These letters shed light on the practice of slavery, which was far more complicated than popular conceptions suggest. There were relationships between free blacks and slaves, and some of the account records describe agreements and negotiations between the Chews and free blacks who purchased the freedom of their family members.
There have been moments during the processing of this collection when I have thrown up my hands in frustration and asked "why did they have to save every scrap of paper?!", but when I look through the materials related to Whitehall, I am grateful that the Chew family preserved their history so religiously. These documents are a gift to our understanding of our past, and I am quite certain that the richness in these boxes will move people in many ways--intellectually, and emotionally. I'll leave off with just one more striking image that made the lists of slaves at Whitehall come alive for me. These two documents are measurements for the slaves' shoes, which illustrate the size of each person's foot with hash marks along a line.