FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 1, 2020
Contact: Marie Cheek, Community Relations Coordinator, Culture & Heritage Museums
Historic Brattonsville’s descendant community reflects on their heritage in new video series for annual “By the Sweat of Our Brows”
Video series features two historic church tours, traditional African American spirituals, children’s story time, and interviews with the descendants of Brattonsville’s enslaved community
McCONNELLS, S.C. – “By the Sweat of Our Brows” is an annual award-winning program where descendants of the African American community at Brattonsville come together to commemorate their culture and heritage. This year’s program presents a series of videos featuring two historic church tours, a children’s story hour with local author Kimberly Massey, interviews and a panel discussion among descendants, and the voice of local artist and educator Carlo Dawson singing spirituals.
The video series will be shared on digital platforms and premiering at noon on the second, third and fourth Saturdays in September.“By the Sweat of Our Brows” video series opens on Sept. 12 with the traditional “Calling of Names” – a reading of the 1865 Freedmen’s List, and then focuses on two historic churches in the area. Descendants Margaret Parson-Willins and Wali Cathcart lead a tour of Mount Zion Baptist Church, which was founded in 1863 by the area’s enslaved community; and visit the cemetery where their ancestors were laid to rest. In the sanctuary, local artist and educator Carlo Dawson lends her voice in song; the traditional African American spirituals she sings lay the soundtrack for the series. Less than two miles down the road is Bethesda Presbyterian Church. Founded circa 1769, with the existing church built in 1820, Bethesda is one of the oldest churches in Upstate South Carolina. In its historic cemetery rests local American Revolutionary War militiamen, including Colonel William Bratton and his wife, Martha. Before Mount Zion Baptist was founded, the local Black congregation joined worship services from Bethesda’s balcony, which was referred to as the ‘slave gallery’.
A children’s book will be read aloud by local author Kimberly Massey on Sept. 19. Her recently published book, “Sowing Seeds with Brother Wali” illustrates the story of Wali Cathcart, a descendant actively engaged in the programming at Historic Brattonsville. Cathcart, also interviewed in this segment, discusses his career as a professional ballplayer in the Negro League, his commitment to the Carroll School and life as a farmer.
For the final video on Sept. 26, descendant Margaret Parson-Willins talks about her experience in the Civil Rights Movement and her career as a Black business owner. This finale also presents a panel discussion among descendants. “This video series is significant in capturing the memories that the ancestors have left behind and the legacies their descendants have continued to carry on.” Oriana Gilmore, Historic Brattonsville’s African American history interpreter, explains as she works putting the program together. “Working closely with the descendants has been an honor and eye-opening experience for me. Hearing their stories has been inspiring and will always be a driving force for me to continue telling unheard stories from the African American community.”
Since 1997, the Brattonsville descendant community has gathered on the lawn of the Homestead House to showcase family memorabilia and share family stories during the annual event “By the Sweat of Our Brows.”
Award Winning Project: South Carolina African American Heritage Commission recognizes “By the Sweat of Our Brows” as a project that significantly and dramatically influences in a permanent way the preservation and interpretation of African American history and culture in S.C. The Commission’s Project Award was presented to York County’s Culture and Heritage Museums on behalf of “By the Sweat of Our Brows” at the South Carolina Archives & History Center in Columbia on March 28, 2014.About Historic Brattonsville:Historic Brattonsville features historic houses and structures built over the course of three generations of the Bratton family and the enslaved community. The plantation spreads over 800-acres and includes farmed land with heritage breed animals, a Revolutionary War battlefield site, and a nature preserve with miles of walking trails. Seasonal events, reenactments, and living history programs interpret Carolina backcountry life from the 1750s to the late 19th century.
Historic Brattonsville is included in “The Green Book of South Carolina” – a travel guide to significant African American heritage and cultural destinations across the state. Learn more.
Culture & Heritage Museums is a family of museums in York County, which includes Historic Brattonsville, Main Street Children’s Museum and the Museum of York County in Rock Hill, and the McCelvey Center in York. Its mission is to communicate and preserve the natural and cultural histories of the Carolina Piedmont, inspiring a lifetime of learning. Culture & Heritage Museums was awarded American Alliance of Museums’ ultimate mark of distinction with reaccreditation in 2017; accreditation signifies “excellence and credibility to the entire museum community, to governments and outside agencies and to the museum-going public.”