And yes, two of them are owned rather than employed, but that does not define their conversation, just as it does not define their lives. Slavery's effect on these women is conveyed through anecdotes about other aspects of their lives: The free black woman cannot see her enslaved beau unless his master gives permission, and one of the enslaved women is late to meet her friends because her request for a pass turns into a prolonged encounter with her master.
"I love those stories because it allows an audience to not feel like they're being hit over the head or preached to or told how to feel about something," Seals said. "They're given the opportunity to see how people deal with being in these circumstances and see them not as an ‘other' but to see themselves in them."
On a tour of the Peyton Randolph House, for example, guests discover that: Randolph's wife, Elizabeth, largely ran the estate; the Randolphs hosted icons of the American Revolution, such as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau; and the family took in Elizabeth Randolph's young niece, also named Elizabeth, after her father died.
But the tour, offered year-round, also reveals that the Randolphs owned 27 people who lived on that property. Guests learn enslaved people lined the walls of the dining room as various Founding Fathers engaged in philosophical discussions about the American Revolution. They also learn that 12-year-old Elizabeth brought with her a slave of her own — a girl named Violet who was just two years older — who would have slept on the floor outside her mistress's bedroom.
Foundation historians recently instituted changes to the Randolph House guided tour to better communicate the day-to-day lives of both the white and black people who walked its halls, and those changes offer an example of the storytelling Seals would like to see more of throughout the Historic Area.
"To me, it is the gold standard. It is the litmus test. It is the true integration of the stories of everybody who lived in that house," Seals said. "I want the stories of everyone who lived in all of our historic original houses — black, white, the one Jewish person we had in town, the closeted Catholics who weren't by law allowed to say they were Catholic — to be told."