Executive Director, Somerset Place State Historic Site (retired), Author, Genealogist and Public Historian
Dorothy Spruill Redford was born in Columbia, North Carolina. She spent her early years in Queens, New York, and received her college training at QueensCollege.Inspired by Alex Haley’s Roots, by 1986, Redford had researched for nearly ten years to connect her life with those of her enslaved ancestors held on Somerset Place plantation in Creswell, North Carolina. Her research culminated in the first Somerset Homecoming, a celebration of African-American culture and heritage attended by 3000 descendants of the enslaved community and others connected to the former plantation. The account of her family history and the homecoming entitled Somerset Homecoming: Recovering a Lost Heritage is available through the University of North Carolina Press.Since 1988, following a fifteen year career with the Portsmouth Department of Social Services, Redford has managed Somerset Place, a North Carolina State Historic Site and overseen the reconstruction of the plantation’s former slave community. Redford’s approach to the history of Somerset Place has been a familial one. Since she places the human family at the center of her historical thinking, everything at the site is designed to illuminate human family relationships. According to DukeUniversity historian, Peter H. Wood, under Dorothy Redford’s direction “one of the largest antebellum plantations in North Carolina is now a remarkable site used to educate citizens about the social history of African Americans and whites in North Carolina. Somerset Place has effectively changed the interpretive paradigm and is providing a rewarding and successful experience for its visitors.”
Ms. Redford lectures extensively on topics including African-American Genealogy, Antebellum History, and Slavery’s Legacy and from 1993 to 1996 served as a visiting lecturer at ElizabethCityStateUniversity teaching Oral History Methods. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Congressional Black Caucus Carter G. Woodson award, resolution from the Commonwealth of Virginia General Assembly, and has joined eminent historian, Dr. John Hope Franklin in receiving the North Carolina Humanities Council John Tyler Caldwell award.Redford is a member of the East Carolina University Chapter of The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and has appeared in the nationally distributed programs “Roots of Resistance” and “Roots, Celebrating 25 Years” Redford currently serves on several boards including the African American Advisory Boards for Monticello and Fortress Monroe and was a “2006 Portsmouth (Virginia) Notable.”
In 2005, her second book, Generations of Somerset Place: From Slavery to Freedom, was released by Arcadia Press.
International Black Genealogy Summit • October 18-20, 2012 • Salt Lake City, UT