In Anderson, S.C., real estate developer Chuck Corley has his eyes on a row of boarded-up houses. They're in good condition, and certainly refurbishable, but there's one small problem: Slaves used to live there.
NBC News recently reported on Corley and his plans to develop a row of buildings built in 1850 and rent them out as apartments. "It's such a part of American history," he told NBC News. "You have to recognize that." The Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation purchased the homes in Anderson in 2009, but Corley is under contract to buy them.
But look at previous real estate purchases by Corley, and it's clear that he's a fan of a certain type of American history. Accordiing to Care2, Corley has purchased other pieces of land steeped in slave history, including one named Corley Hall Plantation in Lexington, S.C.
Renovating the former residents of slaves is not a rare practice. Care2 notes that many other former slave plantations have been refurbished.
At B&W Courtyards Bed and Breakfast in New Orleans, a slave cabin has been converted into a "Barbados-style beach house." At the Boxley Bed and Breakfast in Madison, North Carolina, guests have a choice of sleeping in the inn's main house or in a cottage where slaves once lived. The Prospect Hill Plantation Inn in Charlottesville, Virginia offers guests a number of sleeping options, from the 1740s overseer's cottage to the the 1790 slave quarters to "Sanco Pansy's cottage, originally the residence of a former slave."
And to some people, African Americans included, spending time in a place where slaves once slept is a way to stay in touch with the horrors of the past. Joe McGill, a program officer with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who is black, once spent many nights in slave quarters. "I thought, this is why I'm doing this — for those people in those graves, to give them a voice for what they endured," McGill, 48, said to NBC News.
Some see the purchase of old slave quarters in a slightly different light than they do most other tourism spots. Writes Kristina Chew at Care2, "Turning former slave cabins into apartments that people would actually live in full-time raises a number of ethical issues."
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Jozen Cummings is the author and creator of the popular relationship blog Until I Get Married, which is currently in development for a television series with Warner Bros. He also hosts a weekly podcast with WNYC about Empire called Empire Afterparty, is a contributor at VerySmartBrothas.com and works at Twitter as an editorial curator. Follow him on Twitter.