The Cost of Salt is a limited-series audio documentary about Black history and the impact of the stories we tell ourselves.
The Cost of Salt is a limited-series audio documentary examining the way Black history has been documented and put on display in the United States through the legacy of The Crenshaw House, also known as the Old Slave House. Formerly owned by John Crenshaw, a southern Illinois salt baron, the Old Slave House is located in Equality, Illinois, just across the Kentucky border. It has the distinction of being recognized as a stop on the “reverse underground railroad” by the National Park Service, due to Crenshaw’s use of slave labor and rumors of kidnapping and selling free blacks into slavery. In the early 1900s, the house was converted into a tourist attraction, sensationalizing these stories and largely erasing the rich history of free black communities in the area. Now the house sits empty and decaying after being bought by the state of Illinois.
Weaving together oral histories, research, and folklore, each hour-long episode will discuss an aspect of the house and the surrounding area’s history. We are gathering stories from past visitors, curators and historians, nearby residents, descendants of Crenshaw, descendents of those enslaved by him, and the descendants of those free at Miller Grove. The series is not meant to be an investigative piece looking to find a singular “truth” but rather to question what stories about our past garner the most attention, how these stories and discussions frequently re-traumatize Black communities, and how to better preserve painful pasts.
Amber Love (she/her) is a Chicago-based filmmaker and festival programmer. She grew up in Michigan before earning her BA from the University of Chicago. Her work focuses on the complex ways people form relationships between themselves and their surroundings, and it has premiered at the Camden International Film Festival, aired on PBS, and been supported by the Tribeca Film Institute. In 2019 she was selected as a NeXt Doc Fellow for her work as an emerging director, and in 2020 she became an inaugural Sundance Art of Editing fellow.
Naeema Jamilah Torres (she/her ) is an award-winning, Chicago-area filmmaker originally from New York City. As a writer, director, and producer, she aims to tell stories that unpack notions of womanhood, complex ethnic identities, and legacies in the Americas through visual and audio mediums. Her work has screened at a number of festivals across North America, including New Orleans Film Festival, San Francisco Doc Fest and Denton Black Film Festival. She holds a BFA in Film from The City College of New York, and an MFA in Documentary Media from Northwestern University.