Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Milla Granson

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Judy Chicago (American, b. 1939). The Dinner Party (Heritage Floor; detail), 1974–79. Porcelain with rainbow and gold luster, 48 x 48 x 48 ft. (14.6 x 14.6 x 14.6 m). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. Photograph by Jook Leung Photography

Milla Granson
b. circa 1816, Virginia; d. after 1880, probably Natchez, Mississippi

Contemporary research has reidentified Milla Granson as LILY ANN GRANDERSON.

Born into slavery, Granderson was moved to Kentucky at some point in her childhood. She worked in her master's house and became close to his children, who taught her how to read and write. When her master died, she was sold to a Mississippi slaveholder and put to work in the cotton fields, but after a time was transferred to his house in Natchez. There she established a "midnight" school for slaves. Mississippi law prohibited the literacy of slaves; learning and teaching had to be done clandestinely, at the risk of severe punishment. Granderson's school operated at night, from eleven o'clock p.m. to two o'clock a.m. She took twelve students at a time and, over the course of seven years, hundreds passed through her secret classroom. In 1863, northern missionaries, arriving in the wake of Union troops to establish schools for black children, were surprised to discover Granderson's "moonlight" operation. As a freedwoman, Granderson was hired as a teacher by the American Missionary Association. Records of the Freedmen's Bank in Natchez indicate that she opened an account there in 1870; she was fifty-four years old, still teaching, married, and a mother of two. According to 1880 census records, she was still living in Natchez with her two children.

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