Toughts and Reflections

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As we approach the 21st Century, it is important that we not only recall the events of the last 100 years, but also work to preserve their memory for generations to come. Freewoods Farm will provide a valuable living historical resource to educate our children and highlight the important contributions of African American farmers to the Palmetto State. All South Carolinians will benefit from the preservation of this important part of our state’s history.

Jim Hodges
Governor of South Carolina

Your letter, and members of my staff who recently met with Dr. Smalls, confirm the possible positive economic benefits a successful living historical farm could bring to Horry County. As you know, economic development is my number one priority. The economic merits of Freewoods Farm, coupled with the cultural benefits, are impressive. I support the efforts of Dr. Smalls and appreciate your offer of PRT’s cooperation.

Carroll Campbell, Jr.
Former Governor of South Carolina

A farm museum that emphasizes the contribution of African-Americans to agriculture would be of great educational value. The family farm has been the backbone of agriculture in this state. If Freewoods Farm can enlighten the public on how all of our people contributed and benefitted from those farms, that should promote a better understanding of history and greater respect for the contributions of our early farmers.

The plans for agricultural expositions, demonstration projects and the like at Freewoods, would also promote a greater understanding of modern agriculture and its relationship to the past. Its potential for attracting tourists would provide an exciting forum for telling the story of agriculture. In my opinion, Freewoods Farms would serve an important public purpose by highlighting a historic way of life and the role of a people that have received far too little attention.

D. Leslie Tindal, Commissioner
S.C. Department of Agriculture

I want to commend you on the work you are doing on the Freewoods Project. The concept of developing a replica of family farms that were operated by African Americans in the South between 1865 and 1900 is a viable, educational initiative. The development of a living history museum in which our current generation could learn about the significant contributions of African Americans to agrarian life in America is an innovative idea and one that could add significantly to educational opportunities for students in our State.

Your project has the potential to help both our students and the general public learn more about African American history, as well as about the farming communities that formed the backbone of nineteenth century life in South Carolina.

I applaud your initiative and ... I envision the completed project as a wonderful venue through which our students can see history presented in a lively, interactive format.

Inez Tenenbaum
State Superintendent of Education

As you know, I have spent considerable time studying the history of Black Americans in Agriculture. I agree that the existing literature is rather limited with respect to the activities and practices on Black farms, especially during the period of your interest.

Freewoods could make a valuable contribution to the history of Agriculture, and to the history of Black Americans, by carefully studying the agricultural activities and practices during these years. I suspect we would all learn how to do more with what little one has. I have been researching Black Americans in agriculture for some fifteen years; I am not aware of anyone who has systematically concentrated on the activities and practices on Black farms during that period (and perhaps no other period). Pulling together the fragmental bits and piece and interviewing elderly farmers would be a valuable contribution. We here at USDA stand ready to help in whatever way we can.

Joel Schor, Historian
U.S. Department of Agriculture

I recently reviewed the plans for the development of Freewoods and I want to encourage you and the Board of Freewoods Foundation to continue the work you are doing. Freewoods Farm will be a great resource in the portrayal of African American history and in the promotion of racial understanding.

Having been both a student and teacher of history, I am fully aware of the role that agriculture has played in African American history as well as the history of South Carolina. I fully agree that agriculture has had a primary role in the shaping of the character of our people and in the economy of our state.

A living farm museum which will focus attention on the creativity of African American farmers and their contributions to our economy and culture would be valuable indeed. My entire professional life has been devoted to showing people how all groups contributed to the prosperity that our state enjoys. This facility will allow for the teaching of agriculture history in and exciting and picturesque manner which will prove attractive to youth as well as adults.

Through your efforts, each of us will come to appreciate more fully the extraordinary work which was done by ordinary people. I am delighted to see you and the Board engaged in this endeavor. Good luck and God speed.

Representative James E. Clyburn
Congress of the United States

I grew up on a farm outside of Beaufort and have an undying respect for those who work the land. It is both fitting and appropriate that Freewoods Farm will be a symbol to future generations of the hard work, diligence, endurance, and patience that are necessary for farming.

Native Americans have a saying, “We do not inherit the land, we borrow it from our children.” Through your work here, you are not only a steward for your descendants, but also an educator of all of our children on post-Civil War African-American farms.

