NPS Hampton NHS
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  • Husking Parties

    On large estates across the South, slaveholders brought together enslaved persons from different plantations to husk hundreds of thousands of ears of corn at the harvest. At Hampton, free black laborers were also hired to work side by side with enslaved men and women to complete this task.


    Jim Henson, a formerly enslaved man from Baltimore County, recalled:


    "In the month of November, soon after the corn was harvested, the great corn huskings began. Any plantation that grew corn to any extent had its annual corn husking [where] stories were told, local news related, plantation songs were sung."


    The songs matched the rhythm of the actions of labor. Some of the songs were known as "call and response," in which one individual sings a line and the rest of the group answers in chorus.


    These songs often contained secret messages or helped to express shared anger and sorrow, and they were an ever-present part of the soundscape of Hampton, whether or not a listener understood the meanings and necessities for such communal support, mourning and celebration. The Ridgelys wrote about what Jim Henson called "plantation songs,"


    Read about Anne Davis Williams' life, which was filled with healing and ended in song.