Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library Research Report Series - 350
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library
|II. The Process of Furnishing Black Presence Spaces||12|
|III. Source Materials||27|
|IV. How Slaves Obtained Their Goods||56|
|V. Objects Used by Slaves||84|
|VI. Going Beyond the Evidence||135|
|VII. Furnishings Installed at Each Black Presence Site||144|
Almost ten years ago, the Subcommittee on the Interpretation of the Black Experience at Colonial Williamsburg, appointed by the Program Planning and Review Committee, recommended that sites be identified both in the Historic Area and at Carter's Grove for the interpretation of eighteenth-century black material culture in order to improve and expand then-current programming. But for many years before 1983, numerous people at Colonial Williamsburg worked to find out more about the Africans who were brought to Virginia, about their lives as slaves and free people of color, and how these lives might be interpreted to visitors to Colonial Williamsburg. It is impossible to name them all, but this report is influenced by their work and has benefited by their discoveries.
Special thanks are due, however, to the following individuals: to Dennis O'Toole, Graham Hood, Rex Ellis, and John Sands who provided the leadership, inspiration, and assistance necessary to complete this project; to Harold Gill, Ann Smart Martin, Patricia Samford, Linda Baumgarten, Patricia Gibbs, William Graham, and Michael Nicolls, who generously shared the fruits of their research; to Cary Carson, Kevin Kelly, Edward Chappell and Vanessa Patrick, whose incisive questions and healthy skepticism made us look deeper and harder for answers; to Larry Henry, Robert C. Watson, and Pam Pettengell, and their respective interpretive staffs, who make these spaces come alive; ii to Alicia Tucker, who did the basic research for this project and without whose work during her year as an intern in the Collections Division (1987-1988) this project would not have been completed; to Jan Gilliam, for all that she has done to assist in the completion of this report; to the entire staff of the Collections Division for their support; to Jay Gaynor, whose insistence that things be done right, and that the results of the research be analyzed objectively meant that those who use this report and its associated materials will have a greater understanding of what life may have been like for the black majority of Virginia's eighteenth-century population; to my family -- Tsvi, Moshe, Michael, and Sarah -- who tolerated many late nights, long weekends, and endless discussion about this report; and to my father, Louis Katz, who has always been my best editor and whose opinion I have always respected.
Many thanks to the Special Collections Division, Georgetown University Library, Washington, D.C., for permission to quote from the daybook of James Carroll, which is part of the archives of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus; to the Special Collections Library of Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, for permission to quote from the Francis Porteus Corbin Papers; and to the Virginia State Library and Archives for permission to quote from the manuscript diary of Colonel Francis Taylor.
This report had its origins in a report written by Alicia Tucker (based upon initial research and interpretation by iii both Tucker and Jay Gaynor) in 1988 as part of a grant funded by AT&T for the strengthening of black programming at Colonial Williamsburg, which included the furnishing of black presence sites. It was subsequently reworked by Jay Gaynor and the author of this present report, and parts of this earlier report will be found here. However, the current report is considerably expanded and is the work of the present author, with substantial input from Jay Gaynor. It represents our knowledge to date about black material culture in eighteenth-century Tidewater Virginia.
When furnishing a space with objects, there are few opportunities to sidestep issues about which we know little. If a pot or a blanket, a shirt or a pail is to be placed in a site, then every detail about it implies something about its creators and its owners. Its character, its condition, its signs of wear, and its implied use all have a message. Its absence can say as much as its presence. We must consider this in accurately portraying the working and living spaces of slaves in Williamsburg and at Carter's Grove.
In these areas, even more so than in those of their white contemporaries, the buildings themselves, the objects they contain, and the uses implied in their arrangement are, aside from the verbal interpretation we present at the site, the most powerful means of communicating what it meant to be black and a slave in Tidewater Virginia in the eighteenth century. We know so very little about what blacks thought about themselves, their white masters and neighbors, and the conditions of their lives, that learning how they dealt with their physical environment is a vital, and sometimes the only, clue to learning more about them as individuals and as members of a community. Whether they contented themselves with only the provisions supplied by their white owners or sought independent means to better their material lives reflects two very different and vastly significant attitudes regarding their concepts of self-worth, their v aspirations, their skills, and their values. Whether or not they clung to African ways or adopted English values with regard to the objects in their lives implies an acculturation process about which we still know relatively little.
This report articulates the reasons behind our furnishings decisions and at the same time provides our interpreters with enough information to make these furnishings useful and evocative interpretive tools. It includes the background of the project to furnish areas both in the Historic Area and at Carter's Grove to reflect the presence of slaves, and poses some of the questions that had to be answered in order for the project to proceed -- questions dealing with how slaves obtained their goods, what these goods were, and how these goods were used. The report also discusses the process used for furnishing these sites (which did not substantially differ from the process used by the Collections Division in furnishing other sites in the Historic Area). The central part of the report is concerned with the sources used to discover information about slaves and their material world and a discussion of the ways in which slaves obtained their goods, followed by a detailed explanation of those goods: what they were, what they may have looked like, and the documentation on which the conclusions about these goods were based. The final section of the report discusses the assumptions upon which the actual furnishings were based and details the furnishings for each site: what was vi initially planned for each location, followed by a listing of what was actually installed and where it was obtained.
An essential attachment to this report is the series of notebooks containing the original documentary and graphic source materials which provide the basis for our conclusions. These notebooks include materials shared with us by other Colonial Williamsburg staff members, information which was discovered (and continues to be discovered) during the course of this project as well as after its completion, and information which, while not quoted directly in this report, nevertheless provided background for it. These notebooks are organized in two parts: the first part is the sources themselves, arranged alphabetically by author, and the second, and more accessible, part is quotations extracted from these sources and arranged alphabetically by topic (and chronologically within each topic), so that a researcher desiring to look at information dealing with slave housing, for example, need only look under "Housing" to find the pertinent information. In many cases, individual quotations deal with more than one topic, and in these instances, the quotations are found in each applicable category for ease of use. These notebooks are housed in the Collections Division library for easier accessibility.
As this report is written, it is over 370 years since the first Africans were brought into Virginia, and over 130 years since the beginning of the Civil War. In the years between the establishment of Negro slavery in Virginia and its abolition, vii African-Americans tried, in many ways, to make the conditions of their servitude more bearable. As a result of our research we learned that, contrary to the traditional view, eighteenth-century Virginia slaves had both means and opportunity to do this. One of the ways in which they tried to make their individual lives more bearable was to make the material conditions of their private lives as comfortable as opportunity and circumstance allowed. Not all slaves were able to do this --they were limited by time, location and situation from making their living conditions as satisfactory as they might have liked. Those who were able to modify their living conditions knew that there were certain boundaries within which they had to work in order to keep what they had, if they were not to lose it all.
It is the purpose of this report to present the evidence regarding slave furnishings in eighteenth-century Virginia, describe what those furnishings were and then describe how the environments in which slaves lived and worked in eighteenth-century Virginia were reproduced as accurately as the state of our knowledge will currently allow. These are the areas which now serve as the settings to tell the story of both black and white in and around eighteenth-century Williamsburg.
The discussion of slavery and the slave system in eighteenth-century Williamsburg and its environs is a relatively recent addition to the interpretive program of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Although the publication in 1965 of Thad Tate's 1957 research report, The Negro in Eighteenth-Century Williamsburg1, was a step forward in increasing the amount of information available to interpreters as well as scholars, Williamsburg's colonial black residents were, for the most part, ciphers to the visitor. Information about this important segment of the population was given to interpreters in a very limited fashion, and interpreters, for their part, often tried to avoid discussing what was, for them, an embarrassing and distasteful episode in American history.2
In 1978 and 1979, serious efforts were begun by Robert Birney, Director of Planning, Barbara Beamon, Hostess Training Supervisor, and Foundation research historian Shomer Zwelling to repair this omission, primarily through the development of first-person interpretations and special programs, as well as through the introduction of training for interpreters which focused on 2 the black experience in eighteenth-century Williamsburg. Historians, curators, architects and craftspeople began to investigate aspects of eighteenth century slave life which had previously been ignored: the legal and cultural issues surrounding slavery, the material culture of slave life, the physical conditions in which slaves lived, and the means by which slaves were able to survive. The results of this research were incorporated into interpreter training, but it became increasingly clear that there were still problems in communicating information about slavery to the interpreters and making them comfortable in sharing this information with visitors, especially because there were no sites specifically associated with slaves and no designated sites in which topic-specific interpretation and programs could take place.
In June 1982, a subcommittee of the Program Planning and Review Committee was formed to "identify long-range goals and make recommendations for our Black History programming."3 The committee's report was originally issued in September, 1982, and was revised in 1983. It briefly reviewed the history of the interpretation of slavery at Colonial Williamsburg over the previous fifty years, contained an overview of interpretive efforts in this area, and strongly recommended that concerted action be taken, especially in the development of sites and programs, to increase the competency of Colonial Williamsburg 3 interpreters in this area. The report suggested that several in-town sites, among them the laundry/kitchen building at Wetherburn's Tavern, the Brush-Everard complex, and some of the craft shops, be refurnished to reflect black occupancy, with the simultaneous modification of the interpretations for those sites which this would require. The committee also strongly recommended that the proposal for the reconstruction of the slave quarter at Carter's Grove be adopted and implemented4.
There was very little progress in realizing these recommendations until 1985. In response to a memo of William Cole in March 1985,5 a committee composed of Dennis O'Toole, William Cole, Conny Graft, Edward Chappell, Rex Ellis, Jay Gaynor and Kevin Kelly was formed in April 1985 to recommend possible black presence sites. The entire committee addressed the problem of identifying appropriate locations and their inhabitants during a series of three meetings in April and May, 1985, during which committee members walked through the Historic Area and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of particular sites.6 4 Following the selection of these sites in June, 1985,7 a smaller committee, made up of Edward Chappell, Jay Gaynor, Rex Ellis and Kevin Kelly, drew up lists of furnishings for each of these locations.8 Based upon their report of March 16, 1986,9 and aided by a three-year grant given to Colonial Williamsburg by AT&T in 1986, these locations were furnished in 1988. During this same period, the decision was made to reconstruct the slave quarter at Carter's Grove.
Responsibility for the actual furnishing of these sites was assigned to the Collections Division. It was at this point that many questions surfaced about eighteenth-century black material culture (as indicated below) and the manifestations of that culture. These questions were posed not only by curators but also by architectural historians, interpreters (both black and white), and research historians. Some of these questions had been posed for many years but had never been addressed in any 5 formal way or had never been answered because there was no perceived need to know the answers. The questions themselves fall into eight broad categories:
Once these questions were posed, the problem then became to find the answers if at all possible. In many cases this was not easy. Although many of Colonial Williamsburg's researchers -- historians, curators, architectural historians and interpreters -- had searched for information about the lives and lifestyles of Virginia's eighteenth century blacks, the pressures of time, the need to complete other projects and the knowledge that there was no immediate interpretive need for the information meant that the research on the topic was, in general, limited to answering very specific questions. Most of this research focused on the social, economic and political roles of blacks, the effects of slavery in Tidewater Virginia, and biographical information about known slaves or free blacks in Williamsburg. This was the type of information most interpreters needed in their daily work and was what most of the source material discussed.
Complicating the picture was the fact that except for Colonial Williamsburg's researchers, not many academic historians were studying eighteenth-century Tidewater Virginia slavery. Important studies were done of Tidewater Maryland's slaves and of 11 South Carolina's slaves;10 nothing comparable was done for this area. Academic historians who studied slavery concentrated on the nineteenth century, where source materials are more numerous and relatively easy to find. Yet the mandate to furnish specific areas as slave living spaces meant that it was imperative to find information about black material culture during the eighteenth century. Much of this information came to light as a result of the furnishing process for the five in-town sites and the Carter's Grove Slave Quarter.
A discussion of the five in-town locations chosen as black presence sites and why they were chosen is an important first step in understanding the furnishing process which followed their selection. As noted above, these sites were picked in 1986 in discussions between Edward Chappell, Rex Ellis, Jay Gaynor, and Kevin Kelly.1 The locations chosen and the rationales for those choices were as follows:
Wythe House and Domestic Complex: George Wythe, wealthy lawyer and prominent townsperson, lived with his wife in relative comfort in Williamsburg. The domestic complex included a stable, laundry, kitchen, and several out-buildings and indicates the upper-class living conditions he enjoyed. It is the only large domestic complex in town open to visitors, and it is an ideal location to illustrate how slaves of various occupations and status lived on one property.
In the house, the south-west bedchamber is interpreted both as work space for Mrs. Wythe and the living space for a personal servant. The west room of the kitchen, which is also a workroom, is interpreted as the living space of Lydia Broadnax, the Wythe's slave cook, and her male companion who have some privacy, a symbol of her privileged status. The laundry is shown as a less private space, with two family groups in the west room 14 and individuals sharing space in the attic and the east room. A stablehand's living space is indicated in the hayloft above the livestock in the barn.
Once the choice of these sites were approved in March, 1986, by the Program Planning and Review Committee, and a target date for the actual installation of the furnishings set, the process of furnishing each space in an appropriate manner began. Using the summaries prepared by the Black presence Committee for the Program Planning and Review Committee2, more detailed scenarios of each space were prepared under the direction of Rex Ellis. These summaries noted the people who might have lived in each location: sex, ages, skills, relationship to other slaves at the same site, and degree of acculturation. Interpretive goals 16 for each space could thus be more clearly defined. As part of this process, a budget was decided on so that costs could be monitored.
As in any furnishings plan proposed for the exhibition buildings, the plans for these sites were discussed with the curatorial staff. Jay Gaynor, Curator of Mechanical Arts, served as curatorial liaison for the project, discussing the required furnishings with each specialist curator. During these discussions, the curators requested information about black material culture of this period. Unfortunately, there were few references to these items other than in runaway advertisements, from the results of archaeological excavations at Kingsmill, Monticello and Carter's Grove, and in documentary references in most curators' files. Visual evidence was very sparse, consisting primarily of a few drawings done by Benjamin Latrobe. A search of primary and secondary sources, both at Colonial Williamsburg and at other sites, such as Mount Vernon and Monticello, yielded more information about eighteenth-century black material culture. This information was incorporated into the furnishings plans for the various sites.
With this information, the process of specifying actual furnishings began, guided by the lists of proposed objects for the specific sites that appeared in the March 16, 1986, memo to the Program Planning and Review Committee.3 Since the scenarios for each space had been more fully developed since the March 16 17 memo was written, the final furnishings lists were somewhat different than first proposed by Chappell, Ellis, Gaynor and Kelly.4 These objects represent a "best guess" in many instances, since there are few surviving eighteenth-century slave-associated objects. The archaeological evidence indicated that slaves lived with a variety of ceramics, those types often regarded as "out-of-date" or of "lower quality" by most slave owners. Runaway advertisements indicated that slaves had access to a variety of clothing and other textiles, tools, musical instruments and food stuffs. These were topics for which the curators had a substantial amount of information, so that knowing what types of textiles and tools belonged at each site was not difficult. Specific examples of clothing known to have been worn by slaves, such as the livery for one of Thomas Everard's slaves,5 were supplied using antique examples for prototypes. Because, for the most part, these spaces were located in out-buildings or other secondary spaces, it was assumed that any furniture to be exhibited -- chairs and stools, tables, perhaps even a bed -- could be based on examples for the antique 18 collection which were presumed to be indicative of lower class or rural usage. In short, using the evidence available in 1988, the furnishings for each space were based on available research as well as general knowledge of rural and lower class urban furnishings of this period in Tidewater Virginia.
At the same time that the lists of specific furnishings were drawn up, work began on identifying sources for the materials. Because almost all of these installations were to be in outbuildings, it was necessary to procure reproduction objects. Thus it was important not only to identify the objects themselves but also the prototypes from which reproductions could be made and the sources from which these reproductions could be purchased. These prototypes were: 1) antiques already in the collection; 2) illustrations from eighteenth century prints and English trade catalogs and 3) archaeologically-recovered objects. After each type of object was chosen and the proper prototype identified, available reproductions were purchased from various suppliers, and custom reproductions were ordered. After all of these objects were procured, they were installed in five of the six specified locations6.
These five sites were opened to visitors in March 1988. As this phase of the project was completed, the more difficult task -- the furnishing of the still-under-construction Carter's Grove slave quarter -- began.
The furnishing plan for the Carter's Grove Slave Quarter began with the definition of the living groups in each of the proposed living spaces at the Quarter. These definitions were proposed by research historian Kevin Kelly in consultation with the Carter's Grove Slave Quarter Planning Team and were based on the various types of slave groupings known to have lived in eighteenth-century Tidewater Virginia.7 The names of individuals were added by Kevin Kelly, historian in the Research Division, and Vanessa Patrick, research fellow in the Architectural Research Department, using an abstract of Nathaniel Burwell's account books, James City County personal property tax lists for the years 1783-1786, and the Bruton Parish birth/baptismal register.
The groups are as follows:
Once these groupings and names were agreed upon by members of the Carter's Grove Slave Quarter Interpretive Planning team, Diane Dunkley, Associate Curator of Carter's Grove (and the curatorial member of the planning team) consulted the specialist curators and prepared a furnishings plan, using the information then available to the curators on slave material culture. This 21 plan was presented to Rex Ellis on October 14, 1987.8 Although some of the items on the curators' list, notably textiles, were accepted by the Carter's Grove Slave Quarter Interpretive Planning Team members, other items, primarily beds and other furnishings considered unnecessary for basic living or working, were questioned by other committee members because they felt that the lists the curators drew up contained too many objects for slaves at this rural site. A lively discussion between the Collections Division and Architectural Research Department resulted, with the curators insisting that slaves had access to a greater range of material goods than had been previously supposed. The architectural historians maintained that although some slaves might have been fortunate to live in such conditions, most slaves lived in very meager circumstances with minimal amounts of clothing, food, shelter and material possessions.
