience in which participants benefit from being part of a “learning community,” we urge everyone to stay at the Workshop Hotel including “locals.” However, sometimes participants who live within a commutable distance desire to commute in each day.

If you decide to commute from home or if you decide to to stay in the area with a friend or relative and commute you will receive a stipend for $600, not $1200. Here’s the NEH policy about this:

Stipend provisions: Only those participants who incur housing costs in a residential workshop week will receive a stipend of $1200. All commuting participants who incur no housing costs, regardless of workshop type, will receive a stipend of $600.

Also, if you decide to commute it is your responsibility to be on time at all required activities, including evening activities. A pro-rata’d portion of your stipend will be deducted for each hour of workshop activity missed. An hour begins after 15 minutes of being late. Also, the tour bus will not wait for anyone who is late.

What about meals?2018-09-24T15:12:03+00:00

Five meals (2 evening meals and 3 lunches) will be pre-deducted from your $1200 stipend, but four meals (dinners Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights plus Monday lunch) are on your own. There’s a hearty free buffet breakfast served in the lobby, but the hotel has no restaurant. However, there are several restaurants within walking distance of the hotel and take-out delivery options are also available if you choose to take evening meals at the hotel.

What do I do upon arrival at the hotel?2018-09-24T15:12:20+00:00

When you arrive, check in first at the workshop registration desk. You will learn about Orientation which will occur later Thursday evening and you will receive a packet of hand-outs and a Schedule. Check-in and check out of the hotel will also be explained to you.

Can we stay extra days before or after the workshop?2018-09-24T15:12:51+00:00

Yes, you may. Just get in touch with Elsabet Fisseha ([email protected]) if you need to stay extra nights and she will make the arrangements with the hotel. However, you will need to pay the hotel directly for the extra nights you stay. You will be given the Workshop Rate for the extra nights ( Elsabet will ensure this which is why you need to let her know first.)

What should I bring with me?2018-09-24T15:13:06+00:00

Money: We recommend at least $30 per day for your personal needs as well as for eating out and extra books and souvenirs you may wish to purchase from sites.

Clothing: Workshop dress is “ everyday casual” meaning pants/shorts and comfortable shirts/blouses. Expect 90-degree days, humidity, and (usually) sunshine. We recommend good walking shoes, sunscreen, sunglasses, an umbrella, a hat/visor, insect repellent and a light sweater/ jacket (air conditioners are cool.)

Personal Needs: If you have medicinal or very special dietary needs, you will need to bring your own supplies. Seating at some historic sites is on wooden benches. Please bring a small pillow or stadium seat if hard seating is of concern for you.

Photography and Laptop computers: Still photography is allowed for classroom and personal use. Video taping lectures is not allowed. The hotel has Wireless Internet access throughout the facility and a couple of computers available for use during certain hours in the hotel’s office. It is recommended that you bring a laptop or other personal computer device (such a Tablet device), because of the focus on the Crafting Freedom website materials. But it is not obligatory. There will be a few extra computers available. On the 4th day of the workshop ( Monday) NEH Summer Scholars will tour the various collections of the Wilson Library at UNC-Chapel Hill where they will learn about the vast digitized “Documenting the American South” collection and other primary and secondary source material housed at Wilson. A few lectures will also take place at Wilson.

Books: You are discouraged from bringing books with you, because you will receive more books and materials at the workshop. All sites sell books and other items so be sure to save space in your baggage for workshop materials and other purchases you’ll be taking home.

Will there be time for independent sightseeing/shopping?2018-09-24T15:13:33+00:00

No. If you are interested in touring the area, please come a few days earlier or stay a few days after. You may take advantage of the special workshop rate for a longer stay at the hotel. See: # 12. Below, “Should I rent a car?”

Go to Top