Watch the video by clicking on the picture below or on this link and answer the questions below about it.
The activity is suitable for strong intermediate students.
2 Who gave Sylvester Manor to Bennett?
3 Does the family still own the whole of Shelter Island?
4 What are Bennett's passions in life?
5 What do work songs in America often talk about?
6 Where did the owners and the slaves live on Sylvester Manor?
7 What is Bennett thinking of doing with Sylvester Manor?
To check your answers you can read the transcript below.
I’m Bennett Konesni. I’m the eleventh generation of my family to live here on Sylvester Manor. Sylvester Manor has been in my family since 1652.
I spent a little bit of time here as a kid, but didn’t grow up here. I grew up in Main. My great aunt here and my uncle inherited the place. He said, Bennett I think you should have this and I said whoa, it’s an amazing honour to be asked but I don’t have the wealth to really maintain it myself but I do care about it and I know there’s something beautiful that can happen here.
Shelter Island is a really remarkable place. I feel really lucky to be a part of the story here. My family has owned the entire island. From 1652 until today most of it has been sold off and now we have all of these great neighbours around.
My real passion in life’s work really is farming and music. We know a lot about work songs in America because they were used on plantations like Sylvester Manor. They often talk about the brutality of that work that was being done on slave plantations, so it’s a really interesting way connect with that part of history and just to be aware of it.
In the 1600s this was one of the largest slave holding plantations in the area. There were also indentured servants working on the land and there were also paid employees working on the land. They lived in the same building, which is different from what we normally think about with slaves. In the attic are the slave quarters.
It’s really remarkable to have this house still which records that history in a way that would’ve been wiped off the map if the house wasn’t here, if the house had been sold we wouldn’t have that story in order to remember and start thinking about how we can make things better and so I said, I’ll take it on as a project but I think that means starting a non-profit organization and really giving it away. Amazingly, my uncle thought it was a good idea, the idea being let’s see if we can steward this place for another 360 years without having to hold onto it tight. In fact, by the very act of giving it away maybe that’s the secret to preserving it forever.
I hope that our family can stay connected. Part of the philosophy here is that we find professionals to do all the wonderful work that needs to be done here, not rely on the genetic lottery to find the next person in line to carry this amazing and important piece of history forward.
That frees up members of the family to get involved in ways that they are suited to do. I think that’s a really important and beautiful part of the story.