Although the curators were convinced that their original plan was correct, the architectural historians devised their own furnishing plan, based upon the evidence that they had collected during their research on the slave quarter buildings.9 The important differences between the plans, and the ensuing discussion, resulted in a directive from Cary Carson, Vice- 22 President of Research, to combine the evidence gathered by both departments and do further research into the suitability of using probate inventories as the basis for furnishing the quarter.10 Based on the results of this work the committee would be better prepared to discuss the merits of the furnishing plan and discuss any revisions.
The evidence was compiled by Vanessa Patrick and Alicia Tucker, intern in the Department of Collections.11 Included in this material was information from the Departments of Archaeological Research, Architectural Research, the Research Division, and the Collections Division. Patrick and Tucker decided to organize this information both by subject and by source document. Quotes from each source document dealing with an aspect of slavery were organized by date within the following categories: African life, food, food-related equipment, free blacks, furniture, furnishings, health, housing, illicit behavior, laws and statutes, market economy, plantation life, 23 skills, sleeping accommodations, social life, textiles, and tools. If one quote dealt with several of these subjects, it was duplicated as necessary so that all references to one topic could be found in one place. The source was cited for each quote, and a reference was given to its location in the source notebooks, so that each quote could be read in context. With this data in a standard format, it was then possible to answer questions regarding the types and quantities of objects likely to have been found in a slave quarter. Questions derived from the analysis of these quantities, and considerations such as change over time, geographic differentiation and variability of objects within a given quarter or system of quarters, could also be explored.
During the same period, Jay Gaynor, Curator of Mechanical Arts, Martha Katz-Hyman, Assistant Curator, and Alicia Tucker examined 61 Virginia probate inventories taken between 1700 and 1789 listing the contents of 148 rural slave quarters. Some of these inventories included as many as ten separate quarters owned by one individual. These inventories were all from either York County or from the collection of Virginia room-by-room inventories initially assembled by Harold Gill, historian in the Department of Historic Trades.
Each chosen inventory had specific listings which identified goods as belonging to particular agricultural or slave quarters. Data on the 148 separate quarters was compiled by Gaynor, Katz-Hyman and Tucker using a Lotus spreadsheet for the 24 primary information and separate WordPerfect data sheets to record supplementary information which would not fit on the spreadsheet. The categories used on the spreadsheet included cooking utensils (pots, racks, pans, etc.), eating utensils (plates, dishes, drinking vessels), sleeping accommodations (bed, bed furniture), miscellaneous furniture (desk, chair, chest, etc.), trade tools, firearms, and agricultural tools. Also listed were the total inventory value (if known, as expressed in pounds, shillings and pence and then converted into shillings), the number of Negroes, Indians, and mulattoes on each quarter, and the occupations of skilled slaves (if given). The supplementary information for each quarter included a detailed listing of inventory entries for several of the above categories (agricultural tools, trade tools, miscellaneous bedding, etc.) and noted furnishings assigned to a specific quarter that did not fall into any of the spreadsheet categories.
The analysis of the probate inventories revealed that the objects listed at slave quarters fell into three distinct categories: 1) furnishings either provided for the overseer as part of his agreement with the plantation owner or used by the master during a stay at a particular quarter; 2) tools and equipment provided by the master and necessary for the quarter's operation; and 3) food and clothing intended for slaves but which had not yet been distributed. None of the ceramics, clothing, blankets, or other household goods known from other sources to have been at slave quarters appear in these inventories in the 25 necessary quantities, leading to the conclusion that probate inventories do not reflect the quantities or types of goods actually used by slaves and therefore could not be used as the primary guide in furnishing the Carter's Grove Slave Quarter.
While the curators from the Division of Collections analyzed these inventories in depth, Vanessa Patrick used the references compiled by the Department of Architectural Research during their research on slave quarter structures to identify three types of quarters -- 1) "home quarters," the quarters associated with the operation of the plantation owner's household and immediate grounds; 2) "home farm quarters," the quarters associated with agricultural workers who farmed the "home" plantation; and 3) "distant quarters," the quarters located on farms remote from the "home" plantation. The results were listed chronologically and analyzed to determine any differences in goods as a function of location, and to document, if possible, any significant changes over time in slave-associated objects. Patrick's analysis of the literary references concluded that there were differences in goods as a function of location --quarters closer to the house tended to have more goods -- but it was difficult, if not impossible, to see any differences as a function of time. It is important to understand, however, that there were relatively few quarters to which the "home quarters --home farm quarters -- distant quarters" identifiers could be applied and thus this analysis must be treated somewhat 26 carefully.12
The Carter's Grove Slave Quarter Planning Team then reviewed the furnishing plan in light of this new information. After many meetings, much discussion and some argument, the committee agreed to the furnishing of the slave quarter in essentially the same way as originally proposed by the curators. Procurement of the necessary reproduction objects, done in much the same way that objects were procured for the in-town sites, began in the fall of 1988, and the furnishings were installed in March 1989, immediately prior to the opening of Carter's Grove for the 1989 season. Items were installed in the quarter as they became available through the beginning of 1991. After the installation of objects in the slave quarter, supervision and maintenance of these spaces was assumed by the Director of Carter's Grove.
At the beginning of the effort to identify and furnish black presence sites at Colonial Williamsburg, it was strongly felt by many of those involved that there was little information available about black material culture in late eighteenth-century Tidewater Virginia. Years of searching for primary materials had turned up very little that seemed to be directly applicable to slave furnishings. Consequently, it appeared that curators would have to do the best they could based on the limited information they had and their general knowledge of eighteenth century furnishings, to decide what the types and quantities of objects might have been found at both in-town and rural slave sites.
It was during the process of compilation and standardization of the resource materials accumulated by the Collections Division and the Architectural Research Department that the curators realized that there was much more material available about eighteenth-century black material culture than previously thought. Many of the sources that were used routinely by curators as sources for furnishing the exhibition buildings in the Historic Area -- letters, diaries, legal records, travelers' accounts and archaeological discoveries, for example -- also contained a great deal of information about slaves and slave material culture, but prior to this project, most of this information had never been gathered in one place. In the 28 following pages, these sources are discussed from a new viewpoint.
The primary documents used by curators in furnishing any of the exhibition buildings, including craft shops, are probate inventories. Colonial Williamsburg is fortunate that the York County inventories survived the Civil War and are therefore available for use as primary sources for information about eighteenth-century furnishings in Williamsburg. These and other Virginia inventories have been transcribed and are available in typewritten form for easier use.
Probate inventories are lists of a deceased's assets prepared after a person's death to assist the probate court in settlement of the deceased's estate. In eighteenth-century Virginia, only moveable property was listed in a probate inventory, i.e., furniture, clothing, cooking equipment, dining equipment, etc. Slaves were considered moveable property and thus were included in probate inventory listings. Real property, such as houses, outbuildings or storage furniture (shelves, dressers, cupboards) built into real property, was not included in the inventory. It was therefore natural that probate inventories were one of the first sources consulted for information about furnishings at slave sites. Probate 29 inventories of free blacks of that period, although they exist, were very few in number and were not considered in this study of probate inventories because it was difficult to know whether the material goods of free blacks corresponded in any way to the goods used by slaves. They were, however, noted as primary sources when located.
On first inspection, probate inventories seemed to show that slaves lived in the most meager of circumstances with the most basic of furnishings. When slave quarters were included in probate inventories, very little in the way of clothing, furniture, cooking equipment or furnishings was listed. The initial conclusion was that masters provided very little for their slaves and consequently few objects could be exhibited at slave sites besides cooking equipment.
A more intensive analysis revealed that this was not at all the case. This investigation led to one principal conclusion: that although a few inventories listed small amounts of clothing, food and blankets before these items were given to slaves, probate inventories were best used to determine the types and quantities of goods owners kept at their quarters for the operation of those quarters (principally tools of one type or another) and for the accommodation of an overseer or even themselves when they were visiting the quarter.
None of the inventories could be used as guides to furnishing the quarters with the personal goods likely to be found in slave quarters because the items known from other 30 sources to have been at slave quarters for the use of slaves -- ceramics, clothing and food -- were virtually absent from the inventories. For example, the inventory of Landon Carter taken after his death in 1779 listed 181 slaves at his residence at Sabine Hall, and a total of 202 slaves at his other properties. Neither food nor clothing for these slaves were listed in any of the inventories.1 However, throughout his diary, Carter consistently wrote of the clothing and food that he gave his slaves. In November 1763, Betty, one of Carter's slaves, cut out 50 suits of clothing for other slaves.2 The next year, in November 1764, he purchased seventy pair of shoes for his slaves.3 On September 19, 1770, Carter killed a "beef" for his slaves,4 and in an entry for May 15, 1776, he noted that he gave his slaves enough cloth for two suits each year.5
This evidence argued strongly for the contention (voiced by Harold Gill and others) that, although slaves were legally the property of their owners and technically could not own property themselves, for all practical purposes either 1) both blacks and whites considered slaves' personal goods to 31 belong to the slaves and therefore these items were not subject to inventory or, 2) white owners felt these items were of no value to themselves once given to their slaves, considered these things "beneath notice" and therefore did not include them in probate inventories.
It is in this area of slaves holding property that it is important to understand the ancient Roman principle of the peculium. According to this principle, slaves were allowed to accumulate property but that property was subject to appropriation by the master at any time, although in practice, the appropriation of the goods may have happened infrequently, if ever.
That this concept was understood and used (as customary law) by eighteenth-century Virginia slaveowners and slaves is illustrated by a letter from Thomas Jefferson to his son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph, in 1798. In this letter, Jefferson thanked Randolph "for putting an end to the cultivation of tobacco as the peculium of the negroes. I have ever found it necessary to confine them to such articles as are not raised on the farm. There is no other way of drawing a line between what is theirs & mine." Jefferson thus acknowledged that his slaves were able to grow certain crops and accumulate property (whether it be goods or money), but he also did not hesitate to assert his right to prevent his slaves' acquisition of goods when that acquisition threatened his own livelihood. It is this concept of the peculium which may be the most likely reason why the goods that 32 slaves owned did not appear in their owners' probate inventories: they were indeed not considered the slaveowners' property for purposes of probate.6
In any case, whether slaves' goods were considered their "personal property" or whether these goods were "beneath notice," or even a combination of the two, the result is that items issued to slaves or accumulated by them were not recorded in the probate inventories of their white owners. Thus, probate inventories were used to determine those items owned by the white master -- primarily tools and equipment -- which were kept at the quarter for the use of the slaves.
An examination of other legal documents -- wills, trial proceedings, etc. -- shows few specific references to objects owned by slaves. Slaves show up frequently in wills, but usually as property that was given to an heir. Very rarely were slaves listed as legatees. One example is found in the 1779 will of Patrick Mackey of Norfolk County who left "My Blue Rug [a bed covering], Old Sheets and Old Bed . . . to my Negro Wench Pegg, 33 the remainder of my Cloaths to my other Negroes."7 Instructions for the maintenance of slaves was also found in wills, but these instructions were of a general nature. Francis Jerdone's will of July 10, 1770, instructed his wife that "she shall be at the expense of ... Clothing and finding Tools for the Negroes on my said estate."8 No details were given regarding the types of clothing or tools she was expected to supply. Other documents associated with the settlement of estates, such as executors' accounts, were similarly non-specific.
Trial proceedings, although more specific in that individual slaves were named in them, did not generally deal with objects owned by the slaves themselves. The proceedings were more likely to deal with slaves as criminals and thus the items recorded were usually stolen goods, such as the clothing and tools taken by William Plummer from his master, John Tarpley of Richmond County in 1724/5 (see chapter IV, "How Slaves Obtained Their Goods," for a discussion of stealing as a way of acquiring objects).9 These items might be indicative of slaves' abilities 34 and training but not of what might usually be found on a slave quarter because many of the stolen items came from the master's house, store or workshop. Most trial proceedings dealt with more serious criminal behavior -- running away, assault or murder --and do not discuss objects used by slaves on a regular basis.
There are some civil trial proceedings which indirectly dealt with slaves, such as Robert Carter's 1798 suit against one of his lessors, in which Carter accused the lessor of not adhering to the lease agreement that both men signed. Included in the trial records is a copy of the agreements Carter made with his overseers regarding the quantity and type of clothing given to each slave in the spring and the fall. In this particular case, in 1795, each of the nineteen Negroes at Carter's Prince William plantation called "Cancer" was to have two sets of clothes in that year, furnished in June and December.10
Dealing with the problem of runaway slaves was a constant in a slave owner's life. There were very few masters who at one time or another did not have a slave run away. One of the first steps in recovering these slaves was to advertise their 35 disappearance in the newspaper, much as one might have advertised the escape of a runaway horse (both represented considerable capital, and replacing them was expensive). Although these advertisements may have had little influence on the recovery of the runaway, today these advertisements constitute one of the best sources for information about slaves and their appearance, clothing, and skills. It was obviously in the best interest of the master that slaves be described completely and accurately. Most advertisements detailed the time and place of escape, described the slave's physical appearance and the clothing worn at the time of the escape, listed any skills the slave had, specified any items the slave may have taken, suggested a destination to which the slave might have run (if known), and offered a reward for the slave's return. This advertisement, for a slave named Derby, is typical:
RUN AWAY from the Subscriber, a Negro Man named DERBY, about twenty five Years of Age, near six Feet high, a slim black Fellow, and plays on the Fiddle with his left Hand, which he took with him; he had on, when he went away, a Virginia Cloth Jacket, an Osnabrug Shirt, and a Pair of blue Broadcloth Breeches. I have some Reason to think he will make for Pittsylvania [County], as his Wife has been lately sent there to one of Mr. John Baird's Quarters. Whoever brings him to me, or secures him so that I may get him again, shall have THREE POUNDS Reward if he is taken within fifty Miles, and EIGHT POUNDS if above that Distance.36
ROBERT HUNNICUTT, Junior11
Many of these advertisements, including ones found in the Virginia Gazette, have been compiled in recent years.12 A close reading of these advertisements indicates the variety of clothing slaves wore, from the most basic of clothing for field hands, to much more elaborate clothing for household and personal servants. The references in these advertisements to slaves "clothed in the usual manner of labouring Negroes"13 or to "the usual negro dress"14 suggest that there was indeed a generally accepted basic standard for slave clothing. The more elaborate clothing listed in the advertisements ("a pair of shoes with buckles;"15 "new brown cloth waistcoat, lappelled, lined with white taminy, and yellow gilt buttons;"16 "white linen shirts...and osnabrug trousers"17) indicates that many slaves 37 could obtain a much greater variety of clothing than their basic apparel. 18
Because so many of these advertisements list slaves' skills, they become important sources for figuring out what tools may have been at a slave quarter. The description of a slave as a cooper, for example (see runaway advertisement for Ben, a cooper owned by Joshua Jones in York County, in 177019) means that there had to be a specific set of tools necessary to making barrels, pails and other such items at the slave quarter (the advertisement states that Ben "took with him sundry carpenters and coopers tools"). It implies that the slave may have been making such items for himself or for sale to other slaves or even to other masters. Listing reading and writing as among a slave's skills (the advertisement for Ben states that he could "read tolerably well") suggests that there may have been writing implements or a book or two at a quarter. Thus a close inspection of these advertisements provides clues to material goods not previously thought to have been at a slave quarter.
Many of these advertisements mention a former master or a relative to whom the slave is running. Although not directly indicative of material goods, the fact that slaves did run away to be nearer to relatives -- husband, wife or child -- implies 38 that slaves considered their families as important as their masters did their own families. This is borne out by some of the trial proceedings referred to above.
It is not known how effective these advertisements were in recovering runaway slaves. Close study indicates that some slaves ran away again and again. However, these advertisements remain as very good indicators of certain aspects of slaves' material lives.
Unlike the late twentieth century, the primary mode of long-distance communication in the eighteenth century was by letter: parents wrote to children and children wrote to parents; merchants ordered goods from their suppliers; plantation owners wrote to their overseers; friends wrote to each other. Because so many letters were written, many have survived to become the primary sources to which historians look when seeking information about eighteenth-century life. Letters have proved particularly helpful in the study of Virginia's eighteenth-century material culture and have been used at Colonial Williamsburg for many years to aid in the furnishing of exhibition buildings and craft shops.
Looking again at these same letters for data about slaves and their material world reveals a wealth of information. Shopkeepers, local government officials, plantation owners, 39 lawyers, and merchants wrote regularly to their foreign sales agents or local suppliers ordering a great variety of merchandise, including goods for their slaves (primarily bulk textiles, clothing and shoes). For example, on February 10, 1773, Thomas Everard wrote to John Norton in London and ordered "4 Strong Great Coats for Negros 2 for men about the House and 2 for Lads Postillions."20 Plantation owners wrote to their white overseers or agents with instructions about planting schedules, crop rotations, building repairs and replacements, replacement of supplies for the property, and, quite often, detailed instructions on the care of the slaves, including types and quantities of food and clothing. Joseph Ball, a Virginian living in London in the 1740s, wrote often to his nephew and plantation administrator, Joseph Chinn, with detailed instructions regarding the slaves on his plantations. In February 1744, he specified that each adult slave "must have a Good Suit of the Welch Plains [a type of fabric] made as it should be, not too Scanty nor bobtail'd. And Each must have Two Shirts, or Shifts, of the ozenbrigs."21 George Washington was similarly concerned with his slaves' clothing, for in 1788 he asked Clement Biddle in 40 Philadelphia to purchase "German and British Oznaburgs of the best quality, suitable for making Negroes shirts and shifts." 22
Friends and relations wrote to each other about their slaves: problems they might be having with an individual slave, sickness in the slave quarter, income derived from hiring out a skilled slave, or personal remarks about a favored individual. George Washington wrote to John Francis Mercer on November 24, 1786, that it was "not in my power to answer your wishes [regarding the sale of some of his slaves], because it is as much against my inclination as it can be against your's, to hurt the feelings of those unhappy people by a separation of a man and wife, or of families;...."23
In short, letters, although limited by the fact that they are written from the point of view of one person and therefore reflect just one person's experiences, nevertheless offer valuable insights into slave life and the attitudes of both slaveowners and non-slaveowners toward slaves.
