By Daven Kaphar, Class of 2022, The Foote School
I enjoyed the Witness Stones Project. I learned so much more about slavery in early America, but I found the story of Lois Tritton especially shocking. For a long time Lois and her mother thought they were free, just to be sold back in to slavery.
I felt like this was an amazing project. It was inspiring to actually be a historian, and look over primary documents and connect the pieces of this forgotten figure’s life. At times, I would find myself just looking at my screen, and not knowing what I was reading. The old English and the blurry script were difficult to decode. However, the transcribed documents helped. It was also useful to have a group to go to if I needed any more assistance.
The result was worth it though. While working on this project, it struck me that aside from the teacher and a few other people, my class and I were the only people to know this person existed. It felt cool at first, almost like when you are in a secret that no one else, save for you and your friends, know. Then I realized, the world deserves to know about this person.
I feel it is my duty to spread the story of Lois, not just because she was an amazing person, but because at the time she was alive, being an abolitionist, not many people supported what she was doing. I think she would be proud of how far we have come. I admire her for her ability to be so many things at once.
In class, we were asked to describe Lois in one word. The word that came up the most often was mother. I felt something was off. We had been learning about her for weeks, yet all we could say off the top of our heads was that she was a mother. When I got home that day, I made a list of other words that could describe her. It surprised me how little I could come up with. Then it hit me. Lois’s life was way too complex to be described in one word. Yes she was a mother. Yes, she was a daughter. And, yes, she was enslaved, but that didn’t define her.
The sad truth is, without actually knowing someone, it is nearly impossible to describe them. We may know when Lois was born (1799), or when she became a member of the church (1819), or when John Nicholl signed a quitclaim (1825), and we can use these facts to construct a skeleton of what her life was like, but we may never know what Lois Tritton was really like as a person. This assignment opened my eyes to that, and I am grateful. I will be lucky if I can do another project as special as this in the future.