Thursday, October 5, 2023

Memorial Service Planned for Dorothy Spruill Redford Oct. 9 at Somerset Place

Oct 5, 2023

A public memorial service to honor the life of former Somerset Place Site Manager Dorothy Spruill Redford will be held at 11 a.m., Monday, Oct. 9 at Somerset Place State Historic Site, 2572 Lake Shore Rd., Creswell, N.C.

Dorothy Redford served as site manager at Somerset Place for 20 years and spent over a decade prior researching her family and other Somerset descendants’ connection to the former plantation.

Inspired by Alex Haley’s Roots, Redford’s 10-year quest to discover her family’s history led her to Somerset Place, where her ancestors and 20 other families had been enslaved. Driven by the excitement of her discoveries, she reached out to the descendants, both Black and white, across the country and planned a homecoming celebration to acknowledge the contributions of the enslaved community. In 1986, the anticipated homecoming garnered national press coverage. On Aug. 30, 1986, about 2,000 people celebrated the first homecoming.

As site manager of Somerset Place, she initiated archeological studies, conferences, and on-going consultations with scholars to extract facts to further develop the site. Ultimately, her work resulted in three buildings, including the construction of the first interpreted slave hospital in the United States. Lewis and Judy’s home was built in 1997 as one of 23 living quarters for enslaved laborers.

Redford was the author of “Somerset Homecoming: Recovering a Lost Heritage” and a photo essay, “Generations of Somerset Place: From Slavery to Freedom.” Her work at Somerset Place resulted in numerous awards, including the John Tyler Award for the Humanities, the Congressional Black Associates Carter G. Woodson Award, Portsmouth Notables, and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from East Carolina University.

Dorothy Redford believed, “Many historic sites unconsciously relegate the contributions of enslaved Blacks to a minor footnote in America’s history, by turning solely to drama, special seasonal programs, films, and publications rather than permanent structures to tell the African American story.”

Dorothy retired from Somerset Place in 2008 and her legacy of interpreting the lives of the former enslaved community continues at the historic site today. Dorothy will be laid to rest in Virginia following the public memorial service.

"As we mourn the end of a life, we celebrate the power of an undeniable legacy. The name Dorothy 'Dot' Spruill Redford will forever be synonymous with the limitless possibilities of public memory," shared North Carolina Historic Sites Director, Michelle Lanier.

About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) manages, promotes, and enhances the things that people love about North Carolina – its diverse arts and culture, rich history, and spectacular natural areas. Through its programs, the department enhances education, stimulates economic development, improves public health, expands accessibility, and strengthens community resiliency.

The department manages over 100 locations across the state, including 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, five science museums, four aquariums, 35 state parks, four recreation areas, dozens of state trails and natural areas, the North Carolina Zoo, the North Carolina Symphony, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, the African American Heritage Commission, the American Indian Heritage Commission, the State Historic Preservation Office, the Office of State Archaeology, the Highway Historical Markers program, the N.C. Land and Water Fund, and the Natural Heritage Program. For more information, please visit

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