Representative Mark Sanford
Congress of the United States

I want to strongly encourage you to give favorable consideration to the Freewoods request. This office has reviewed and studied the concept and plans for the attraction, and we think it is of great educational value. As you are no doubt aware, the small family farm was the lifeblood of this state for a long time. Likewise, farming was a large part of African American history. Freewoods Farm will teach a great deal about our agricultural history as well as African American history. We have promised Freewoods Foundation to do all we can to encourage school children to visit the attraction. I am confident that the Farm will become a popular destination for class trips.

Dr. Barbara S. Nielsen
Former Superintendent of Education

As you know, farming has been the lifeblood of Horry County. The type of farming that will be represented by Freewoods Farm was the way of life for most residents of the county until the mid to late Sixties. It would be entirely fitting and proper for us to establish here a living farm museum that represents our great heritage and tradition. Surely our children, grandchildren, and generations to come should know about the foundation of our modern economy.

The small family farm has been a national treasure. As times change and as that old way of life fades into the sunset, we would honor those farmers who breathed life into agriculture and the state itself, by creating Freewoods as a symbol of our gratitude. I therefore request that you give it your full support.

Laurie McLeod, Chairperson
Horry County Council

Every now and then we receive a request for a project that appears to have great public significance. I wish to call your attention to the Freewoods Foundation request for careful review.

We are all aware of the large role farming played in African American history. I’m informed that there is no substantial tribute or attraction anywhere in the nation that highlights that history. One of the interesting aspects of Freewoods Farm is that it will focus on the contributions and creativity of African American farmers rather than the more common issues of exploitative treatment. This focus alone could advance race relations and appreciation of agricultural history. In addition, the Freewoods attraction will advance our efforts to include all of our citizens in our growing tourism industry. That will have a positive effect on our national and international image. Freewoods is likely to attract national attention and will add greater diversity to the activities we can identify in promoting tourism, conferences, meetings, etc. within the county. Likewise, all of our local citizens will be enriched by this enlightened view of history.

A. Joseph McNutt, Jr., Chairman
Horry County Council

As you know, the small family farm played a significant role in the history of South Carolina and the region. The history of African-Americans is interwoven in that agricultural history. Nowhere was that better illustrated than on the farms in the low country of the state after the Civil War.

As I understand it, the purpose of Freewoods Farm, a living farm museum, is to replicate the portion of an African-American family farm in the low country after the Civil War. In my judgment, that would be a significant contribution to preserving an important aspect of the agricultural and ethnic history of our state. I am not aware of any other place or attraction in the nation that recognizes and preserves this aspect of history. Undoubtedly, Freewoods would be beneficial to the nation as well as the state.

George L. Vogt, Director
S.C. Department of Archives and History

As you know, the Freewoods project has been endorsed by the PRT Commission and is actively supported by our Department through the Community Development Division. In addition, it has been reviewed by members of the General Assembly, legislative committees, various state agencies, local boards and others. The information available to this office would indicate that the project has been well received. The concept is generally recognized to be sound and timely.

Freewoods Farm as a living farm museum will replicate a vital aspect of state history. What makes the project so innovative is that it extends economic development to a minority group. It tells the story of the small family farm in a meaningful way while enriching tourism activities along the Grand Strand at the same time.

It appears to me that Freewoods Farm is of significant public importance. Nowhere in the country is the story of African-Americans in agriculture told in this creative way. Given the agricultural history of this state, South Carolina is well suited for the attraction. It represents an indigenous industry that has served the state long and well.

The educational value of Freewoods for both state residents and tourist visitors cannot be overstated. It will bring alive the history of the coastal areas in an enlightened and refreshing way. As a tourist attraction, it will add diversity to a growing industry in one of the most exciting regions of the state.

Fred P. Brinkman, Executive Director
S.C. Dept. of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism

While I am told that the plans have been modified because of wetlands, I am honored to have had the privilege of producing the first architectural drawing and concept of the project. A living farm museum that replicates life on farms operated by African-Americans just after the Civil War, will be an important contribution to the nation. So much of African-American history is bound-up in farming. Farming is our roots and we can learn a great deal from our history.

You said that many in South Carolina see me as the “bridge between the Old South and the New South,” and that I am now offering myself “as a bridge between the New South and the 21st Century.” To the extent there is any truth in those statements, it has been my privilege to serve. Nonetheless, Freewoods Farm is surely a “bridge” between our history and the 21st Century. It combines history, economic development and wholesome entertainment in a remarkable way. Please know that I will do all that I can to help you and the Board move forward with the development of Freewoods.