Diaries were used in the eighteenth century not only as vehicles for recording personal reflections on life in general but as a way of recording daily events for future reference. Thus one finds in diaries kept during this time entries about the 41 weather, jobs to be done or in process, people visiting or to be visited, expenses incurred during the course of the day, or notes about the planting and harvesting of crops and the progress of the agricultural year, as well as observations about daily events.
Many diarists, especially slaveowners, also recorded what happened to their slaves during the course of the day: what work the slaves happened to be doing that day, their illnesses and the treatments administered for those illnesses, supplies they were given, or any other information about their "people" or "family" (as many slaveowners called their slaves) which the diarist wished to record. Landon Carter of Sabine Hall in Richmond County kept a diary, and the majority of the entries in the diary speak of his slaves in some way.24 Frances Baylor Hill of Hillsborough, a young girl in 1797 when she kept her diary, noted on June 25th, for example, that she and her mother "went over the river to see Phill who was very ill when we got over he died in about an hour, his pour wife was greatly distress'd I never was sorry'r for a negro in my life."25 Some of these journals also record payments made to slaves for goods and services. Philip Vickers Fithian, tutor to the children of Robert Carter of Nomoni Hall in Westmoreland County, noted in 42 January, 1774, that he "gave Martha who makes my Bed, for a Christmas Box, a Bit,...I gave to John also, who waits at Table & calls me to Supper a Bit."26 That slaves were able to earn money meant that they were able to purchase goods from the local shopkeepers. These transactions show up in the account books kept by the merchants and indicate what slaves, as consumers, were purchasing for themselves (see section F below for details).
The sustained nature of journals and diaries and the attention given by many diarists and journal-keepers to details of everyday life meant that slave-related furnishings mentioned with some regularity in such a source were strong candidates for inclusion at any slave site.
The New World attracted visitors from the time of its discovery, and many of them wrote accounts of their experiences for friends and family and for publication. In the period before the American Revolution, most of these accounts were botanical or geographical in nature, describing the plants, animals and geography of the newly-settled continent, as well as the Native Americans. Some travelers, however, did talk about slaves and 43 slavery even in the late seventeenth century, as in this account by Huguenot refugee Durand:
Most people grind [Indian corn] in handmills, sift it & use only the choicest for making bread; there remain grains like fine rice, which make an excellent but somewhat indigestible soup. With this soup they feed the slaves, & it costs very little to maintain them, particularly the negroes, for in some places they are given bread & meat only on Christmas day.27
Toward the end of the eighteenth century, after the American Revolution, many more travelers came to America and observed the new American society more closely. For Virginia and the other southern states, this included descriptions of and opinions about slaves and slavery. Englishman J.F.D. Smyth visited the United States in the early 1780s and published the account of his trip in 1784. His narrative included extensive descriptions of slaves and their living conditions. For example, he wrote that a slave's noon meal "consists of homminy and salt, and, if his master be a man of humanity, he has a little fat, skimmed milk, rusty bacon, or salt herring...."28 The Polish traveler Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz visited Mt. Vernon in 1797. He wrote:
We entered one of the huts of the blacks, for one can not call them by the name of houses. They are more miserable than the most miserable of the cottages of our peasants. The husband and wife sleep on a mean 44 pallet, the children on the ground; a very bad fireplace, some utensils for cooking, but in the middle of this poverty some cups and a teapot.29
Those people who did come, primarily from England or France (although some were from states in the north that had abolished slavery), came from societies where slavery had never existed or had been recently abolished. They therefore tended to view the slave-based economies of the South with some distaste although some tried to prevent their personal feelings from coloring their reports. This opposition to slavery is very pronounced in many of these accounts, and this bias must be kept in mind when reading these travel descriptions. For example, Massachusetts resident Josiah Quincy, Junior, traveled to North and South Carolina in 1773. He observed the attitude of masters toward their mulatto offspring and wrote:
An African Black labors night and day to collect a small pittance to purchase the freedom of his child: the American or European White man begets his likeness and with much indifference and dignity of soul sees his progeny in bondage and misery, and makes not one effort to redeem his own blood. Choice food for satire --wide field for burlesque -- and noble game for wit! unless the enkindled blood inflame resentment, wrath and rage, and vent itself in execrations.30Yet even these descriptions, bleak as they are, include within them information about the material lives of slaves. Whether the 45 slaves and the conditions described were typical or atypical is not clear. However, there are enough clues in these accounts to give some suggestion of the kinds of goods found in slave quarters in the late eighteenth century.
The accounts of travelers who went to Africa in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries are also instructive in learning about black material culture. For example, the executors of Captain Hugh Crow of Liverpool, England, in 1830 published the memoirs of his travels to the west coast of Africa, and in particular Bonny, the imperial capitol of the Ibo, the area from which many of Virginia's slaves were taken. In these memoirs Captain Crow noted "most of the hard articles such as lead and iron bars, chests of beads, and marcelas (a kind of coin), they bury under the floors of their houses. Much valuable property is secreted in that way."31 Here is evidence that the root cellars found archaeologically at so many eighteenth-century slave sites may in fact be an African cultural tradition which was brought to the New World and survived over many years, and it comes from a traveler's account.
The study of eighteenth-century store records, merchants' accounts, craftsmen's accounts and plantation account books is essential for understanding the types of goods available for purchase in Tidewater Virginia during the eighteenth century and the way in which the monetary system functioned in the American colonies. In Virginia, with its tobacco-based economy, planters relied on middlemen in England and Scotland to sell their tobacco at an advantageous price, and then purchase goods for them at reasonable prices. With all such communications relying on the success of a ship's crossing from Virginia to England and then back again, both the colonists and their agents in England were never quite sure just how financially sound they were: a lost cargo could mean ruin for both.
For the Virginia shopkeeper, this tobacco-based economy had its own risks as well. Although many planters as well as urban dwellers used the services of an English agent to buy goods for them in London, many more people relied on the local shopkeeper to supply all manner of goods, from dinnerware to violin strings. Some of the merchants' sales were cash sales; these sales are noted as such in the account books and do not specify either the customer or the items purchased. However, most of the shopkeepers' customers purchased their goods on account, for the planters would not get any money until their crops had been harvested and sold. Accounts were often 47 reconciled yearly, with the shopkeeper hoping for a productive year and safe voyages. Thus it was in everybody's best interest for all concerned to keep accurate and detailed accounts.
The many craftsmen who worked in Virginia also kept account books which detailed their transactions. Depending upon the business of the craftsperson, these books listed the goods he made and sold, detailed repairs which were made to the customer's existing property, and specified any other miscellaneous services that the craftsperson might have performed. Like the merchants', craftsmen could, at best, expect payment every six to nine months at the least, and more likely, every year.
Examining all of these types of account books reveals the types of goods purchased in Tidewater Virginia for slaves' use. Purchases of shoes, stockings, livery, hats, blankets, and tools for the use of slaves are commonly found in these account books, and the frequent use of the same descriptive terms for these goods -- "Negro shoes," "plaid hose for Negroes," "Negro cotton" -- indicates that these were common items whose definition was well-understood by all residents of the region. For example, the account books of William Allason, a merchant in Falmouth, Virginia, record numerous sales of all kinds of goods for the use of slaves.32 Likewise, the plantation account books record purchases for the slaves, such as Robert Carter's purchase 48 of shoes for his slaves at Old Ordinary Quarter in November 1773.33
What is more surprising is that in the pages of these account books are records of payments made directly to slaves for goods and services and for purchases which they made on account (because of the nature of the transaction, it is impossible to know the details of cash sales to slaves). These purchases, made by individual slaves, are one of the few indications of what goods slaves acquired for themselves and confirm that slaves were eager participants in Virginia's market economy. For example, between 1760 and 1768, Jack, a slave who belonged to a Mr. Linton's estate in Colchester, Virginia, kept a running account with Glassford & Company. He purchased, among other things, textiles, liquor, knives, cooking equipment, and tools.34 Another slave named Jack purchased an iron pot from William Allason in 1776.35 These were only two of the many slaves who utilized their skills to acquire the products they wanted. Thus, a careful reading of these accounts, combined with other 49 information about slave goods, gives important clues about objects that very probably were in slave quarters.
As might be expected, eighteenth-century or early nineteenth-century accounts of slavery written by slaves (or former slaves) are rare. Runaway slave advertisements (see above) indicate that a respectable number of Virginia slaves knew the rudiments of reading and writing, but it appears that not many slaves wrote such pieces, and if they did, few survived. One narrative which did was written by James Carter in 1807 in Alexandria telling about his own experiences as a slave and recalling the death of his brother, who was a runaway.36 It is a poignant description of how a family was split, a brother killed, and how one slave gained his freedom. Other narratives, such as the one written by Olaudah Equiano (also known as Gustavus Vassa), an Ibo from what is now Nigeria who was made a slave in 1756, describe life in Africa.3750
However, most of the surviving slave narratives were either written in the nineteenth century or describe conditions during the nineteenth century. They can be used only with the utmost caution in describing conditions during the eighteenth century. This is because, as one might expect, conditions of slavery changed dramatically during the period from 1800 to 1860. As the black population grew and the South became more urbanized, more and more restrictive laws were passed, regulating everything from the movement of slaves to their hiring and their manumission. Additionally, most of the surviving nineteenth-century slave narratives and the oral histories recorded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s deal with slavery in Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, and South Carolina. The experience of slavery in these states was markedly different from the experience of slavery in Virginia, even in the nineteenth century. Descriptions of living conditions, clothing, housing and slave life in these states might indicate slaves' experiences sixty to seventy-five years before, but even Virginia slave narratives from the nineteenth century have to be regarded as suggestive of earlier conditions, not as accurate descriptions.38
Furthermore, it is important to realize that most of these narratives, as well as the oral interviews conducted during 51 the 1930s, were directed to the white reader. The former slaves were often interviewed by whites (although this was not the case in Virginia), and so were acutely conscious of wanting to tell the interviewer what he wanted to hear -- that despite the difficulties, it wasn't so bad to be a slave. In addition, many of informants were young children during the last years of slavery, and so carried a child's perspective of the experience, even though they may have been told stories about events that had happened to parents and relatives years before. These narratives are interesting to read, but they unfortunately are not reliable source materials for the study of eighteenth-century slavery.
One of the sources used by curators for planning furnishings for the exhibition buildings is period illustrations -- prints or paintings of people, places, rooms and objects that illustrate eighteenth-century objects in an eighteenth-century context. Illustrations of interiors are especially important for furnishing exhibition buildings, for these visual representations of the eighteenth-century make the job of choosing appropriate objects and placing them in context in an appropriate manner much easier. England was especially rich in skilled artists and printmakers who took delight in exposing the pretensions and foibles of all classes, leaving to future generations not only an 52 insight into political and social questions of the day but also a glimpse of how the eighteenth century may have actually looked. Unfortunately, this did not extend to slave quarters.
To date (1993), eighteenth-century views of the interior of slave dwellings have not been found. There are some late eighteenth-century views of slaves and the exteriors of slave houses available, notably by Benjamin Latrobe,39 but these tell little about the earlier period. The images surviving from this period (e.g., John Singleton Copley's "Watson and the Shark;" John Trumbull's "The Death of Major Pierson;" the anonymous "The Old Plantation) show individual slaves or groups of slaves (giving good indications of slave clothing), or building exteriors. Views of slaves and slave quarters from the nineteenth century exist, many of which show interiors of slave dwellings. However, because these views reflect conditions eighty to one hundred years after the period exhibited at Carter's Grove, they were of little use in this particular project.
Almost twenty years ago, during the salvage archaeological investigations carried out prior to the building of the modern Kingsmill residential community owned by the Anheuser-Busch Corporation on the site of the eighteenth century Kingsmill plantation owned by the Burwell family, archaeologist William Kelso discovered some very interesting features which he had not previously encountered in his other investigations of eighteenth-century sites. These features were small rectangular pits which appeared to have been dug under the floors of certain buildings -- the purpose of these pits was at that time unknown. The pits were filled with ceramic fragments, broken wine bottles, coins, buttons, and other domestic refuse, including animal bones. 40
In the years following this discovery, other archaeologists found similar pits at other sites in the South, and reinterpreted the findings from other sites, including Carter's Grove. William Kelso found more of these pits on the site of Monticello's Mulberry Row, where Jefferson's slaves lived, with remains similar to those found in other pits at other sites.41 On the basis of the evidence dug from the ground as 54 well as corroborating documentary evidence, it now seems certain that these pits were dug by slaves under the floors of their quarters to store goods of one type or another: food, clothing, tools, or things which a slave might not want a master to see.
It is discoveries such as these which point out how important archaeology is to reconstructing the material culture of eighteenth-century Virginia slavery. The types of artifacts recovered by archaeologists are limited to those things which the ground will more or less preserve: objects of wood, metal or ceramic, and remains of plants and animals. Yet these objects are precisely the objects for which documentary references are limited and inconclusive.
If one were to rely solely on documentary evidence, one would think that slaves subsisted on a diet primarily of corn and some pork, with perhaps some chicken or fish. The archaeological evidence reveals a varied diet of meat, including, but not limited to, pork and chicken, fish, vegetables and fruit, and grains other than corn.42 Similarly, documentary sources say next to nothing about what slaves used as eating utensils and dishes, but the archaeological evidence from most slave sites invariably reveals a variety of ceramic types and forms which were available to slaves. How these forms were acquired cannot be revealed archaeologically -- this is information that other types of evidence supply -- but the ceramic remains point to an 55 environment that was heavily influenced by the culture around it and individuals who had no hesitation in using the products of that culture.
What started as a hasty though systematic effort to consolidate sources for the material culture of eighteenth-century Virginia slaves turned into a project which has revealed the complexity and diversity of slave life of the period. Used as a whole, all of the types of sources discussed in this chapter confirm that eighteenth-century slaves lived in a complex culture in which they had access, in one way or another, to many of the products available at that time. Only by using all of these sources, taking into account their weaknesses as well as their strengths, was it possible to develop a plausible furnishing plan for the slave quarters at Carter's Grove.
After studying the sources discussed in the previous chapter, it became apparent that eighteenth-century Tidewater Virginia slaves lived in a more varied and complex material world than previously believed. They had access to many types of goods, both imported and domestic, and were able to acquire many items for themselves in a variety of ways. This accessibility to goods was not limited to those slaves who lived in urban environments but was also available to those slaves who lived on rural plantations.
There were certainly differences in what slaves acquired and used. Slaves who lived on rural farms and plantations did not have as ready access to imported goods as did slaves who lived in urban areas. Artisans, whether they were blacksmiths, seamstresses, shoemakers, or joiners, were able to make a wider variety of items for their own use, and for sale, than field hands. Slaves who lived in close contact with whites, whether on a plantation or in an urban household, had different ideas about what was desirable than did slaves who lived at an isolated quarter far from a white master or overseer. Understanding how these goods were procured is essential to understanding the furnishing decisions for each of Colonial Williamsburg's slave sites.
Slaves, whether urban or rural, artisan or field hand, obtained most of their possessions from their owners -- indeed, the best documented slave possessions are those that were given to or provided for them. They were given living quarters and were regularly issued clothing, food, and the tools required to do their assigned tasks.
Most of the documentation associated with slave furnishings pertains to these items and makes clear that slave owners spent a great deal of time and money on procuring furnishings for slaves. Furthermore, the great attention that slaveowners paid to procuring these goods and to ensuring that there were adequate amounts of them for their slaves, leads to some generalizations as to how the slaveowners regarded these items. In fact, there appears to have been a generally accepted minimum level of furnishings that masters supplied to slaves and that slaves, especially those born in Virginia, expected to receive.1
An enormous amount of time, energy, and money was spent by slave owners, especially those with rural plantations, to make 58 sure that their slaves had proper clothing for each season. Linda Baumgarten, in her articles, "'Clothes for the People': Slave Clothing in Early Virginia," and "Plains, Plaid and Cotton: Woolens for Slave Clothing," thoroughly documents the types of clothing slaves wore, seasonal variations in clothing, special types of clothing given to slaves (such as livery), variations in clothing between house slaves and field hands, and the lengths to which owners went to make sure that this clothing was serviceable but obtained at the best price.2 Correspondence between George Washington and one of his plantation overseers went on for months about blankets, blanket prices, differences in materials, and which slave would get which type of blanket.3 He was only one of many owners who paid such close attention to keeping costs down. Yet once this clothing was given to a slave, it disappeared from the slave owner's inventory of goods. Whatever clothing or blankets a slave had at the time of the master's death was not reflected in the probate inventories; once clothing or blankets were given to slaves, these items were no longer perceived as being the master's property.
The same was true for food. Many probate inventories 59 listed "corn for the Negroes,"4 and many owners specified in instructions to overseers and managers that slaves were to be given specific types and quantities of food. In 1732, William Hugh Grove, an Englishman, visited Virginia and noted that "[the slaves] are allowed a peck of Indian Corn per Week...."5 Joseph Ball, writing from England to his nephew, Joseph Chinn, in Virginia in 1743/4, specified that "[t]he old Ewes and Rams, before they are too old, must be kill'd, & given to the Negroes; and they at the Quarters must have part...."6 In 1767, Landon Carter wrote "Note: we took out this day 16 Bushels of eared Corn from the M[angorike] Corn house to make the peoples' allowance."7 Even as late as 1842, in Cecil County, Maryland, slaves could expect to receive regular allotments of food: Martha Ogle Forman noted in her diary that "Mr. Nowland gave out the people's meat, he gave each a hog's head and made out the rest of the allowance with beef."8 But it is clear from the 60 record that once this food was actually given to the slaves, it, too, ceased to be the master's property.
