Monday, March 7, 2011

III. HOUSES: Slave Quarters


The huts of the slaves are mostly of the poorest kind. They are not as good as those temporary shanties which are thrown up beside railroads. They are erected with posts and crotches, with but little or no frame-work about them.

They have no stoves or chimneys; some of them have something like a fireplace at one end, and a board or two off at that side, or on the roof, to let off the smoke. Others have nothing like a fireplace in them; in these the fire is sometimes made in the middle of the hut.

These buildings have but one apartment in them; the places where they pass in and out, serve both for doors and windows; the sides and roofs are covered with coarse, and in many instances with refuse boards.

Greenhill, Virginia Slave Quarters

In warm weather, especially in the spring, the slaves keep up a smoke, or fire and smoke, all night, to drive away the gnats and musketoes, which are very troublesome in all the low country of the south; so much so that the whites sleep under frames with nets over them, knit so fine that the musketoes cannot fly through them.

Greenhill, Virginia DUCK BARN (ducks have better housing than enslaved human beings)

Some of the slaves have rugs to cover them in the coldest weather, but I should think more have not. During driving storms they frequently have to run from one hut to another for shelter. In the coldest weather, where they can get wood or stumps, they keep up fires all night in their huts, and lay around them, with their feet towards the blaze.

Men, women and children all lie down together, in most instances. There may be exceptions to the above statements in regard to their houses, but so far as my observations have extended, I have given a fair description, and I have been on a large number of plantations in Georgia and South Carolina up and down the Savannah river.
Slave Quarters at the San Francisco Plantation - the most Opulent Plantation on the Great River Road of Louisiana

Their huts are generally built compactly on the plantations, forming villages of huts, their size proportioned to the number of slaves on them. In these miserable huts the poor blacks are herded at night like swine, without any conveniences of bedsteads, tables or chairs.

O misery to the full! to see the aged sire beating off the swarms of gnats and musketoes in the warm weather, and shivering in the straw, or bending over a few coals in the winter, clothed in rags. I should think males and females, both lie down at night with their working clothes on them.
God alone knows how much the poor slaves suffer for the want of convenient houses to secure them from the piercing winds and howling storms of winter, especially the aged, sick and dying. Although it is much warmer there than here, yet I suffered for a number of weeks in the winter, almost as much in Georgia as I do in Massachusetts.

The slave quarter described above likely appeared similar to the one pictured in this photograph of a late 19th century freedman's home near Richmond, Virginia.

source: "NARRATIVE AND TESTIMONY OF REV. HORACE MOULTON, MR. MOULTON is an esteemed minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in Marlborough, Mass. He spent five years in Georgia, between 1817 and 1824. The following communication has been recently received from him. MARLBOROUGH, MASS., Feb. 18, 1839."


  1. Unfortunately typical of America still; we see non whites as chattel, work horses or job stealers and if it meets our conveniences, open or close doors to the future of humans.


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