In spring 2020, students in Professor Meredith Farmer’s “Slave Narratives, Global and Local” English 175 courses worked with Old Salem Museums and Gardens to develop a virtual exhibit about Old Salem’s groundbreaking Hidden Town Project, an initiative to research the repressed history of the enslaved Africans and African Americans who lived in what we now call “Old Salem” and to make that research visible to the community.
Hidden Town Project curators, interns, and volunteers have been combing through primary and secondary materials in order to determine probable locations of “slave houses” in lots across Old Salem. Their aim is to unravel and then piece together threads of the complicated use of slave labor to build the town and then contribute to the mercantile prosperity of Salem—and Winston-Salem today.
To support that important work, Dr. Farmer’s students engaged with Hidden Town archives and material objects in the collection at MESDA, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, to produce a digital exhibit at hiddentown.org that interprets and helps contextualize the stories of the enslaved people of Salem. Hidden Town: A Virtual Exhibit pairs audiovisual presentations pitched to middle-school learners alongside more in-depth research for teachers, parents, and other interested readers.