CBS News 60 Minutes, 2023
Author(s): Shari Finkelstein, Lesley Stahl, Daniel J. Glucksman and Braden Cleveland Bergan
Lesley Stahl, Shari Finkelstein and the team at 60 Minutes shared the remarkable story of Fred Miller, whose decision to buy an old plantation house near where he grew up in rural southern Virginia led to his large extended family discovering its roots.
Unbeknownst to Miller when he purchased the property, the house – built around 1850 – was once the seat of a 1,300-acre tobacco plantation in a county that held more than 14,000 slaves before the Civil War. For Miller, who is Black, it was a stunning discovery. More stunning was when he learned that he and his extended family are direct descendants of slaves who had lived and worked on the plantation, once known as Sharswood.
Miller, an Air Force veteran, purchased the house as a gathering place for his large family, many of whom still live in the county where they were raised. His sister Karen’s determination to research the property’s past set off the series of discoveries about the history of the area, slavery and their own family’s origins. They learned the dilapidated old building behind the house had served as slave quarters. They also discovered an unmarked slave burial ground, nestled in a grove of trees on their property nearby.
The 60 Minutes team skillfully unfolded the Millers’ story, layer by layer, paying close attention to the subtleties and sensitivity surrounding editorial, production and editing decisions.
At a time when learning about Black history has become politicized, 60 Minutes provided its viewers with a window into the power and deep meaning for one family who regained its history in all its complexity.