A friend asked me to research the furnishings and decorations of Slave cabins. She owns a charming Bed & Breakfast in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. The antebellum house has an intact slave’s cabin. To honor the complete history of the house, she wants this cabin furnished as a slave’s cabin. She asked me to help give her some ideas. After just a little digging on the Internet, I found these images and resources to help recreate a slave’s home.
“Log cabins were cheap and relatively easy to construct. The structure in the photograph reflects a typical Anglo-American log cabin design and technique including one and a half-story, which was a typical style of log cabins. The half-story allowed for much needed storage or sleeping space…Log cabins usually contained of a dirt floor, one or two unglazed (without glass) windows, and a fireplace for cooking and warmth. Overall, slave quarters were generally poorly constructed, and enslaved blacks were given only the barest essentials.”Library of Virginia.
Life as a slave was decidedly spartan – these two photos show the two sides of the one room cabin. The Oak Alley plantation had 113 slaves including children in 1848. Circle of the Year
Although many plantation/farm owners constructed slave cabins out of logs, building frame houses for them became popular in the 1830s and 1840s. This may have been due to concern for the slaves’ health and/or to show off the wealth of the plantation owner. The latter also may have motivated some plantation owners to paint or whitewash the slave quarters as well.
Although an exact list of what the Fox slaves had inside their quarters does not exist, descriptions of furnishings from other plantations in South Carolina and around the South do survive. Slaves usually slept on pallets (straw mattresses), although rope beds became popular in the 1800’s. The small quarters may have included furniture constructed on the plantation or items passed down from the plantation house. County of Lexington, SC