In contrast, agricultural and trade tools appeared often in probate inventories, indicating that they never ceased to be the property of the slaveowner.9 They were supplied to slaves so that they could do their jobs and were never intended to be items that "disappeared" from the slaveowner's control. When slaves ran away, their clothing was described as a means of identification, but when tools were taken by the runaway, the tools were listed with the intention of describing property that was stolen from the master by the slave.10 When inventories of slave quarters were taken for purposes other than probate (taxes, leases) tools were always listed as part of the property, along with slaves, livestock and buildings, i.e., they were considered an integral part of the property. Food and clothing were not included in the inventories.1161
From this evidence, it appears that slaveowners subconsciously divided the items they provided for their slaves into two types: items that were issued to slaves on a regular basis (which we shall call "issues") and items that were supplied to slaves as necessary to do their work ("supplies"). The items that were issued to slaves were, for the most part, consumables - - items that would be worn out or used up relatively quickly and thus had no lasting value. Even though slaves may have saved their worn clothing and blankets, mending and reusing them as necessary, the fact is that these items disappeared from the slaveowners' records, and masters did not seem to care what subsequently happened to them.
The same held true for food. Masters provided the most basic of foodstuffs for daily living, and once it was rationed out, the slaves could do what they wanted with it. And they frequently did -- in 1787 a slave member of Water Lick Baptist Church in Shenandoah County was accused of selling his master's bacon; the slave initially denied the charge but then stated that 62 "what he sold was his own property given him by his master for his own private use [and] [t]hat he sold it in pity to the buyer."12 Masters were concerned that their slaves be adequately supplied -- but, again, once they had distributed the food, they felt they had fulfilled their duty and what happened to the food itself was no longer their responsibility.
Agricultural and trade tools were different. These were supplied to slaves and represented capital expenses, necessary for the smooth operation of the household and plantation. They were the equivalent of today's tractor or combine -- owned by the farmer and provided to the worker so that the job could be done quickly and efficiently. Overseers, whether slave or free, were responsible for these tools and held accountable for them, even if the slave kept them at his quarters rather than in a central location. Surviving agreements with overseers, and slaveowners' journal entries make it clear that there was a specific set of equipment that overseers and lease-holders expected plantation owners to provide for them. Probate inventories, store accounts, and lease agreements clearly list these tools.13 Slave holders kept track of this equipment 63 and expected that it would remain on the property. If a piece of equipment were particularly valuable, it would be closely monitored by the owner or overseer. And if a slave were sold, his clothing might go with him, but his tools would not. In brief, it is clear that Virginia slaveowners regarded "issues" as the personal property of the slaves, despite the fact that private ownership by slaves was legally forbidden - - in other words, these "issues" were considered part of the slaves' peculium.14 Whether slaveowners thought that these "issues" had any value to themselves is not known; what is known is that these items ceased to be regarded as the slaveowner's property once they were given to the slave. Hence they were never listed as assets even in probate inventories. "Supplies," on the other hand, never became the slaves' property and thus never lost their value to the slaveowner. They therefore can be found in probate inventories and lease agreements where even old and broken equipment is valued.
Of course, the nature of these "issues" and "supplies" varied enormously according to the master's economic status and how the master wished to be perceived in the community, the slave's location, and the slave's particular occupation. But, in general, this division of goods into "consumables" and "capital goods" was a determining factor in how masters regarded these 64 particular types of items.
On May 30, 1788, Col. Francis Taylor, a planter in Orange County, Virginia, recorded in his diary that "Col Taliaferro[']s Ned [a slave] brought Nails, Rolls [fabric] etc from Mr Blairs -- G T [George Taylor, Francis's brother] paid Ned 1/3 for Waggonage, he said his master allowed him such small matters."15 This short notation, recording the payment of cash to a slave for his personal use, appears, initially, to be an isolated instance of a slave earning money in eighteenth-century Virginia. But in fact, it is one of the anomalies of eighteenth-century Tidewater Virginia slavery that even though slaves were regarded as property, bought and sold like livestock, they were also active participants in the region's market economy. Slaveowner after slaveowner recorded in detail -- in diaries, letters and account books -- the payments made to slaves for their crops, their goods, and their labor.16 And with the money they earned, slaves went to local merchants, fellow slaves, free blacks, poor whites, and other masters to purchase goods for 65 themselves and their families.
If slaves were active participants in the market economy, the question naturally arises as to why slaves were allowed to earn money in the first place. After all, if a slave were the property of someone, was the slave's owner not entitled to the profit of his labor? Yes, slaveowners did derive benefit from the labor of their slaves and expected that they would complete the tasks assigned to them by the master. But once slaves completed their tasks for the day, many (if not most) slaveowners allowed slaves to use the time left over as they wished: to cultivate gardens near their quarters, raise chickens, or make stools, baskets and other goods. In fact, this appears to have been somewhat of an unspoken contractual arrangement: both master and slave knew that the slaveowner was entitled by law to employ his slaves as he wished, to set them to tasks of his choosing, and reap the benefits of their labors. In return, slaves knew that they would receive basic clothing, a minimum amount of rations, and basic shelter. Furthermore, slaves knew that whatever they might make or produce for themselves on their own time was subject to confiscation at any time by the slave owner. But most masters accepted the fact that slaves would work, after the appointed tasks were completed, at tasks they wanted to do -- tasks that would increase their stock of food or clothing, give them merchandise to sell, or enhance their lives in some way. This arrangement appears to have been commonplace throughout most of the eighteenth century.66
Food products were the most common items that slaves sold. During their free time slaves raised poultry and pigs, grew vegetables, and caught fish, sometimes for their own use, and sometimes for sale. This practice of slaves using their free time to supplement their diets as well as produce goods for sale was noted fairly early by travelers. Edward Kimber, an English novelist who traveled through Maryland in 1745 and 1746, described a slave quarter as "a Number of Huts or Hovels, built some Distance from the Mansion-House; where the Negroes reside with their wives and Families and cultivate at vacant times the little Spots allow'd them."17 Dick, a slave owned by Spencer Ball in Spottsylvania County, was allowed to build a log house, grow corn and watermelon, and raise chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese.18 Nathaniel Burwell's ledger reflects many payments to slaves, some of them for food.19 William Johnston, Francis Jerdone's predecessor as the eastern Virginia agent for Buchanan & Hamilton of London ca. 1736, kept an account of goods he sold to slaves in exchange for peas. These men and women bought fabric (including lace and silk), liquor, hats, eating utensils 67 and even cheese in exchange for their produce.20 Landon Carter knew that his slaves used their free time to produce items for sale and took advantage of it by forcing them to buy the linen for some of their clothing with the fruits of their labor.21 James Mercer, writing in 1779 to a friend in Loudoun County, wrote, "I know allready that Chickens or other fresh meat cant be had but in exchange & Bacon to spare will allow me a preference with the Country people or rather Negroes who are the general Chicken merchants...."22 Francis Taylor wrote in his diary in May, 1795, that his "Negroes [were] planting for themselves,"23 and he also purchased such items as carp, oysters, cabbages, and potatoes for his own table from his slaves.24 And in one instance traveller Thomas Anburey described a planter near Charlottesville who, instead of providing his slaves with the 68 usual rations, "grant[ed] his negroes an acre of ground, and all Saturday afternoon to raise grain and poultry for themselves."25 There were even instances where plantation owners advised their overseers "to keep the keys of the folks' Cornhouse or else they will sell it, and starve themselves."26 Slaves were apparently ready and willing to sell almost anything to get money for themselves.
Slaves also earned money through selling products of their skilled labor. Robert Carter observed in 1731 that his slaves "surely must depend on a great deal of their Time in making Pails & Piggins & Churns for Merchandizing. Manuel tells me the smith does a great many jobs for neighbours...."27 In 1759 a slave named Jemmy ran away from Middletown, Pennsylvania, and his owner advertised that "he understands making of Corn Baskets, and it is supposed he will go about to sell them...."28 Jack, the slave who belonged to the estate of Mr. Linton near Colchester, Virginia, earned credit of over £100 from Glassford & Co. over the course of ten years (1759-1769) for mending bridges, 69 building furniture and selling poultry, among other things.29 In 1768 William Allason paid John Fitzhugh's "Negro Harry" for "puting up Shelves in Kitchen & making Stairs &c."30 And in 1796 Francis Taylor paid his half-brother's slave, Tom, for "2 days work hooping nest ware & repairs of Porch etc...."31
Francis Taylor's hiring of his half-brother's slave points out another way in which slaves earned money. Through the "hiring out" system, slaveowners "loaned" their slaves to friends, neighbors and relatives in return for what was regarded as a fair-market wage. This was especially true when a slave had a specialized skill such as midwifery or blacksmithing that was needed on another plantation. In 1766, Landon Carter charged his son, John, for the hiring of Landon's slave, Jammy, to do some brick work.32 William Allason hired the slaves of several of his customers in 1772 and 1773 to do carpentry.33 And in 1786, Robert Carter of Nomini Hall wrote to his neighbor, William Benjamin, asking to send his ill slave, Guy, to Benjamin's house to be under the care of his slave, David, who was skilled in 70 medical matters.34 Martha Ogle Forman noted in 1816 that her husband "hired our Black Man Henry Allen to Thomas Stephens for $60 a year."35 Even beyond this, some masters gave slaves permission to hire themselves out and keep most of the money they made for themselves! In 1760, Andrew Burnaby, travelling through the Northern Neck of Virginia, met a slave whose master had "kindly given him a small piece of ground, and the profits of the ferry [over either the Acquia, Quantico or Occoquan Rivers], which were indeed very inconsiderable, for his maintenance;..."36 In 1786, Francis Taylor paid a slave woman for making several articles of clothing, and throughout his diary, Taylor noted the payments made to slaves for all types of work done for him or his relatives.37 It was in reaction to this practice, which became more and more frequent towards the end of the eighteenth century, that laws regulating the hiring out of slaves were passed in the early nineteenth century.3871
Slaves also earned money through tips. In 1768, in a letter to his cousin, John Hatley Norton, John Frere of London asked him to send any plant or animal fossils that might be found in the area. Frere wrote "if such Things are to be found, the Negroes I suppose for a small Gratuity would bring them to you."39 On Christmas Day in 1773, Philip Vickers Fithian, tutor to the children of Robert Carter of Nomini Hall, wrote in his diary:
"Nelson the Boy who makes my Fire, blacks my shoes, does errands &c. was early in my Room, drest only in his shirt and Breeches! He made me a vast fire, blacked my Shoes, set my Room in order, and wish'd me a joyful Christmas, for which I gave him half a Bit. --Soon after he left the Room, and before I was Drest, the fellow who makes the Fire in our School Room, drest very neatly in green, but almost drunk, entered my chamber with three or four profound Bows & made me the same salutation, I gave him a Bit, and dismissed him as soon as possible. -- Soon after my Cloths and Linen were sent in with a message for a Christmas Box, as they call it; I sent the poor Slave a Bit, & my thanks. -- I was obliged for want of small change, to put off for some days the Barber who shaves & dresses me....[he recorded several other payments made that day]-- So that the sum of my Donations to the Servants, for this Christmas appears to be five Bits,..."40
And George Washington, in 1794, wrote to one of his overseers, William Pearce, "...Remember to give John the Gardener a dollar, the last day of every month, provided he behaves well; letting him know that it is on that express condition he is to receive it."4172
With the money that slaves earned they were able to buy goods of their own choosing, and the goods they bought were as varied as the lower end of the economy offered. In 1737, "Negro Jack" bought fabric, scissors, thread, hose, and penknives from Thomas Partridge.42 "Negroe John Belonging to Madam Thorn" bought a looking glass and a linen handkerchief from William Allason in 1761.43 "Negroe Jack," who had made furniture and other wooden articles for Glassford & Co. (see above), bought a wide range of goods, from rum and fabric to a wine glass and a plane iron between 1760 and 1769.44 In Bedford County, Virginia, Richard Stith's slave, Sukey, was able to purchase a mirror and some ribbon with money she received for selling "cotton in ye seed."45 Robert Carter noted in his diary in 1785 that he "paid old Nat a dollar he wanted, he wanted to buy Brandy to bury his Granddaughter Lucy, but I refused to sell; telling 73 him he might lay out his Annuity as he pleased."46 From these few examples, it is clear that Virginia slaves had access to a wide range of goods, that they wanted to have these goods, and that they were able to pay for these goods themselves.
As might be expected, slaves also obtained some of their goods by theft. Some of this theft was undoubtedly carried out in order to have goods to sell and thus earn money. In 1737, Jacob, a slave belonging to William Fantleroy in Richmond County, stole "two Cloth Jackets...One pair of Britches...one Felt Hatt...Two Woolen Caps...two new Oznabrig Shirts...one New Linen Shirt...One linen Sheet...One Frying pan [and] one Rug."47 In 1747, two of Landon Carter's slaves, Manuell and Ralph, were indicted for breaking into Carter's mansion and stealing "two hundred and thirty three Ells of Dreheda Canvas....Four Torinton Rugs...Four suits of Cotton Cloath...Ten yards of Half Thicks...Four Sides of Leather...Five files...[and] Two Dozen Hose."48 Goods stolen in such quantities were undoubtedly intended for resale. George Washington, in 1793, acknowledged such trade when he tried to prevent his former carpenter's 74 daughter from going into business as he feared "her shop wd. be no more than a receptacle for stolen produce by the Negroes."49 He knew that without this source of cheap goods, poor whites "would be unable to live upon the miserable land they occupy."50
Although the available documentation suggests that slaves more often stole goods to sell than to keep themselves, there were instances in which slaves took goods for their own use. In 1770 Landon Carter complained about a butter pot that had been taken from his dairy. After considerable searching, including a search of all of the slaves' "holes and boxes" (a possible reference to the holes that have been found archaeologically at sites at Carter's Grove, Kingsmill and Monticello), the pot was found in the loft of a slave.51 Carter further wrote in his diary on August 4, 1774, that he
"Cleaned out my Well this day.... Abundance of trash, mud and things tumbled and thrown in, Particularly a Plow gardiner Johnny stole 3 years ago and offered to sell that and another to Robin Smith, who, being a Penitant, Advised him to go and Put it where it might be found; but Johnny being suspected got whipped for them and threw them both into the Well as he told Robin Smith...."52In 1794 Francis Taylor wrote in his journal that "Elijah Brockman & Roger Bell was here & serched the Negro's houses for sundry 75 cloathes stolen from the former, but made no discovery."53 One year later, he noted that he "paid 4/. for 8w soap to E Chew[']s Hannah. She said it was the property of Aunt Taylor[']s Phoebe."54 Martha Blodget wrote in her diary that "My negroes stole 9 fat hoggs from me whilst I was from home & I am determined not to give them any of the pork raised at the quarter."55 And John Hemmings wrote to Thomas Jefferson in 1821 that "the moment your back is turned from the place Nace takes everything out of the garden and carries them to his cabin and buries them in the ground and says that they are for the use of the house. "56
Michael Nicholls has conjectured that these thefts may have been committed more as a means of escape than as a method of acquiring additional goods.57 Slaves stole textiles, leather, small objects, and food that could be used for sustenance, bribery, or disguise during an escape. Sam, "a bright Mulatto 76 Man Slave," used his stolen items in precisely that fashion. His master advertised in the Virginia Gazette that Sam had taken with him "his Bedding, a new spotted Rug which he had stolen, and several Yards of mixed coloured Broadcloth, cut from a whole Piece that he had stolen, the remainder of which he distributed amongst the Sloop's Crew to bribe them to Secrecy."58
Bartering was another way that slaves obtained goods for themselves. This method served both master and slave very well, although slaves might have preferred cash over goods. Landon Carter wrote in 1777 that "My Poor Slaves raise fowls, and eggs in order to exchange with their Master now and then;...."59 Francis Taylor often obtained some of his produce from various slaves by means of barter: in August 1788 he "bought some Grass seed of Col Taliaferro's Jack for Pr breeches;" in March 1790 "Reu Taylor's Sam brought some Timothy seed for which I [Francis Taylor] gave him a Jacket;" five years later in July 1795, Taylor "bought 1 doz chickens of Col Willis's Phil he had a pair Breeches & to pay me 1/6 worth more." And in an interesting exchange in August, 1798, Taylor gave "old Joe a quart whisky for 77 a peck onions."60
Barter may also have been used between slaves themselves, though little information has survived concerning such exchanges. That slaves had a certain degree of mobility is clear. In February 1772 Landon Carter wrote in his diary of the death (probably by exposure) of his slave Guy, who, he said, "went to Currie's [a neighboring plantation] to see his wife as usual on Monday night last."61 Nicholas Cresswell, visiting from England in 1774, wrote that on Sundays the blacks "generally meet together and amuse themselves with Dancing to the Banjo."62 In 1784, J.F.D. Smyth, another Englishman touring America, described instances where a slave would walk "six or seven miles in the night, be the weather ever so sultry, to a negroe dance...."63 Richard Dozier, writing a history of the Baptist Church in Virginia's Northern Neck, noted an August day in 1786 when "Negro Lewis Belonging to Mr. Brockenbrough in Essex Spake Aug. 12, Sunday, to about 300 people at Mr. Jno. Coates, on Jude."64 But what kind of trade, if any, occurred on these occasions is unknown. Landon Carter referred to "night shops" 78 when talking about the death of Guy, but it is unclear who was selling and who was buying at such places;65 they may have been unlicensed ordinarys rather than actual shops. In any case, it is very clear that many slaves had the opportunity for intraslave commerce.
There are few documented instances of what was surely a prevalent practice: the handing down of used or out-of-date goods from master to slave. Although it is a long-standing Southern tradition that servants, whether slave or free, were given gifts of old clothing or furniture, what may have been a wide-spread practice in the eighteenth-century is not at all well documented. What documentation exists is primarily in the area of clothing and other textiles, and this documentation is primarily from three sources, in the letters of Joseph Ball from England to his nephew, Joseph Chinn, in Virginia, in the diary of Martha Blodget at Cawsons, Virginia, and in the diary of Martha Ogle Forman, who lived in Cecil County, Maryland.
