The current residents of the historic Mount Zion home in Warren County, Virginia, were rifling through the attic of their garage when they found a yellowed fragment of paper. It was the corner of a larger document, soiled by mold, water, and time. But the snaking cursive writing on it was still legible. It was the bill of sale for an enslaved girl named Chalotte (more likely Charlotte, with the letter “r” long faded away).
The discovery of the bill in the garage was both extraordinary and unsurprising. Because long before the building was a garage, it was the home of enslaved African Americans.