This Species of Property: Slave Life and Culture in the Old South

By Leslie Howard Owens | Go to book overview
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7
The Shadow of the Slave
Quarters

The social arena in which bondsmen of every station--field hands, domestics, drivers, artisans--came face to face was the slave quarters. Here slaves held center stage, and the larger the farm or plantation the greater the odds that the roles they played here would go largely unnoticed by many masters. The influence of the quarters was a strong one, difficult to measure in direct terms, but frequently an important factor shaping the quality of the slave's personality, his private life, and his bondage itself.

Although slaves generally lived in huts arranged tightly together around an open expanse of ground, the dwellings themselves varied greatly from plantation to plantation. A slave has left us with this vivid description of the slave quarters on one of the larger estates:

The houses that the slaves lived in were all built in a row, away from the big house. Just at the head of the street and between the cabins and the big house, stood the overseer's house. There was some forty or fifty of these two room cabins facing each other across an open space for a street. In them we lived. There was not much furniture. Just beds and a table and some stools or boxes to sit on. Each house bad a big fire-place for beat and cooking. 1

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