From Slavery to Freedom
The Gilmore Cabin stands as the first preserved and interpreted freedman's home in the United States. The history of this one family tells the story of the transition from slavery to citizenship for an entire generation of African Americans after the Civil War. It tells, as well, the evolution of the U.S. Constitution as a living document for all time.
Constitutional Breakthroughs and Individual Determination
After the Civil War, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution abolished slavery, gave citizenship to anyone born in the United States, and extended voting rights to freed slaves. James Madison’s constitutional framework—allowing for amendments—paved the way for this expansion of civil rights. But the transition from slavery also required relentless hard work and determination on the part of freed families seeking security and stability. The Gilmore Cabin stands today as a witness to the experience of Montpelier’s former slaves, the transition of African Americans across the South, and the remarkable design of the U.S. Constitution.
In November 1984, the deteriorated Gilmore Cabin came to the National Trust for Historic Preservation after the death of Montpelier owner, Marion duPont Scott. Thanks to a query made by a Gilmore descendent, Montpelier staff began to investigate the history of this modest, but important, log cabin. As a result, several architectural and archaeological studies were undertaken, oral histories were conducted, and this freeedman’s home and farm began the long process of restoration. Working closely with the Gilmore family, Montpelier restoration crews and archaeologists carefully researched, stabilized, and restored the cabin.