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New director makes it her mission to tell the stories of the Belle Meade Plantation's slaves

Brigette Jones.JPG
Posted at 10:54 PM, Aug 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-28 23:54:08-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — The Belle Meade Plantation tells the stories of the lives of the Harding and Jackson families. But historians say there are decades of untold stories from the slaves that lived and worked the plantation.

Brigette Jones is now giving those men and women a voice as the first-ever Director of African American Studies at the plantation museum.

"You're going to hear the Harding and Jackson family history, you'll hear how they made their money, how they lost their money and some really cool things in between. But the mentions of enslaved individuals was pretty few and far in between," said Jones.

The first slaves arrived to Belle Meade in 1807, and as decades rolled on, the number of slaves tripled to 136 of by 1860 based on the 1860 census record.

Jones says her new title is one she holds close to her heart.

"It makes me very emotional at times because this is a very personal story for me. I'm native to Tennessee, my family was enslaved in Tennessee, my mother's family was enslaved in Arkansas," Jones said.

In her role, Jones takes visitors through the slave cabin doors and down the mansion halls, walking them in the footsteps of slaves on the "Journey of Jubilee" tour.

"For many of these plantations like the mansions are going to be built by the slaves, now they may not have been the chief architect but they were doing a lot of the work. The blacksmiths, and the stonemasons and the carpenters these were all positions were held by enslaved individuals," said Jones.

There are 136 stories, Jones says that are just as important today as they were centuries ago, and she is honored to have this position to be a voice for a group of people who for far too long was told to be silent.

"I enjoy being able to feel like I'm doing my ancestors a service and not only telling their story but telling their story in way that's so truthful that you have no choice but too feel it by the end of the tour," said Jones.

Jones is currently working on her Master's degree and is hoping to publish a book about the Belle Meade slaves.