Presentation at Folklife Center to explore daughter of slaves
MIDDLEBURY — The Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury presents “From Life in West Africa, to Enslavement in Virginia, to Freedom in Vermont: an African American Saga,” a multimedia presentation by Dr. Jane Beck, on Thursday, Sept. 10, from 6-8 p.m.
This free event celebrates the publication of Beck’s book “Daisy Turner’s Kin: An African American Family Saga.” Refreshments and informal conversation with the author will be followed by her presentation, discussion and book signing.
In 1983 Jane Beck, founding director of the Vermont Folklife Center, was introduced to Daisy Turner, the centenarian daughter of freed slaves who settled in Grafton in the years following the American Civil War. What began as a short meeting blossomed into a friendship that lasted the remainder of Turner’s life.
During that period, Beck recorded almost 100 hours of interviews with Daisy, and produced the film “On My Own: The Traditions of Daisy Turner” and the Peabody Award-winning audio documentary “Journey’s End: The Memories and Traditions of Daisy Turner and Her Family.” In June of 2015 the University of Illinois Press published the capstone of Beck’s research on the Turners, her book, “Daisy Turner’s Kin: An African American Family Saga.”
From life in West Africa to enslavement on a Virginia plantation, through the Civil War and ultimately to Vermont where Alec Turner and his wife, Sally, raised 16 children on a hilltop farm, the story of Daisy’s family provides important insight into the African American experience over an enormous arc of time. And Daisy’s own accounts of growing up in Grafton in the 1880s provide us with a rare first person window into African American life in rural New England in the post-Civil War years.
In large part thanks to Beck’s work recording and presenting Daisy’s family heritage, the land on which the Turner family homestead once stood is now recognized as a significant site marking African American presence in Vermont.
The Vermont Folklife Center Archive preserves Beck’s original recordings with Daisy and a wealth of photographs taken by her and donated by members of the Turner family. The archival collection created through her work and the audio and video documentaries produced by Beck continue to allow the Vermont Folklife Center to share the story of Daisy with a wide, international audience.