Joseph Ball was very generous to his slaves and regularly sent his own discarded clothing, as well as that of his slaves in London, to Virginia to be distributed as he directed. In 1749 he wrote to Chinn 79
"The old Cloths must be disposed of, as follows: The Grey Coat Wastecoat & breeches, with brass buttons, and the hat to poor Will: The stuff shirt to Mingo: and the Dimmity Coat & breeches and the knife in the pocket to Harrison: and Aron's Old Livery with one pair of the Leather breeches and one of the Linen frocks to Moses: and the other frock and rags & [illeg.] as you think fit."In 1752 Ball sent clothing worn by his slave, Aron Jameson, to Virginia, and directed Chinn to "dispose of the Linen, and old Cloths among my people as you find proper." In 1754, when Aron himself was sent to Virginia, he was accompanied by a whole range of goods, including a mattress, clothing, cooking utensils, tools, and a violin. Ball directed Chinn to "have one of the worst of my old Bed steads cut short & fit for his Mattress, and have a cord and hide to it." Again, in 1756 Ball notified Chinn that he was sending used goods to Virginia, including "a suit of old cloths & pair of breeches and two pair of Stockings for Aron: and an old cloth wastecoat for Harrison and a parcell of foul Pipes which dispose of to my folks as you think fit...." Even after Ball's death his son-in-law, Rawleigh Downman, continued this practice; in 1762 he sent a "box which contains a parcel of old Cloaths & foul pipes, which my Father had broke & design'd for the Negroes; the old Cloaths at the top of the box viz. A Banjan & waistcoat, a Baragon Suit & Breeches, Shoes & Stockings & pipes please to distribute among them as you think fit...."6680
Martha Dangerfield Bland Blodget, who lived at "Cawsons" in Prince George County, Virginia, in the last decade of the eighteenth century, provided the expected new clothing for her slaves. But she also, on occasion, gave an individual an article of hand-me-down clothing. Early in 1795, she noted in her diary that she "Gave Peg a callico gown & a mourning ring (for her old Mistress F.B--) for her care & fidelity in managing my Bacon," and in April, 1795, she gave another slave, Paul, "a good cloth coat of his master's a white cloth lined with dove-colored Satten, for his faithful conduct to his mistress." However, the other references to slave clothing which occur in the printed excerpts of her diary appear to be new clothing.67
Almost thirty years later, in March 1821, Martha Ogle Forman wrote in her diary that she "Mended three old waistcoats of the General's for Lewis, 1 yellow and 2 white ones, put new backs in his two linsey jackets." Four years later, in 1825, she remade the slaves' clothes to give to other slaves: "Made Henny a frock out of Harriot's blue bombazett, turned it and it looks very smart. Turned Rebecca's bombazett frock given to her by Miss Bryan. Turned Artemesia's for Harriot, and gave Harriot a new red one."68 The many entries in Mrs. Forman's diary pertaining to cloth and clothing make it clear that she spent a great deal of time making sure that her slaves were adequately clothed, although it is not known how common it was for a 81 mistress to remake or repair clothing for slaves. It is unclear from many of these entries whether she was providing new clothes or hand-me-downs.
The archaeological recovery of ceramics and other durable goods from slave sites, when coupled with the plantation records of that particular site, can give some indication of whether or not the slaves acquired these objects after they were no longer needed in the master's house. However, most archaeologically recovered ceramics from slave quarters do not cross-mend with ceramics found at the master's home at the same site. This may indicate that such ceramics were deliberate hand-me-downs (after the master had acquired new goods), were discarded items retrieved by slaves, or were ceramics that were specially purchased for slave use. Unfortunately, documentation for any of these sources is virtually non-existent. We will probably never know how widespread were gifts of outmoded furniture and other goods to slaves in the eighteenth century. Even if it happened frequently, the event was likely to go unrecorded.
Learning how slaves obtained their goods clarifies the complex economic system in which slaves lived and with which they dealt. On the most basic level, slaves relied upon their owners for simple shelter, a minimum of clothing, and for a basic amount 82 of food. There were certainly slaves whose lives reflected this level of existence.69 However, as individual slaves gained experience and skills which enabled them to produce marketable goods or services, they were able to acquire the cash needed to purchase goods on the open market. Even more importantly, the informal "understandings" that many masters and slaves had regarding the circumstances under which slaves could work for themselves became an accepted part of the master-slave relationship in eighteenth-century Tidewater Virginia.
By the end of the eighteenth century, the informal understanding between master and slave that slaves were free to work for themselves once their assigned tasks had been completed enabled many slaves to accumulate sufficient capital to purchase goods in the open market. The many diary, journal and account entries reviewed for this project70 make clear that slaves expected such an arrangement and that even some masters depended upon it as well. The goods that slaves purchased with their earnings were, by and large, the same types of goods that were available to whites. However, although goods of every quality were available for purchase, it is doubtful that slaves were able to accumulate enough capital to buy goods of higher quality. Furthermore, it is presumed that slaves traded with other slaves and in addition may have carried on some type of trade with poor 83 whites or Native Americans.
Recognizing that slaves had access, in a variety of ways, to a multiplicity of goods, it therefore follows that the slave sites should reflect, in the differing situations presented, a variety of goods, ranging from the basic items provided by the master to goods purchased by the slaves themselves. A discussion of these goods by type -- ceramics, tools, furniture, etc. -- will then make more clear the reasons why various types and qualities of goods were chosen to furnish individual Colonial Williamsburg sites.
Having established that slaves had access to a variety of goods from a variety of sources, it was important to learn about these goods in order to make suitable choices of specific objects for the various slave sites. The following questions were considered while making these choices, and though only the first question could be adequately answered, the remainder of the questions were also taken into account while preparing the furnishings plan.
The following discussions of each category of slave possessions and furnishings present an overview of the known information about each category and outline trends suggested by that evidence. In addition, a brief indication is given of the general mode of furnishing for the slave sites; more detailed listings will be given in a subsequent chapter. In general, most of the available information about the material culture of eighteenth century Virginia slaves deals with rural rather than urban slaves. Although it is likely that urban slaves had many of the same types of goods as rural slaves, the research which would provide more information on this area is yet to be completed.
The clothing that Virginia slaves wore and the materials from which the clothing was made have been thoroughly discussed by Linda Baumgarten in two articles, "'Clothes for the People:' Slave Clothing in Early Virginia," and "Plains; Plaid and Cotton: Woolens for Slave Clothing."1 Baumgarten 86 conclusively documents the types of clothing worn by slaves, the fabrics from which they were fashioned, and the ways in which slaves might have altered their clothing or added to it in order to personalize it. A summary of her findings is given below.
As noted in the discussion of how slaves obtained their goods, clothing was one of the items that slaves expected their master to supply. Most rural Virginia slaves received clothing twice a year, in the spring and the fall, and what was issued was similar to the clothing that Robert Carter specified his Negroes should receive in 1795:
each male Negro 9 years old, and upwards to have one Waistcoat and breeches, one pair of Woolen Hose one pair of Summer Breeches, two oznabrigs shirts, one Blankett, and one pair of Shoes each, Each Female Negro 8 years old and upwards to have one Jackcoat and Petticoat one pair of Woolen Hose, two oznaburg shifts, one blankett, one summer Petticoat, one one [sic] pair of Shoes each, of the younger Negroes to have one Woollen frock, the males one shirt the females one shift, the summer Breeches and Petticoats & Shirts & Shifts for Children to be furnished the first Monday in June, the other cloathing & Blanketts to be furnished the first Monday in December.2In 1787 he had instructed "Mr. Jones to Deliver out Shirts & Shifts to Supply one half of the Negroes at the Follow9 plantations the Oversr thereat to distribute the said Shirts and Shifts to the people who want the most viz Gemini[,] Taurus[,] Forest[,] Old Ordinary[,] & Coles point."387
George Washington issued clothes annually. He described the type of clothing issued to one slave in a letter to his overseer, Anthony Whiting: "Sarah Flatfoot (you call her Lightfoot) has been accustomed to receive a pair of Shoes, Stockings, a Country cloth Petticoat, and an Oznabrig shift, all ready made, annually, and it is not meant to discontinue them: You will therefore furnish them to her."4 That this type of clothing was recognized as "slave clothing" is reinforced by the many references in runaway advertisements to a slave wearing clothing "in the usual manner for Negroes"5 or to a shirt or breeches made of "Negro cotton."6 This basic "uniform" was most commonly seen on slaves who were plantation workers.
While some planters issued finished clothing to their slaves (either made by the mistress, a hired tailor or seamstress, or other slaves), others provided textiles for slaves to make their own. Francis Taylor in Orange County often issued cloth to Hannah who made clothing for herself, her children, and other slaves. In 1795 Taylor "let her have 5 yards green Cotton for Jacket & Petticoat."7 Several years earlier in 1788, he gave Nanny "4 yards Linen for George & thread to make his Shirt & 88 Cloaths."8 Joseph Ball gave his nephew, Joseph Chinn, directions on providing clothing for babies:
Let the Breeding Wenches have Baby Cloths; for which you may tear up old Sheets, or any other old Linen, that you can find in my house (I shall send things proper hereafter) ....9
Other slaves, although they may have been supplied with the same basic clothing, had the opportunity and means to supplement their wardrobes. This additional clothing was either supplied by their masters -- for example, a suit of livery for an urban male house servant, or old clothing handed down to a favored slave -- or was procured by the slave himself in a variety of ways, either through purchase of the material necessary to make the clothing, through purchase of the finished garment (new or used), or through the alteration of existing clothing. Slaves purchased old clothing from their masters and new cloth from merchants, and it is likely clothing circulated freely as second-hand goods available to both whites and blacks. Francis Taylor sold his "old blue Coat to Hudson[']s James" and his "old grey coat" and "old shirt" to Joe in 1789.10 "Negro Jack at Foxes" preferred to purchase his clothing and textiles from the merchant Thomas Partridge. In 1737 he bought "3 Ells Dowlas," "2 yds Stript Holland", "thread, scissors, " "2 yards 89 Negatepants," "3 yds Plains," "1 pr. Womens yarn Hoes," and "1 yd Swanskin."11 Landon Carter saved money by forcing his slaves to purchase clothing directly from him,12 while Joseph Ball, Martha Blodget and Martha Ogle Forman gave their slaves gifts of hand-me-down clothing.13 Store accounts document that slaves had thread, scissors and pins to use in the mending and making of clothes.14
Types of cloth used for slave clothing included brown linen, English and German Oznabrigs (coarse linen), brown cloth cotton, white Kendal cotton (both woolen fabrics), coarse woolens, plains (coarse woolen fabric), brown rolls (unbleached coarse linen), and ticklenburg.15 George Washington indicated that German and British oznabrigs served for shirts and shifts, 90 while brown rolls served for summer petticoats and trousers.16 Washington also bought two qualities of linen: he issued the better quality to adults and the lesser quality to the children.17
Planters issued shoes yearly, often in the fall.18 Every autumn Francis Taylor's shoemaker, Davy, was busy making shoes.19 In contrast, a mid-nineteenth-century source explained that once a year the planter provided shoes from Baltimore.20 Lord Dunmore and Thomas Everard ordered "Negroe shoes" from England,21 and though the exact design of the shoes is not clear, several descriptions from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and surviving shoes with slave associations suggest they were wooden-soled clogs with nailed-on uppers.22 How long 91 one pair of shoes lasted is unknown, but there is evidence that slaves had them mended. An account of Robert Carter of Nomini Hall shows that during the period November 28 - December 21, 1773, his shoemaker made 108 pairs of shoes and mended 11 pairs.23 It is probable that slaves did not receive new shoes until they completely wore out their old ones.
The great variety of clothing described in runaway advertisements attests to the varied dress of Virginia slaves throughout the eighteenth century. Field hands on rural plantations often had what might be called a "uniform": men wore breeches or trousers and a shirt, both of oznabrig, while women wore a shift and petticoat of the same fabric. Other rural slaves wore variations of the same clothing, sometimes adding a jacket or waistcoat, and perhaps stockings and shoes. If slaves worked inside a house, it is likely they wore more formal clothing, and some male house slaves, both rural and urban, wore livery. Much less is known about the clothing of urban slaves, although judging by runaway advertisements and other written descriptions, this clothing was probably as varied as that of 92 poor or middling whites. In all of these cases, the limited amounts of pictorial or descriptive information available makes it difficult to know precisely how slaves wore their clothing or how they modified or accessorized it.
In addition to clothing, planters issued textiles in the form of bedding, the most commonly issued and the most essential items being blankets. The rate of issuance of blankets varied. While most sources agree that slaves received blankets on a yearly basis, Edmund Bacon, one of Thomas Jefferson's overseers, recalled that Jefferson "allowed them [the slaves] a best striped blanket every three years,"24 although he may, of course, have issued poorer blankets in intervening years. His was a different practice from that of George Washington, who issued two sizes of blankets quite regularly. Washington was very concerned with finding the best buy in blankets. When he finally purchased blankets, he issued the larger and better quality to adults and the smaller and lesser quality to children.25 Many planters made special issues of blankets to slaves who were ill or were mothers about to give birth, and 93 there is some evidence that blankets as well as clothing were issued as needed: Francis Taylor issued new blankets to slaves who had worn out their old ones between yearly supplies.26 This practice is not, however, discussed in other planters' diaries and records.
Other types of textiles besides blankets were used for bedding. "Bedding," as described in the documents, included blankets, hempen rolls, mattresses, and an occasional rug. In 1712, the overseer for Edmund Jenings noted that "the Bedding at present will do--but 'tis Necessary it be recruited by the next Winter." "Bedding" in this case was defined by the overseer as the "bed," "rugs," and "blankets" of the slave.27 In 1771, Sam, a runaway slave from Fredericksburg, took with him "his bedding," again suggesting textiles that could be rolled up and carried.28 Sam was not the only slave who took his bedding with him when he ran away; many of the runaway advertisements published in the Virginia Gazette and in other colonial newspapers note that slaves took blankets, sheets, bedclothes, and rugs with them.29
Depending upon status and occupation, Thomas Jefferson's slaves had a variety of sleeping arrangements. 94 Isaac, a trained blacksmith who dictated his remembrances of slavery and Jefferson in the 1840s, related that he "slept in the outchamber where the scholars [students] was; slept on the floor in a blanket;..."30 Female slaves who married a man owned by Jefferson could expect to be given "a pot and a bed."31 (Jefferson's "bed" was a "hempen roll bed," probably a coarse linen mattress stuffed with straw or feathers.32)
Very favored slaves had the luxury of stuffed and stitched mattresses, with the appropriate bedclothes, for their use. When Joseph Ball sent his slave, Aron Jameson, back to Virginia in 1754, he wrote to his nephew, Joseph Chinn, that he was sending "a Large Matress stuffed well with flocks and stitched with tufts, and a bolster filled with feathers, the Mattress & Bolster both besides their Ticks having Ozenbrigs cases; and two new coverleds, and other old Bedcloths..." for Aron's use.33 Edward Dixon, a retired sea captain who lived in Port Royal, Virginia, noted that he bought "2 Negro Rugs @ 6/3" on November 26, 1770. Dixon did not describe the materials used 95 to construct the rugs nor their appearance.34 Pallets made of a coarse linen which was then stuffed with feathers or straw were sometimes given to slaves for bedding; Thomas Jefferson gave such a bed to his slave Ned in 1800.35 These descriptions of blankets and the way in which they were distributed were sufficiently detailed so that satisfactory reproductions could be secured for the various sites.
Based on the references accumulated to date, it is difficult to document the incidence of slaves sleeping in beds --that is, a wooden frame raised above the ground providing the support for a mattress, sheets and other bedding -- in eighteenth-century Tidewater Virginia. Beds of this type were not normally supplied by masters unless they were part of the structure of the quarter itself, so it was up to slaves to provide themselves with beds if they desired one and could manage to acquire one, either by themselves or with the help of other slaves.
Part of the problem in deciphering what "bed" meant to a slave or slaveowner is the definition of "bed" itself: in the eighteenth century, the most usual definition of "bed" included 96 only the mattress and bedding; the frame of the bed was usually called a "bedstead" or "bedframe." However, these terms were not used consistently, and often the term "bed" included both the frame and the mattress, as well as the bedding. It is therefore very difficult to know, for example, what Landon Carter meant in February 1776 when he wrote in his diary (of lambs that had been born late in the year and were now sick), "...though I had them as carefully fed as hands could do and even with meal 3 are already dead and except one, which constantly lies under the woman's bed, the rest seem to be in a way of death...."36 Did he mean that this woman was sleeping on a raised bed with the lamb underneath? Was one lamb under a pallet of some type with the woman lying on top of it? Based upon conversations with Colonial Williamsburg's coach and livestock personnel, the former seems more likely, but Carter's description is too vague for us to be entirely sure.
Most of the references to beds, as defined above, are from later sources: nineteenth-century travellers' descriptions, slave narratives, and oral histories taken during the 1930s. Although these are somewhat helpful in describing types of slave beds that evolved from earlier styles, this later information could not be used with any reliability in discussing eighteenth-century slave beds. Therefore the eighteenth-century sources were closely examined to see just what kind of "beds" were 97 described and if there was sufficient information on which to base their installation at the various sites.
