Shared History is about the complex contemporary and historical relationship between black and white families connected to Woodlands Plantation for more than 260 years.

This one-hour documentary is based on the conversations and encounters of these families as they come together to begin a conversation about the realities of their connected past.

For generations, descendants of slaves and slave owners at Woodlands Plantation, the remnants of an antebellum estate in South Carolina, have passed down stories about the ongoing relationship between their families. While independently researching their families’ histories, three contemporary descendants, Rhonda, Charles, and Felicia, meet and begin to uncover the mythologies about the old relationship.

Rhonda is descended from one of the enslaved families that stayed on at the plantation after the Civil War. Charles’ family left. He did not know his great grandfather had been the coachman, much less a slave, at Woodlands. Felicia’s family has owned the plantation since 1821. She was told as a child that her ancestors had been “good masters.”

Using an extraordinary collection of historic images, documents, and oral histories as well as family photographs, film footage, and videos, this program documents the living descendants’ efforts to examine the persistence of the relationship and expose the myths that have sustained their connection for more than two centuries.

Shared History personalizes contemporary views of an American history—a history that includes slavery, its aftermath of segregation, and its on-going inequalities. By witnessing the interactions of Americans directly connected to each other through slavery, viewers hear the stories and see the behaviors that made this particular relationship possible. In doing so, they are challenged to examine their personal responsibility in perpetuating or transforming the national mythologies of slavery and race that we all live with today.

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The Curry Family

Mrs. Oliphant identifies Cynthia Curry as the head cook at Woodlands. Cynthia, Albert, and Billy Curry are listed in the group of 47 freedmen identified by James Beecher as remaining at Woodlands after Sherman’s destruction of Midway. Beecher named Billy Curry foreman of the group who had planted a corn crop on the property, presumably after the Simms family moved to Columbia.

Cinthia and Albert are listed in the section of the Woodlands Plantation Book entitled “Births of Negroes” as being the parents of Sam, born 1862, Eugene, born 1856, and Alice, born 1859. Martha, born 1861, is listed as a “child of Cinthia.” Apparently, Albert Curry, the father or brother of Billy, stayed at Woodlands at least until 1868.