South Carolina

Woman Sees Her ‘Slave Cabin' Birthplace in African-American Museum

The two-room "slave cabin" in the African-American history museum was home to a family of 11

A cabin that housed enslaved people starting in 1853 was restored and installed in the National Museum of African-American History and Culture -- and on Tuesday, a woman who was born there saw her former home in a museum exhibit.

Isabell Meggett Lucas, 87, was amazed to see the two-room wood house where her family of 11 had lived on Edisto Island, South Carolina.

"I never knew this all would come to pass," she said. "Everybody is excited and happy."

041117 family in front of cabin
NBC Washington
Isabell Meggett Lucas visited the museum with her extended family, to learn about their history and make new memories.

The Point of Pines Cabin "slave cabin" was the only remaining cabin of 10 that were built in a row along the same patch of land. It originally was owned by a landowner named Charles Bailey, who acquired his wealth through slavery, said Nancy Bercaw, a curator at the museum. 

The cabin is on display in the slavery and freedom section of the museum, but Lucas said she didn't know while growing up that slaves had lived there. To them, it was just home.

Lucas spoke with News4 and Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the museum, to share her childhood memories of the house.

She said she slept in one room with her nine brothers, and her parents used the other room. 

[NATL-DC]Take a Tour Inside the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History

"When I was a child, we'd get out and play, and climb trees," Lucas said. "I remember my grandmother cooking and feeding us."

Lucas was raised by her grandmother, who she thought was her mother. She found out who her mother really was after her grandmother died. 

Her paternal grandparents lived in the same community, in separate cabins.

The kids spent most of their time outdoors, doing chores, playing games or being chased by the family horse. 

The cabin never had electricity, so fetching wood for the stove was among the chores the Meggett kids did. It also did not have a refrigerator, bathroom or running water.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture tells the powerful story of the African-American experience every day, but it still has exhibits planned to honor Black History Month. News4’s Kristin Wright reports.

They had a garden behind the house where they grew okra and beans, and they raised chickens and hogs for meat.

Lucas said even though the house did not have much, the family was happy.

Lucas' mother, who also was born in the cabin, moved out in 1981, when the owners sold it. 

The cabin was given to the Edisto Island Historic Preservation Society and eventually passed on to the Smithsonian. It was was taken apart piece by piece and reconstructed exactly as it stood when it was moved to the museum. 

Bercaw said people like Lucas are crucial to the museum. Lucas and her family are living history. 

"This is the most beautiful thing that could've happened -- the Meggetts coming forward and visiting us and sharing these stories with us," the curator said.

Contact Us