The poorest sleeping arrangement a slave might have had was a blanket and the ground. Early in his travels after the Revolution, Englishman J.F.D. Smyth described the life of a slave from his (Smyth's) perspective and noted that when a slave slept,
"his comforts are equally miserable or limited; for he lies on a bench or on the ground, with only an old scanty single blanket, and not always even that, to serve both for his bed and his covering."37Somewhat later in his travels, he described a rural Virginia overseer's house where he stayed one night. In a gesture of hospitality, the overseer let Smyth use his bed -- described as "a miserable thin chaff bed, somewhat raised from the floor" --while he (the overseer) "lay on the floor with the negroes...."38 In February 1757, Landon Carter ordered one of his slaves who had recovered from smallpox to take care of another who was ill with the disease and make sure that "the fellow should have clean straw and warm blankets..."39, implying that the ill slave was sleeping on dirty straw on the ground. Josiah Henson, who lived in Charles County and Montgomery County, 98 Maryland, between 1789 and 1825, described the sleeping arrangements at the quarter where he grew up:
There were neither bedsteads, nor furniture of any description. Our beds were collections of straw and old rags, thrown down in the corner and boxed in with boards; a single blanket the only covering. Our favorite way of sleeping, however, was on a plank, our heads raised on an old jacket and our feet toasting before the smouldering fire.40
We do know that at least some slaves were sleeping on raised bedframes of some type. Landon Carter's slave who slept with the lambs has already been mentioned. Julian Niemcewicz offered an even more indefinite description, but one which implied a mattress when he wrote of one of the slave quarters which he visited that the "husband and his wife sleep on a mean pallet, the children on the ground."41
Other accounts give a fuller description of bedframes. Ferdinand-Marie Bayard, a French traveler, described one slave couple's sleeping accommodations as "A box-like frame made of boards hardly roughed down, upheld by stakes . . . [with] Some wheat straw and cornstalks, on which was spread a very short-napped woolen blanket that was burned in several places...."42 99 About 1810, John Brown described his sleeping accommodations as a young boy in Southampton County, Virginia. He wrote
"We [6 children] all lived together with our mother, in a log cabin, containing two rooms, one of which we occupied . . . . Our sleeping place was made by driving a forked stake into the floor, which served to support a cross piece of wood, one end of it resting in the crotch the other against the shingle that formed the wall. A plank or two across, over the top, completed the bed-room arrangements, with the exception of another plank on which we laid straw or cotton-pickings, and over that a blanket."43Both descriptions suggest very make-shift frames for bedding which could have been built easily by the slaves themselves. That slaves knew exactly how to build such bedframes is illustrated by a doll's bed owned by the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center which was said to have been made by a Virginia slave in the 1830s.44 William Allason noted in 1761 that "Negroe John Belonging to Madam Thorn" had purchased some goods which were paid for by two bedsteads (valued at 6/ each) which presumably John had made himself.45
Other references indicate that sometimes slave owners ordered easily-constructed bedframes to be built into the walls of a particular quarter house. In April, 1792, George Augustine 100 Washington wrote to his uncle George Washington that "berths" were being built into the new slave quarters.46 Mathew, one of Washington's carpenters, was given "200 - 4d nails . . . for fastening in a bed [?],"47 in one of the quarter buildings. These bedframes must have been attached to the walls in some manner. Perhaps a similar arrangement was intended by Joseph Ball in 1754 when he designed a cabin for his slave Martha, whom he was sending to Virginia from England. He instructed Joseph Chinn to "let her have a Cabbin Built up in one of the Quarters, with a Bed place in it and a Door to the Cabbin (which must be larger than the Bed Place) with a Lock and Key to it. . ."48
At least one slave slept in a relatively well furnished, English-style bedstead. In April, 1754, two months after Joseph Ball sent Martha back to Virginia (referred to above), he sent back another slave, Aron Jameson. Aron was returned from England with his bedding and bedclothes (see previous section), but Ball also instructed Chinn to "have one of 101 the worst of my old Bed Steads Cut short & fit for his Mattress, and have a Cord and hide to it."49
A question unanswered by the references collected to date is to what extent the floor treatments of slave housing determined the type of sleeping accommodations. The references do not indicate any preference by blacks themselves for sleeping directly on the ground or providing themselves with raised bedding. The sources do indicate, however, that at least one planter wanted his slaves raised off the ground. Robert Carter of Corotoman instructed his carpenters to ensure that his cabins "be made for my people that their beds may lye a foot and a half from the ground."50 Joseph Ball instructed Chinn, when building new slave quarters or repairing old ones, that "the Floors must be rais'd higher than the Ground without."51 We also do not know if or how lofts in cabins impacted on sleeping accommodations. A loft would have provided a dry living area if needed, assuming the roof did not leak.
From the few eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century slave narratives which survive, there is evidence that raised 102 sleeping areas were familiar to many Africans who ended up as slaves in North America. Olaudah Equiano wrote in 1789 that the beds in his childhood home in Nigeria "consist[ed] of a platform, raised three or four feet from the ground, on which [were] laid skins, and different parts of a spungy tree called plantain."52 Salih Bilali, who was born about 1770 in a small village on the Niger River, was a slave in the Bahamas and in Georgia. He recounted his childhood to his American master, and described the houses of his home village on the Niger River and their interiors: "The inhabitants sleep on raised platforms, covered with mats; and during the cold weather...blankets of wool...are used."53 Osifekunde of Ijebu, on the Nigerian coast, was sold into slavery in about 1810, and spent almost twenty years in Brazil. In an account written in 1845 by the French ethnologist Marie Armand Pascal d'Avezac-Macaya (based on extensive interviews of Osifekunde), Osifekunde recalled that "a bed always consist[ed] of a stand on which mats and cattle hides [were] stretched."54
European travelers to West Africa in the late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-centuries made similar observations on the sleeping arrangements they saw. Many of 103 these accounts were collected by Englishman Thomas Astley and published in 1745. For example, Frenchman John Barbot wrote in the early eighteenth century, "Their [West Africans') Beds are made of several small Sticks, placed at two Fingers Breadth Distance from each other, and fastened together with Ropes, the whole supported by short wooden Forks set up at each corner."55 London merchant William Finch observed in 1607 that "Instead of a carved Bedstead, they have Billets of Wood laid across, upon which, instead of a Feather-Bed, they spread a Mat or two.56 Francis Moore, a factor to the English Royal African Company in 1731-32, noted that "They [the people he visited along the Gambra River] are not very proud as to Furniture, for the most they have is a small Cloaths-Chest, [and] a Mat raised on Sticks to lie on...[other furniture is listed].57 And Astley, compiling reports from other travelers in a general description of Guinea and Benin, described West Africans who had "an Estrade, or Sopha, on which they lay Mats, ... for a Foot Height, about six long, and as much broad, which serve for Beds, which they surround with Pagnes [small pieces of cloth used as loincloths] sewed together, or printed Linen, like Curtains,"58 as well as other people 104 whose sleeping area consisted of "a Bank of Earth, raised about two Feet from the Floor, which, having a Mat laid thereon, serves them for a Bed."59
The amount of information about tables, seating and storage furniture used by slaves is so small that no definite conclusions can be drawn from it -- either supporting the presence of furniture or substantiating its absence. Like so many other items owned by blacks, homemade stools, benches, or storage boxes may well have been beneath the notice of white observers and their presence never recorded. On the other hand, there are several descriptions, such as Ferdinand-Marie Bayard's, which suggest that at least some quarters had no seating or storage furniture.60
According to eighteenth-century sources slaves did have access to furniture. Robert Carter of Corotoman commented on an overseer who made "bedsteads & sells them[,) hath bot abundance of Goods[,] makes the people saw & Maul the timber that makes his bedsteads[,] makes abundance of them & Sells stools to Negroes for fowles . . . ."61 In the 1760s Glassford & Co. gave 105 "Negroe Jack Belonging to Mr. Linton's Estate" credit for 1 walnut chair, a wheel barrow, a hopper for soap, and making a cot, a safe, desk pigeon holes, and bookcase shelves.62 Many slaves had the skills to fabricate rudimentary furniture, and trained carpenters could have made quite sophisticated furnishings if they so desired. And urban slaves, whose quarters were either adjacent to or even inside their masters' dwellings, almost certainly had the access to cast-off, ready-made chairs and tables that rural slaves did not.
There is some evidence for furniture in Virginia slave quarters as early as 1697. In that year the inventory of a slave quarter in Henrico County, Virginia, included "A negros bed[,] bolster & furniture all very old."63 In 1747, John Tayloe's inventory in Richmond County included "an Old Bed & Rugg & c. and old Couch & Chest" in Staties [sic] closet (Statie is thought to have been a slave).64 In Frederick County, Virginia, in her will of 1781, Elizabeth Vance directed that her slave, Rose, be given to her daughter, Sarah Gilkison, along with Rose's "bed and bed Cloaths spinning wheel and one chest." Charles Smith, minister of Portsmouth Parish, left his mulatto slave, Mary, 106 spinning and weaving equipment, as well as her clothes and his old bible.65 Although descriptions and drawings of nineteenth-century slave quarters include furniture, it is not clear that these same types of furnishing were present earlier.
Slaves almost certainly owned a type of furniture to which Landon Carter referred in his diary on September 21, 1770. He wrote:
"This morning we had a complaint about a butter pot's being taken from the dairy door where it was put to sweeten last night and that it was seen there after candle light. Unfortunately for the thief [sic] that night was a very particular one, everybody that was well or could move was sent down to hang a prodigeous cutting of tobacco on Scaffolds at the Mangorike tobacco house. So that it must be done near home. Owen had gone over the River at 12 o'clock with John Goldsby and did not come back till 2 in the night. So he could not say whether the Servants that lay in house had done it or not. How[ever] I sent Billy Beale to search all their holes and boxes; And in their loft it was found, but both of them solemnly deniing they knew anything of it.66The "holes" to which Carter referred are most probably the root cellars or "pits" which have been found archaeologically at slave sites, including Carter's Grove, Kingsmill, and Monticello.67 107 The "boxes" were probably wooden storage containers. Although there is no further description of these "boxes," it is not implausible that they could have included discarded chests, old crates, and rough home-made boxes. In 1756, Joseph Ball directed Joseph Chinn, to "Give the chest Lock and Key [in which he had sent some old clothing back to Virginia] to Will If he has not one already:. . . ."68 Presumably other slaves acquired boxes in this same way.
A watercolor of a South Carolina slave quarter illustrates another type of furniture that may have been common in slave cabins. In the watercolor, "The Old Plantation," owned by The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center [35.301.3], slaves are dancing and playing music in front of their quarters. Several slaves are seated on a bench. This picture, the reference to bartering stools for poultry quoted above69, Thomas Astley's description (based on John Barbot's early eighteenth century writings) of houses on the Gold Coast having "a few wooden Seats or Stools,"70 and the common practice among modern West Africans of sitting on low stools71 suggests that stools and benches may have formed one of the only types of furniture 108 most slaves owned. Such forms could have served as work surfaces as well as for seating.
In making decisions about the installation of furniture at the various slave sites, the lack of evidence forced a reliance on intuition, with an intentional conservatism. Those few sources that mention furniture other than beds do note chairs, stools, or boxes in slave quarters. The presence of skilled slave carpenters made it more likely that these men took advantage of their skills to make furniture for themselves. This furniture was most probably seating furniture: homemade stools and benches, or roughly-hewn logs shaped into similar forms. Chairs and tables were probably very uncommon -- perhaps only in a favored slave's household, and then only in very small numbers. Storage containers were very probably part of the furniture found in each quarter but were presumably old shipping crates or roughly nailed-up, five or six-board boxes.
Slaves who participated in the market economy might possibly have had more furniture than those who did not; "Negroe John," who made the bedsteads for William Allason and then bought goods equal to their value, chose a looking glass valued at 2/6 as part of those goods.72 In general, however, it is probable that furniture found at most rural slave quarters was of the most basic type.
Food was one of the things that slaves could expect to receive on a regular basis from their owners. Thomas Anburey noted in 1784 that the usual rations in Virginia were corn, bacon, and salt herring.73 Corn was by far the most important foodstuff issued to slaves; some sources indicate that planters issued each slave a peck of corn a week.74 As one source explained, corn was "the only support of the Negroes, who Roast it in the ear, Bake it for Bread, Boyl it when Hulled, . . . the children and better sort breakfast with it and make farmity. The first they call Homeny, the Latter Mush."75
An owner might enrich the steady diet of corn with allotments of beef, mutton, pork or salt herring. In February 1743/44, Joseph Ball directed that his old cows, his late-born calves and lambs, and the old ewes and rams, as well as the hogs, be killed every year (a common farm management practice in eighteenth-century Virginia) and the meat divided among the 110 slaves.76 Nathaniel Burwell regularly distributed meat to his slaves, as did Robert Carter of Nomini Hall, Colonel Francis Taylor of Orange County, Thomas Jefferson, and Martha Ogle Forman.77 Some owners used meat as a method of reward. George Washington issued meat "now and then," although he frequently gave out pickled herrings to his slaves.78 Landon Carter explained that he only issued meat "a bit now and then as they deserved it by their work and diligence," but he was also known to kill a steer or a sheep for the benefit of his slaves despite this opinion.79
Other sources indicate that special foods were issued during harvests, plantings, and holidays. In 1788, Francis Taylor killed a ram for the slaves doing his harvesting and also gave them five quarts of rum.80 Robert Carter of Nomini Hall gave rum to his harvest people in 1790, and Thomas Jefferson gave 111 extra flour to his slaves who had worked on the harvest.81 At Christmas planters issued rum, brandy, goose or beef as a special treat to slaves. On Christmas Day in 1768, William Fanning, the guardian of orphan Henry Tazewell, gave brandy to Tazewell's Negroes.82 Philip Vickers Fithian, the tutor of Robert Carter's children, noted in his diary for Christmas 1773, that one of the slaves who came to his room to wish him a "joyful Christmas," came in "almost drunk" -- presumably from his Christmas ration.83 In August 1820, Martha Ogle Forman noted in her diary that their slaves had had "a water melon feast," and in 1834, General Forman (Martha's husband), gave the overseer "three half dollars to buy geese for the the [sic] people's Christmas dinner. "84
If a slave had to rely solely on what his master gave to him, his diet, as described by J. F. D. Smyth, was indeed meager:
The slave "is called up in the morning at day break, and is seldom allowed time enough to swallow three mouthfuls of homminy, or hoe-cake, but is driven out immediately to the 112 field to hard labour, . . . about noon he eats his dinner and he is seldom allowed an hour for that purpose. His meal consists of homminy and salt, and if his master be a man of humanity, he has a little fat, skimmed milk, rusty bacon, or salt herring to relish his homminy or hoe-cake . . . They then return to severe labour which continues in the field until dusk . . . It is late at night before he returns to his second scanty meal. "85But in fact, throughout the Chesapeake, and even in other slave-holding areas, slaves were able -- one might say, expected -- to supplement their rations with vegetables, poultry, seafood and game which they either gathered or grew themselves. As early as 1702, travelers noted that slaves supplemented their diets by gathering food. Francis Louis Michel of Berne, Switzerland, wrote in the report of his travels through Virginia in 1701 and 1702 that, "Turtles of different kinds are found in the woods. They are gathered and eaten by the negroes or slaves."86
In Maryland, even before 1750, slave quarters were described as "a Number of Huts or Hovels, built some Distance from the Mansion-House; where the Negroes reside with their Wives and Families, and cultivate at vacant Times the little Spots allow'd them."87 Antoine Le Page du Pratz, a transplanted Frenchman who lived in Louisiana for sixteen years, recommended 113 in his book The History of Louisiana, that owners give their slaves "a small piece of waste ground" so that they could "cultivate it for their own profit."88 In 1732 William Hugh Grove reported that "They [slave owners] allow them to plant little Platts for potatoes or [?] Indian pease and Cimnells, which they do on Sundays or [at] night, for they Work from Sunrising to setting."89 In 1774 Philip Vickers Fithian wrote in his diary that the slaves were "digging up their small Lots of ground allow'd by their Master for Potatoes, peas &c; . . "90 This practice was so accepted that Francis Taylor noted in his diary for May 9, 1795, that the "Negroes [were] Planting for themselves."91 Even as late as 1858, observers noted that slaves had their own land on which to raise produce and poultry.92
In addition to the produce slaves grew for themselves, they also raised chickens. James Mercer wrote to Battaile Muse in Loudoun County in 1779 that "I know allready that Chickens or other fresh meat cant be had but in exchange & Bacon to spare will allow me a preference with the Country people or rather 114 Negroes who are the general Chicken merchants…"93 Julian Niemcewicz noted this on his visit to Mt. Vernon, where he saw "a very small garden planted with vegetables was close by, with 5 or 6 hens, each one leading ten to fifteen chickens. It is the only comfort that is permitted them...."94 Francis Taylor often purchased chickens from his own slaves as well as the slaves of his neighbors and on one occasion wrote of a fire at a relative's house that it "was a Hen house of the Negroes."95
Zooarchaeological recoveries at slave quarter sites at Carter's Grove and Mt. Vernon indicate that slaves fished, hunted and foraged on a regular basis.96 Before he arrived at Mt. Vernon, Julian Niemcewicz visited the Great Falls of the Potomac and saw "One or two negroes fish[ing] for shad, ....97
The ability of slaves to grow produce and raise poultry had two important results. The first result is that slaves had a varied diet and, in general, did not have to rely on corn and pork as their sole food as plantation records might indicate. 115 This suggests that though slaves' diets did not, in many cases, meet modern standards of nutrition (and there is no doubt that some slaves were severely malnourished by any standard98), a great number of slaves had a more varied diet than their economic status might indicate. The second is that slaves sold these products and used that income to become consumers of goods that were generally available to black and white alike. This increased the likelihood that slave quarters (both rural and urban) contained a variety of small goods purchased by slaves for their own comfort or enjoyment.
A slave's cooking equipment ranged from the most basic to the fairly elaborate.99 At the bottom of the scale may have been the utensils used by field hands, who made up most of Virginia's eighteenth-century slave population. The items were basic: an iron pot, perhaps some pothooks to carry the pot or hang it over a fire (whether indoors or out), and a frying pan. These all appear in Virginia slave quarter inventories and most probably were provided for slave use, rather than for the 116 overseer's or master's use. Such a quarter dwelling may have been what Ferdinand-Marie Bayard described in 1791:
...An old pot, tilted on some pieces of brick, was still white with Homany. A few rags soaked in water, were hanging in one of the corners of the fireplace. An old pipe, very short, and a knife blade, which were sticking in the wall were the only effects that I found in this dwelling.100 There is also evidence that even the poorest of quarters had a hominy mortar and pestle for grinding corn, some kind of containers for holding food, and some sort of utensils for preparing and eating the food.101 Some of these fieldhands probably had ceramics of some type: either the low-fired earthen colonoware made by Indians or blacks102 or pieces of out-of-fashion or discarded English wares that slaves were given, found, stole, or perhaps even purchased. Wooden utensils were easily fashioned by a slave with even modest skills, and the African tradition of gourd usage -- amply documented in Astley103 -- 117 persisted as slaves grew similar crops in their own gardens in the quarter.
