Menemin's Journey from Freedom in Africa to Enslavement at Fort Hill
Born a free woman around 1740, Menemin was captured and sold into slavery in Africa. She was then forced to take the tumultuous journey across the Atlantic Ocean to South Carolina where she was purchased by her enslavers, the Calhoun family. Mememin likely originally labored for the Calhouns in Abbeville, SC before moving to the Fort Hill Plantation. Though names of enslaved persons were not included as part of the 1850 Census, there was a 110-year-old Black woman listed under Floride Calhoun, who is now known to be Menemin. Menemin and her husband, Polydore, were highly respected among other enslaved persons. When a reporter came to visit in 1849, he described meeting and hearing stories about the well-loved Menemin. As the oldest woman on the plantation, she was adored by her 63 living descendants and served as a mother figure to many. These descendants were moved among Calhoun extended families to various plantations in the state.
While not much is known about Menemin’s life at Fort Hill, she most likely lived in the quarters for enslaved persons. Marked today by the South Carolina Historical Marker, the quarters were located about an eighth of a mile from the plantation house, by what is Lee Hall 3 today. While we have no pictures of the quarters, it was known to be about twenty feet long by ten feet wide or about 2,000 square feet. Inside, around seventy enslaved persons at a time lived within the cramped quarters which were divided into thirteen apartments or rooms with around five to six people in each.
It is unknown when Menemin passed away, though she certainly lived a long, fruitful life, beloved by her family and friends on the plantation. As the oldest known Black woman enslaved at Fort Hill, she was the beginning of Black women’s history at Clemson.