The Power of Experience Sometimes You’ve Got to See It Yourself
Last fall, I took my children on a history tour of the East Coast. Bearing the battlegrounds of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and the home of our nation’s capital city, this was the best way for my children to experience the history that shaped this country. However, none of these lessons were as influential as the ones we learned while touring a South Carolina former slave plantation. We walked in the same fields where people dangerously toiled away for years on end because a white person claimed them as their property. We stood in awe at the massive homes that housed the plantation owners and their families of five, six, or seven, and we also packed ourselves into the dirty, dark, tiny structures these owners called slave quarters. The plantation owners built these structures for their slaves only after forcing them to build their own homes in an environment they knew nothing about. After losing too many slaves to the harsh swampy conditions, owners conceded to providing a semblance of a shelter to their slaves.
plantation in groups of about 14, packing us into the slave quarters together and forcing us to listen to their spiel while we were stuffed into a house shoulder-to-shoulder where more than a dozen people once slept. No book, photo, or description could ever recreate the feeling at that moment. Watching my children’s eyes widen at the horror of the slave industry in U.S. history was an experience I will never forget. It was a powerful lesson for everyone, but it was also a lesson on the influence of learning things by experience instead of just reading about them in books or on the internet. At Albrecht Law, our cases are no different. We could focus on the records and let the reports tell the story for us, but nothing beats the impact of meeting with someone in their home, meeting their family, and seeing the pictures that line their walls and cling to their refrigerator. You learn that they can no longer coach little league after 20 years of dedication because an accident makes it too difficult for them to even walk. You hear stories of missed birthday parties, Friday evenings spent with a frozen pizza instead of enjoying a new restaurant with their spouse, or weekends neglecting their mountain biking hobby. No police report or medical record will tell you that. You can only feel this kind of impact when you are immersed in someone’s life. In one previous case, I spent time in a farm field with an experienced farmer so I could learn all I could about a particular piece of agricultural machinery. I could have spent hours combing through guide books, interviewing experts by phone, and
South Carolina Slave Quarters vs Plantation house
watching YouTube videos, but I would have never gained the breadth of knowledge that I did by asking about planting operations and harvesting while touring the farm. These facts proved worthwhile when we questioned the defense’s “experts,” whose answers convincingly proved our client’s point. Ultimately, the case was settled fairly between the parties. My favorite moment of the case was seeing the expert’s surprise at a particular line of questioning and hearing his question to me — ”You must have grown up on a farm?”“No,” I smiled back, “I’m just thorough.” Had I not spent time “digging” into generations of farming traditions and mechanics, we never would have achieved that outcome. Reading and researching is an opportunity to explore the reality you live in, and it’s a pastime I enjoy to this day. But nothing in a book can replace being there in person.
The tour guides were tactical about these quarters, too. They took us around the
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