This basic kit of equipment, which would have been familiar to most poor or middling whites, enabled slaves to prepare their own food, most probably the soups, stews and other one-pot meals which required little attention. The evidence found in probate inventories suggests that this equipment was supplied with the expectation that it would feed ten to twelve people (the average number of people who lived in one quarter house).104 And if some slaves wished for a greater variety of cookware or greater privacy in cooking and eating, masters expected that slaves would obtain the necessary equipment themselves.
There is no doubt that the access to more diverse cooking utensils and the ownership of, especially, more diverse eating utensils was more common among household slaves and among urban artisans than among rural slaves. Ironically, there is much less information available about these slaves than about rural slaves, but it was household slaves and urban artisans who had the most ready access to goods available to and used by whites and who had the best opportunity to acquire them, whether by purchase or as hand-me-downs. Their basic kit of equipment was most probably similar to that found at most rural slave 118 quarters, but they may well have used equipment owned by their white masters to cook some of their own food. And that leads to the slaves at the top of the cooking hierarchy: the black cooks who prepared food for wealthy whites. Lydia Broadnax, George Wythe's cook, was one of many who lived and worked in Williamsburg. These cooks maintained the equipment, purchased the ingredients, made countless operational decisions and were skilled in the use of the more diverse and sophisticated tools available in such kitchens. Even in the more modest kitchens of masters lower on the social and economic scale, where slave and mistress were more likely to work together, blacks had access to equipment and facilities which were better than many whites who cooked for themselves.
Probably a more typical situation lay between these extremes. For example, writing in his diary on December 3, 1792, Francis Taylor mentioned that after the death of his slave, Caslow, her "utensils for cooking etc were all carried off that night…."105 During his visit to Mount Vernon, Julian Niemcewicz viewed a slave quarter which had "a very bad fireplace, some utensils for cooking, but in the middle of this poverty some cups and a teapot."106 On September 20, 1816, Martha Ogle Forman gave butcher knives to sixteen of her slaves, both men and women.107 (These butcher knives, used primarily 119 for agricultural purposes, could also be used for butchering, cooking, and eating.) Cooperage appears in many documents and includes salting tubs and pails. Joseph Ball requested that Joseph Chinn provide one of these tubs, called a "powdering tub," to his slaves in 1756.108 Other cooking equipment available to slaves is mentioned in runaway advertisements -- in May 1775, Gabriel Jones advertised that his slave, Sam, had run away and carried with him, among other things, "an iron pot" -- and in storekeepers' accounts -- on March 5, 1768, "Negro Jack" purchased "1 Iron Pot 7/6 1 dam[age]d wine glass 4d"" from Glassford & Co. in Colchester, and on April 12, 1780, Lawrence Thompkins, the overseer of River Plantation near Falmouth, Virginia, purchased "1 dutch oven for People's use".109
Documentary information describing cooking equipment is scanty at best, but in contrast, the archaeological record offers a great deal of information about the type of ceramics and glasswares associated with food preparation and consumption.110 120 Former staff archaeologist Patricia Samford, in her report on the Carter's Grove archaeological excavations, analyzed the artifacts recovered from areas presumed to be the slave quarter root cellars both by quantity and by type of artifact. Of the objects recovered from these cellars, 79% were related to food and beverage consumption or kitchen use: this includes ceramics, bottle glass, table glass and cutlery. This percentage compares favorably with the percentage of similar objects found at similar sites elsewhere in the South.111
Although the ceramics which were found included low-quality porcelain, most were undecorated creamware, with smaller amounts of delftware and white salt-glazed stoneware. This prevalence of English-made ceramics is not unusual or surprising, for slaves lived in a culture dominated by English-made or - influenced goods, and so it is logical that most of the ceramics they used reflected this fact. As might be expected, these ceramics showed signs of heavy usage. Colonoware was found during the Carter's Grove excavations, but not in great quantity. Four pieces were identified, of which two were incised and pierced. Kathleen Pepper, former laboratory technician in the Department of Archaeological Research, estimated that the shards represented between 45 and 60 vessels, most of which were plates and bowls .112121
It is not known how slaves procured the English and Continental ceramics found at the Carter's Grove site and other similar sites in the South. Comparison with shards excavated at sites associated with a plantation's main house indicates that slaves did not usually get hand-me-downs from their masters. Ceramics found on slave sites frequently did not cross-mend with those found on the site of the plantation house. Further study of store owners' records, planters' purchase orders, and other archaeological investigations may produce better information about this aspect of slave material culture.
Archaeological recoveries, from Carter's Grove and other sites, reveals information concerning eating utensils and some food preparation equipment. Pewter and latten spoons, some with decorated handles, and bone-handled forks were found at the Carter's Grove slave sites, as were some iron knives (these may have been similar to the butcher knives which Martha Ogle Forman gave to her slaves). An analysis of the animal bones, seeds, and other food remains excavated at various sites can lead to educated guesses regarding the equipment needed to prepare the food eaten by slaves.
The efficient and profitable operation of a plantation or business in eighteenth-century Tidewater Virginia depended as much upon access to appropriate tools as it did upon proper 122 management and sufficient capital. It was therefore in the best interest of a plantation or business owner to furnish his slaves with sufficient tools of an appropriate nature to do the work which they were assigned. These tools most probably came from two different sources: tools supplied by the master to complete assigned tasks, and tools bought, accumulated, made or stolen by slaves.
Tools supplied by the master included those most often listed in probate inventories and other public records. On rural plantations, these were primarily agricultural tools: hoes of all types (hilling, weeding, broad, grubbing), axes, plows and associated equipment, wagons, and scythes and pitchforks. The type and distribution of these agricultural tools no doubt depended upon the crops grown at an individual location, but the documents studied to date provide no rationale for the groupings found at specific locations, as indicated by probate inventories or other public records. In some cases, agricultural tools were issued to individual slaves, as at the plantations of Edmund Jenings and Thomas Jefferson did.113 In other cases, the tools were kept in central locations at a quarter, and were controlled by an overseer who supervised their distribution as needed. 123 James Carroll did just this in 1715 when he gave his overseer, Jonathan Bruff, 4 hilling hoes for use at his property.114
Owners of larger plantations provided other tools, such as shoemaking and blacksmithing tools, for slaves who were trained in these specialties. Robert Carter of Nomini Hall did this in 1789, when he included "1 set blacksmiths tools, 1 partial set shoemaking tools" in the equipment listed at Leo Plantation in Loudoun County in 1789.115 In several instances spinning and weaving equipment appears on plantations, especially after 1760, when trade with England became difficult. By 1758, Landon Carter had spinners and weavers, and in 1789, Robert Carter of Nomini Hall counted "1 loom 2 quill weels, 1 flax wheel, [and] 1 cotton wheel" at Leo Plantation.116
Descriptions of runaway slaves who took tools with them indicate the other types of trade tools also found at rural plantations. In 1745, Mary Wilson advertised in the Virginia Gazette that two slaves belonging to her had run away, one of whom, Emanuel, was "by Trade a Cooper, and took with him some Cooper's Tools… ."117 In 1763 Robert Darnall advertised that his slave, James Dyson, had run away and intended to find 124 employment as a shoemaker, for "he took with him some Lasts, and Shoemakers Tools."118 After the Revolutionary War, Josiah Foster advertised for his slave, George, who had run away in September, 1784, and had "carried away several tools with him, to wit, a broad axe, carpenters compasses, gimlets, &c… .119 Although slaves who worked at iron furnaces also had specialized tools for their occupations, these types of items were not normally found at agricultural plantations in any great numbers.
Skilled slaves who lived in urban areas undoubtedly had access to a variety of tools, either their own or, more likely, those of their masters. Slaves could be found in almost every trade, including coopering, shoemaking, joining, cabinet making and blacksmithing, as well as the trades associated with the operation of a household. Their tools were undoubtedly those owned by their masters, but in all likelihood these slaves, like those who lived in the country, were able to acquire some tools of their own.
There is little known about the tools bought, accumulated, made or stolen by slaves. That slaves occasionally bought tools for themselves is indicated by store accounts: in 1767 and 1768 "Negro Jack belonging to Linton's Estate" purchased 125 a plane iron, a gimlet, and two handsaw files.120 Although no documentation has been found to substantiate such a practice, it is not inconceivable that some slaves made their own tools. Trained blacksmiths could easily have made their own tools, as well as tools for carpenters or agricultural workers to use, on their own time. Carpenters could have made handles for such tools or fashioned others -- like an awl or gauge -- with little extra effort. Broken tools -- tools written off by their owners -- could have been recycled by experienced slave artisans. The runaway advertisements noted above amply document the theft of tools, but runaways were not the only ones to steal tools. Landon Carter wrote in his diary on August 4, 1774, that he "Cleaned out my Well this day. . . . Abundance of trash, mud and things tumbled and thrown in, Particularly a Plow gardiner Johnny stole 3 years ago. . . ."121 In January 1724/1725, William Plummer, a mulatto slave belonging to John Tarpley, was sentenced to death for stealing, among other things, a lathing hammer which belonged to Tarpley.122 Slaves certainly had the opportunity to steal tools and some of them did so.
Whether tools were supplied by the master, purchased or made by the slave, or stolen, they were used daily by slaves during the course of their work. The tools themselves were 126 standard eighteenth-century tool types, examples of which are in the collections of Colonial Williamsburg or are illustrated in various late eighteenth-century English pattern books. The types and numbers of tools varied according to the work performed at a particular location -- certainly spinners and weavers did not use the same tools as field hands -- but slaves needed tools to do their work properly, and they managed to get them in one way or another.
Despite their legal status, Tidewater Virginia's slaves were, to a degree, participants in the burgeoning consumer revolution of the late eighteenth century. In a variety of ways -- discussed in Chapter IV -- slaves acquired personal items with which they varied their dress, which aided in food preparation or consumption, made their quarters more livable or eased the difficulties of daily living. Although it is difficult to document in place -- descriptions of slave quarters rarely include these things -- the addition of these personal items to the slave sites was an important aspect of this furnishing project.
Archaeological excavations at Kingsmill, Carter's Grove, Mt. Vernon and Monticello have revealed substantial collections of these personal items in areas associated with slave quarters. The finds at all of these sites included similar 127 types of personal items, including buttons and pipe stems. The explanation for the number of buttons found at each site remains in doubt; William Kelso feels that the buttons were thrown away during the making of quilts from discarded clothing,123 while Linda Baumgarten feels that these buttons were either saved for ornament to replace the beads and shells most Africans used for adornment or are the only surviving parts of clothing that was hidden or stored in the root cellars.124 The buttons may have remained for other reasons as well, to be used as toys for children, as game pieces, as objects used in African religious ceremonies, or as decorations on other clothing. The number of clay pipes that have been excavated at slave sites indicates that slaves were tobacco users, but perhaps had relatively infrequent access to new pipes, especially at Carter's Grove, since many of the pipestems excavated there showed signs of reworking. This reworking may have been what Ferdinand-Marie Bayard saw during his travels in America 1791 when he described the personal items he found in a slave quarter: "An old pipe, very short, and a knife blade, which were sticking in the wall were the only effects that I found in this dwelling."125
Most sites contained some interesting survivals. At Kingsmill, these included a pharmaceutical weight and handtools 128 such as files, saw blades and knife blades.126 The excavation of the slave quarters at Carter's Grove revealed a saddle tree (a metal form around which a leather saddle was built), an iron padlock and key, a possible gridiron handle, and clock parts.127 In his report on a root cellar at Mt. Vernon thought to have been part of the House for Families, Virginia state archaeologist Alain C. Outlaw reported that the excavation uncovered some items which probably originated at the main house -- an elegant air-twist wine glass stem being the best evidence for this -- as well as some objects that might be manifestations of slave culture: a bone fan blade "decorated with simple geometric designs" as well as a raccoon bone which had been altered to serve as a pendant.128 At Monticello, objects found in the root cellars 129 included toothbrushes, a brass Jew's harp, a writing slate, and a French ointment pot.129
Archaeological evidence cited in chapter III, section I, above confirms that slaves ate game and seafood. They must have possessed fishing equipment, traps or snares, and, in some cases, may have had access to firearms. It is likely that the fishing equipment, traps, and snares were inexpensive commercial items, homemade items, or, more likely, a combination of the two. When Julian Niemcewicz observed several Negroes fishing at the Great Falls of the Potomac, he noted that they used "nets attached as a sack at the end of a pole" to catch the shad.130
Written accounts also document the possession and use of other personal items. Often these items were purchased by slaves from local merchants, and they offer some evidence that saves tried to add to and improve upon the goods which were given to them by their masters. William Johnston, Francis Jerdone's predecessor as agent for Buchanan & Hamilton of London, had at least nine active accounts with slaves in eastern Virginia in 1736-1737. Among the items he sold them were fabrics 130 (including silk), liquor, cheese, hats, and a knife and fork.131 "Negro Jack" purchased a pair of scissors, some thread, and two penknives from Thomas Partridge in 1737.132 William Allason, the Falmouth, Virginia, merchant, sold slaves a great many personal items. In December 1761, one of Landon Carter's slaves appears to have purchased a necklace, two laces, and a paper of pins from William Allason.133 One month previous to this, in November 1761, "Negroe John Belonging to Madam Thorn," sold Allason two bedsteads in exchange for clothing and "1 Looking Glass."134 That John's purchase of a looking glass was not unusual is illustrated by Ann Smart Martin, who, in her studies of eighteenth-century merchants' account books, has convincingly demonstrated that slaves were regular customers of local merchants and purchased personal accessories such as mirrors, ribbons and small domestic wares. These purchases emphasize the fact that slaves, despite their legal status as property, were concerned with comfort, personal appearance, and fashion.131
Very rarely, some slaves appear to have purchased their own equipment with which they performed their duties. After Nassau, his personal servant, barber and bleeder, ran away in 1777, Landon Carter wrote a manuscript notice which he evidently intended to use to publicize Nassau's flight. In this notice he wrote that Nassau had "carried off every kind of wearing apparel except a straw hat and a dirty shirt (which might have escap'd his packing up) and has taken with him even a set of raisors which he had purchased: .... "135 Since one of Nassau's primary responsibilities was shaving Carter as well as bleeding both the slaves and Carter and his family when they were ill, it is interesting that Nassau had purchased his own razors and was not using razors supplied by Carter, implying that Carter had an enormous degree of confidence in Nassau and trusted that he would not use those same instruments as weapons against Carter and his family.
Some slaves were given what would be considered personal items so that they would be better equipped to do their designated jobs. In May, 1796, George Washington instructed his overseer, William Pearce, to supply Washington's personal servant, Cyrus, with a horn comb, "to keep his head well combed, that the hair, or wool may grow long," so that he would look proper when he entered the ranks of household servant when 132 Washington returned from Philadelphia.136 Rarely, slaves were the recipients of totally personal items from their masters. Joseph Ball, for example, supplied his slaves with pipes, knives, a tobacco box, and thread and needles.137
A few slaves, like "Negroe Mark," who purchased a violin from William Allason in 1780,138 owned musical instruments, but most slaves who played violins or other instruments probably did not own them, although they were able to make free use of them. The presence of slave musicians at dances was noted by many travelers -- for example, Nicholas Cresswell, while on his way to Barbados, observed a dance at a barbecue somewhere near West St. Mary's Manor where the St. Mary's River and the Potomac join:
These Barbecues are Hogs, roasted whole. This was under a large Tree. A great number of young people met together with a Fiddle and Banjo played by two Negroes, with Plenty of Toddy, which both Men and Women seem to be very fond of. I believe they have danced and drunk till there are few sober people amongst them.139Many runaway advertisements described slaves who played musical instruments and a few noted that a runaway took an instrument with him: for instance, David Gratenread, a mulatto slave owned 133 by Richard King in King William County, ran away in April 1767, with his violin.140 Musical instruments other than the violin were used by slaves; the British Museum in London has in its collections a drum made in Virginia which has strong connections to African drums of the same period.141 A close look at the watercolor painting, "The Old Plantation" in the collection of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center illustrates types of African-derived and home-made instruments (drums and bones) which may have been common at Tidewater Virginia slave quarters during the last quarter of the eighteenth century.142
Unfortunately, little information has been found concerning toys used by slave children in the eighteenth century, aside from the marbles found at various archaeological sites. Nineteenth-century slave narratives offer some insight on this subject, with one woman noting that, "[m]arbles, 'mumble pegs,'" and other "toys that poor children had" were among the toys she and her siblings and friends had. However, it is probable that 134 slave children also made toys from objects at hand, such as cornstalks, wooden sticks, or scrap pieces of cloth.143 Slaves undoubtedly acquired personal items in ways other than purchase from local storekeepers or from their masters. There no doubt were many opportunities to pick up discarded or broken objects. Second-hand goods appear to have circulated freely in white circles, and based upon the comments about selling or bartering goods, there presumably were "infra-economies" among slaves themselves, their scale and sophistication varying from place to place. If they so desired, many blacks might have been able to avail themselves of these sources of goods, and over the years accumulated substantial quantities of items. The total monetary value of the goods, from a white perspective, would have been insignificant, but for the slaves could have been substantial.