Harvey B. Gantt
Gantt Huberman Architects
Former Mayor, Charlotte, NC

I most enthusiastically endorse your idea for this living history Farm museum. As I stated during our discussions, there is, to my knowledge no other living history museum which focuses on the Black contribution to American agriculture. I feel that your proposal would fill a very real void in the profession, and the story of agriculture in the United States.

Ronald M. Westphal, President
The [National] Association for Living
Historical Farms and Agricultural Museums, Inc.

I have studied the matter and have made suggestions regarding several aspects of the plan. The idea of establishing a historical farm which replicates and commemorates the practices on Black owned/operated animal powered farms is both exciting and important.

I need not tell you about the role of farming in the history of Black Americans. Your superb chronicling of “Roots” and succeeding volumes are rich evidence of your appreciation of that fact. Freewoods Foundation is developing a historical farm that will replicate practices on farms operated by Black people in South Carolina between the Civil War and 1900. When one considers the fact that those freedmen started with literally nothing, their creativity, inventiveness and industry were remarkable indeed. It can be fairly said that those early Black farmers played a lead role in making South Carolina (and probably the South in general) the great agricultural state it became. It is a contribution and a history that simply must be preserved.

Letter to Alex Haley from
David E. Rice, Executive Vice President
National Business League

I too commend you for your venturous mission to recreate the living farm of yesteryear. It is my assurance that your project will be successful and meaningful in the lives of our youth.

T.J. Wilson, National Director
National Farm Museum

I have reviewed your proposal and personally feel that a project such as the one you propose would certainly be an asset to the area.

It is important that people of all races know their heritage, as it is through this knowledge that one develops a sense of pride.

The concept of Freewoods Farm would not only preserve history but in large part provide an invaluable adaption program that generations would benefit from.

John S. Peacock, General Manager
Myrtle Beach area Chamber of Commerce

Your foundation has undertaken a project which I feel will be very beneficial to this county. As you are aware, the economic and cultural infrastructure upon which the development of Horry County was based was the small independent farm. The establishment of a project dedicated to the preservation of the cultural and technological knowledge developed during the Post-Civil War period is a great step in the development of a coordinated effort to preserve the traditions and history of the area, and one which I heartily endorse.

On behalf of the Horry County Museum, I welcome your project and I will be glad to assist you in any way possible with this development. I feel that any effort to preserve the history of the area strengthens the efforts of all of us engaged in this pursuit. Feel free to call upon us at the Horry County Museum for any help we can render in your undertaking.

William H. Keeling, Director
Horry County Museum

We here at Clemson see Freewoods as an important and useful project, not merely for Black people but for the entire state. We are happy to share in its creation.

Milton B. Wise
Vice President/Vice Provost
Clemson University

The idea of creating a typical farm of the post-Civil War area in the free-woods near Burgess has great possibilities. I believe you are very thoughtful in realizing the industriousness and self-sufficiency of the former slaves in their ability to operate small farms using only the local resources available to them. With the modernization and mechanization of agriculture this type of farming is all but lost and needs to be maintained in a museum setting so the children of today have a better understanding of their past. It is important that they be taught to realize that they should be proud of this period which should not be ignored.

The growth of tourism in the Grand Strand area presents a large public market which can, with proper promotion, provide an audience for the proposed museum.

Gurdon L. Tarbox, Jr., Director
Brookgreen Gardens

I have received your proposal in reference to the Freewoods Foundation in establishing Freewoods Farm. I do not know of any project of this type in South Carolina or the United States. The location for such a venture is excellent for viewing, due to the vast number of people visiting Myrtle Beach.

W.D. Witherspoon
County Extension Chairman
Clemson University
College of Agricultural Sciences

Freewoods appears to be both creative and bold. It is an exciting way to teach agricultural history. We here at the Urban League are especially eager to promote economic development by Black people. Over the next ten years, we simply must find additional ways to stimulate further development in the Black community. Freewoods is ideal because it will contribute to a prideful replica of Black history, while at the same time, creating jobs that are within the grasp of the average person.

There is another reason why I believe that it is in the national interest to fund Freewoods. It is clear to us here at the League that one way to assist in improving life in the urban centers of our country is to stimulate entrepreneurial growth and development in small towns and rural areas. Many of the people in our urban centers came to the cities from small towns and the countryside seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families. To the extent we can promote development in the South, we reduce the need for migration. Additionally, developments in the South will no doubt attract urban dwellers, especially those with roots in the South. We believe that relieving the pressure on urban centers is in the national interest.

Douglas G. Glasgow, Vice President
Washington Operations
National Urban League, Inc.

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