The collection and analysis of available information about eighteenth-century Tidewater Virginia slave quarters resulted in a solid body of knowledge about the objects that slaves used in the course of their lives. Slaves had access to goods in a variety of ways, and the types and amounts of these goods varied according to time, place, and individual situation. There was significant evidence that slaves throughout the Chesapeake, as well as in North and South Carolina, had similar access, and hints that some of the conclusions reached about this area held true in other slave-holding areas throughout the North American English colonies.
But it was one thing to have the written evidence and the archaeological evidence and draw theoretical conclusions from them. It was another thing entirely to take that evidence and those conclusions and translate them into actual objects installed in exhibition spaces used to interpret the lives of enslaved Africans. To do this required that the curators accept a complex set of assumptions governing each site -- assumptions which were based on knowledge of eighteenth-century English and African material culture in general and on life in Williamsburg in particular.
Although some of these assumptions pertained to specific sites, many could be applied to all of the sites, both 136 in-town and at Carter's Grove. These general assumptions were as follows:
Both in-town and at Carter's Grove, the choice of actual objects was based on what was known to have been used in Virginia and Tidewater Chesapeake slave quarters, as revealed through documentary and archaeological evidence. These objects included clothing, tools, ceramics, sleeping accommodations, furnishings, and some food-related equipment. Selections for individual spaces were made according to the people occupying them1 --male vs. female, child vs. adult, field-hand vs. skilled craftsman, etc.--and the particular location of each space.
Clothing choices were made based on what was known to have been regularly issued to slaves, on what few period illustrations were available, and on information about purchases made by slaves (as recorded by storekeepers and as seen in the period illustrations). The styles themselves were common ones which were reproduced without significant changes because it was not known how African traditions might have modified them. 139 Choices of specific items of clothing were made according to location of the site; age, status and skills of the particular individual; presumed season of the year; and project budget.2 However, accessories such as headwraps were added to indicate the survival of certain African clothing traditions for which no information was available but which may very well have been common. Clothing for agricultural workers in-town and at Carter's Grove was presumed to be identical, the assumption being that in-town slave owners such as Thomas Everard and George Wythe would have purchased and distributed such items for their Williamsburg slaves in the same way as they provided for the slaves at their rural properties.
The selection of tools at each site was made according to the individuals living there and their occupations. It was assumed that the tools used by these people were readily available in eighteenth-century Williamsburg and conformed to well-known or easily-identifiable types, and that slaves were able to make, purchase, or otherwise procure those tools not provided for their use. Agricultural tools varied little in pattern, so that the tools at different sites should have been similar.
Although the types and varieties of ceramics used by slaves in Williamsburg and the surrounding countryside were readily identifiable and very varied, the lack of reproductions 140 for more than a handful of these meant that each site was furnished with virtually the same patterns and types of wares, except at Carter's Grove, where it was assumed that slaves living on rural plantations could acquire colonoware in some way. Therefore, the varied nature of ceramics used by slaves is not immediately evident at any of the black presence sites, including the ones in town. For purposes of interpreting food preparation and storage, it was assumed that most urban slaves during this period used objects commonly found in most Anglo-American kitchens and cooked in such kitchens for themselves. There are no in-town sites which exhibit food preparation equipment separate from an existing kitchen. At Carter's Grove, each space was equipped with cooking equipment because it was assumed that each living group cooked for itself and that those individuals without cooking equipment (the two fieldhands and the elderly, African-born man) shared meals in some way with other quarter inhabitants.
Choices of sleeping accommodations relied much more on documentary information and on assumptions about the individuals at each site. It was assumed that each individual had some type of defined sleeping space, whether it be a bed of straw with a blanket, a pallet which was rolled up and stored during the day, or a simple free-standing bed. After establishing that each individual had some type of separate sleeping area, choices of sleeping spaces and bedding were made according to assumed status. It was assumed that slaves with higher status in the 141 slaveowner's view were those most likely to have free-standing beds of some type. It was further assumed that such accommodations were more common in-town than at rural locations. Therefore low-post beds were installed at two in-town sites (the Everard and Wythe properties) but only one was installed at Carter's Grove (in the foreman's house). However, it was assumed that a skilled carpenter could easily fashion an above-the-ground sleeping platform (similar to ones in his native West Africa described by Olaudah Equiano3) and thus two such platforms were constructed at Carter's Grove.4
Furthermore, it was assumed that these third- and fourth-generation slaves, already familiar with furnishings inside their master's homes, would acquire similar items for their own living quarters, either by constructing such items for themselves (tables, benches, stools, etc.), utilizing cast-offs or discards, or scavenging parts to reconstruct a usable object. Thus Windsor chairs with missing backs, discarded shipping 142 crates, and faulty barrels were used as furniture at various sites. Similarly, choices of personal goods -- playing cards, candlesticks, non-ceramic wares, pipes, etc. -- were made using assumptions about the individuals at each location as well as information from store records. For example, it was assumed that Lydia Broadnax could read, that Bristol and Cupid played cards in their spare time, and that young children, both in-town and at Carter's Grove, would have playthings of some type. The assumption that in-town slaves had more access to commercially-made goods than did rural slaves dictated the more extensive furnishing of in-town spaces with commercial goods, although the there are some personal goods at the Carter's Grove quarter (the violin being the most notable example) which have a commercial origin.
In addition, it was assumed that the level of furnishing of each space varied in some way, either in the amount of objects present or in the qualities of the objects themselves. For example, it was assumed that Lydia Broadnax had the highest status level of Wythe's slaves and therefore had objects of higher quality (and presumably quantity) than the other slaves on the property. Conversely, the stable hand, being of much lower status, had only the most basic of objects and had far fewer of them. In town, it was possible to illustrate how status was not necessarily connected to task by having Thomas Everard's cook sleep above the kitchen and with fewer goods than Broadnax, who slept next to the kitchen and had more goods. At Carter's Grove, 143 status differences were illustrated by different types of quarter houses, their arrangement on the site, their manner of construction, and who lived in each space. Objects were chosen for each space based on these different situations.
Although the selection of most of the furnishings installed in each space was based on the available documentary and archaeological information, it was necessary to add objects based on assumptions about tasks, skills, building use, personality, and the functioning of the sites as a whole. Assuming, for example, that a particular slave was a carpenter meant that there were certain assumptions which had to be made about the types of tools he used, where he used them, how they were stored, how his trade was reflected in his clothing and how he wore it or in what additional items he might have made for his own use or for the use of others, and so on. What little information was available usually did not discuss small details such as these. Yet these are exactly the details which are sometimes the most important. Ironically, these types of assumptions are made on a routine basis by curators of historic houses, and they are rarely questioned. But in the case of furnishing spaces inhabited by slaves, the written, printed and artifactual evidence that underpin these assumptions is in such short supply that serious consideration of each object and its location at a particular site becomes a matter of intense discussion and debate. The discussion and debate, in more muted form, still continue.
Planning for the furnishing of each of the in-town black presence sites, in accordance with the stated scenarios, began during the initial discussions held by the Black Presence Committee, in July and August 1985.1 (For the process of furnishing the Carter's Grove Slave Quarter, see section II below.) With the input of the curators from each subject area, the lists of furnishings drawn up by the committee for each site were refined and presented to the Program Planning and Review Committee in March 1986, which approved the proposal. Work began on furnishing the designated sites in the spring and summer of 1986, with Wetherburn's Tavern Kitchen/Laundry as the first site chosen for implementation. The Wythe House was the second site chosen for refurnishing; it was completed in 1987. The Brush-Everard Kitchen and Ludwell-Paradise Stable refurnishings were completed in 1988, and the Carter's Grove Slave Quarter was opened in March 1989, with 90% of its furnishings already installed (furnishing of the site was completed in 1991 with the installation of a reproduction bed in House 3).
The initial lists of furnishings for each site (except for Carter's Grove) were of necessity based on the information known to that date and in some cases, in the absence of specific documentation, represented "best guesses" on the part of 145 committee members. As work proceeded on implementing these proposals, the lists of objects to be installed were modified to reflect new information, the realities of procuring appropriate objects, and, in some cases, the unavailability, either as antiques or reproductions, of suitable items. Although not clearly specified in the initial proposals, it quickly became clear that reproduction objects had to be used in most of these locations. The decision to use reproductions was made on a site-by-site basis, depending on the individual site, its particular conditions, and the availability of appropriate original materials.
Once the decision to use reproductions was made, further changes in the furnishings lists occurred, based on the availability of reproduction materials of the proper type and the expense of those goods. In the case of items like ceramics, buttons, tobacco, pipes, etc., reproductions of the proper type were available through Craft House or the Historic Area Stores. Some clothing was procured through the Costume Department, while bedding and other clothing was custom-made by outside suppliers. Furniture was also custom-made or modified from existing reproductions, while most trade-related equipment (primarily agricultural tools, woodworking tools and cooperage) was obtained through Historic Trades. The use of reproductions had its own difficulties, created by the limited availability of some reproductions, the lack of adequate variety both in pattern and 146 period for certain classes of objects like ceramics, and the complete lack of reproductions for some items.
The installation of the objects in the specific spaces was accomplished by the Division of Collections. Given below are the details of installation for each of the black presence spaces, including a short review of the rationale behind the exhibition of each space2, a listing of the objects originally proposed for that location, and a listing of the objects actually installed, with an indication of whether a particular item was made specifically for the project, purchased from readily-available goods (whether from Colonial Williamsburg sources or from outside sources), already available as a reproduction at the Division of Collections or (in rare cases), an antique or accessioned reproduction from the collection. The Division of Collections is currently responsible for the maintenance of furnishings at each in-town black presence location.
The laundry of Wetherburn's Tavern is exhibited as the primary living and working space of Mr. Wetherburn's slaves, as well as slaves of tavern guests. Included in the space are 147 laundry processing equipment, tools for various aspects of leather repair, and objects which indicate that slaves occupy this area on a permanent basis.
|Outer clothing and coat||2 bottles|
|Pair of shoes or boots||Chamber pot|
|Blanket roll||5 salt-glaze plates "Wallet"|
|Three packing boxes||Combs|
|Low bench||Children's games Shell necklace Tools and Equipment:|
|Iron pot||Front and Rear Workyards|
|1 pewter spoon||Sizeable trash pile|
|3 wooden spoons||Wheelbarrow|
|2 small butcher knives||2 large barrels|
|3 tin cups||Cart with firewood|
|2 bone-handled eating forks|
|Objects as Installed, May 1986||Source|
|1 man's hat||Div. of Collections (DOC)|
|1 pr. man's breeches||DOC|
|1 linen pallet||DOC|
|1 ironing blanket||DOC|
|2 pair worn shoes||DOC, Historic Trades (HT)|
|Tools and Equipment:|
|2 box irons||HT|
|3 bottle corks||Historic Area Stores (HAS) 1 tin cup HAS|
|Needle & thread||DOC|
|1 butcher knife||DOC|
|3 pewter spoons||DOC|
|Wooden heel pegs||HT|
|1 pair saddlebags||HT|
|1 shoulder band harness||HT|
|1 brass skillet||Loren Lillis|
|1 small barrel||HT|
|1 pair andirons||DOC|
|1 saucepan with lid||R1980-69,9 (Kurt Strehl)|
|1 broom||R1980-64,2 (HT)|
|1 colander||R1981-40,1 (David Claggett)|
|1 shoe hammer||W36-2331|
|1 scrubbing brush||1956-210|
|1 large copper kettle||1966-195|
|1 earthenware milk bowl||HAS|
|2 Imari plates||HAS|
|1 Imari cup||HAS|
|1 wine bottle||R1982-15,|
The role of slaves in an urban domestic complex is interpreted at the George Wythe House. Furnished spaces include the southwest bedchamber, the west room of the kitchen, the two lower rooms in the laundry, and the loft of the stable.149
|1 feather mattress||Creamware & salt-glaze bowls|
|3 suits of clothing|
|2 pair women's shoes||Miscellaneous:|
|Collections of buttons Furniture:||Comb|
|1 ladder-back chair|
|1 new table|
|1 chest of drawers|
|Objects as Installed, November 1987||Source|
|1 man's waistcoat||Div. of Collections (DOC)|
|2 linen sheets||DOC|
|1 wool blanket||DOC|
|Scraps of cloth||DOC|
|Fabric scraps (in basket)||DOC|
|1 red headcloth||DOC|
|1 black felt man's hat||DOC|
|Red cloth (at window)||DOC|
|1 pair man's black shoes||Historic Trades (HT)|
|1 pair woman's red shoes||HT|
|1 low post bed|
|1 red ladderback chair|
|1 six-board walnut chest|
|1 stretcher-base table|
|Tools and Equipment:|
|3 pewter spoons||DOC|
|1 pair andirons||1966-53, 1-2|
|1 hogscraper candlestick||R1979-29,13|
|1 stoneware chamber pot||DOC|
|1 Imari teapot||Historic Area Stores (HAS)|
|1 stoneware bowl||DOC|
|3 Imari teabowls||HAS|
|2 Whieldon plates||Metropolitan Museum of Art?|
|1 earthenware oil storage jar||1973-388|
|1 oval wooden lapped box||HAS|
|1 horn comb||HAS|
|2 pewter buttons||HAS|
|2 shoe buckles|
|Poor Planter's Physician (unbound)||HAS|
|1 large oval basket||DOC|
|1 round basket (for fabric scraps)||DOC|
|Textiles:||Tools and Equipment:|
|Two pallets||Shovel Two shirts|
|Two pairs of long pants|
|A hat and wool cap|
|Six-board chest with wooden hinges|
|Objects as Installed, November 1987||Source|
|Straw-filled pallet (27 in. wide) Straw-filled pallet (36 in. wide)|
|Sawbuck table Stretcher-base table Black ladderback chair Bench|
|Unpainted 6-board chest|
|Tools and Equipment:|
|Laundry drying rack|
|Two wash tubs|
|One tub (for ashes)|
|Three wooden buckets||HAS|
|Copper boiling kettle and metal stand|
|Large copper boiling kettle||R1980-65,1|
|Two flat baskets|
|Pair of andirons||R1980-54,2 a&b|
|Textiles:||Tools and Equipment:|
|Two straw mattresses||Bucket|
|Pile of refuse cloth||Razor|
|Furniture:||Broom Small bedstead|
|Old ladder-back chair||Ceramics:|
|Simple rectangular chest||Delft drug pot|
|Two crates||2 salt-glaze or tin mugs Wine bottles|
|Objects as Installed, November 1987||Source|
|1 man's wool waistcoat|
|Fabric scraps||Div. of Collections (DOC)|
|2 white linen napkins|
|1 striped ironing blanket|
|1 man's linen shirt|
|1 pair man's breeches|
|1 child's linen shirt|
|1 pair man's black shoes||Historic Trades (HT)|
|1 small child's shoe||HT|
|1 red head scarf||DOC|
|1 knit Monmouth cap|
|1 woman's straw hat||Historic Area Stores (HAS)|
|Mattress (for low-post bed)|
|Two gray wool blankets|
|One cream wool blanket|
|Mattress (to lay on floor)|
|Green ladderback chair|
|Two shipping crates|
|Small six-board chest|
|Barrell with wood slab top|
|Tools and Equipment:|
|1 horn-handled pocket knife|
|1 large basket||DOC|
|1 small basket||DOC|
|1 gourd dipper|
|1 wooden scoop|
|1 iron ladle|
|1 butcher knife|
|2 wooden spoons||HAS|
|2 pewter spoons||DOC|
|2 small buckets|
|1 large bucket|
|1 box iron with slug|
|1 iron hilling hoe|
|1 narrow axe|
|1 butcher knife|
|1 tailor's iron||R1980-80, 2|
|1 hogscraper candlestick||R1979-29, 6|
|Large stoneware mug (broken)||HAS|
|Large Imari mug (broken)||HAS|
|Astbury mug (broken)||HAS|
|Medium combed slipware pie plate||HAS|
|1 earthenware mug||HAS|
|1 clay pipe||HAS|
|1 twist tobacco||HAS|
|1 tin whistle||HAS|
|1 rag doll||DOC|
|Objects as Installed, November 1987||Source|
|Wool blanket||Div. of Collections (DOC)|
|Ceramics & Miscellaneous:|
|Stoneware bottle||R1978-42, 21|
|Small wooden box|
|Objects as Installed, November 1987||Source|
|Quilt||R1987-765 (Natalie Larsen)|
|Blanket (pieced from fragments)||1960-532, 3,5,10,13|
|Four reproduction chairs, two unfinished|
|Low post bed||1966-225|
|Two side chairs (with repro slip seats)||1972-324, 1-2|
|Tools and Equipment:|
|Pair of andirons||1930-501|
|Knitting sheath and needles||1947-317|
|Chinese import porcelain bottle||1937-231|
|Engraved glass tumbler||1975-202, 2|
|Ink line drawings, in embroidery stand|
The Brush-Everard site is interpreted as the home of Thomas Everard, York County official and property owner. He owned several slaves, among them two liveried male slaves, Bristol and Cupid, a cook, and a personal servant for his invalid daughter, Frances. Consequently, the presence of slaves is shown both in the house (indicated by a pallet in Frances's room)3 as well as in the north room and upper level of the kitchen.
|Textiles:||Tools and Equipment:|
|Livery coat & other clothing||Pocket knife and razor|
|Worn coat||Pewter cup and pewter bowl Pants and shirt|
|Two blankets||Salt-glaze cup|
|One pair worn shoes||Wine bottle|
|Two pair new shoes||Creamware bowl Two mattresses|
|Two stools||Gaming equipment|
|Objects as Installed, July 1988||Source|
|2 straw-filled mattresses||Div. of Collections (DOC)|
|2 cream wool blankets|
|1 white linen shirt|
|1 worn blue coat||DOC (from Costume Dept.)|
|1 suit of livery||R1988-264, 1-3 (Janice Ryan)|
|2 pairs of shoes (green and black)|
|1 packing crate||DOC|
|1 wooden box||DOC|
|1 stool||Michael Lewis|
|1 cut-down Windsor chair||DOC (Virginia Craftsmen)|
|Tools and Equipment:|
|1 pocket knife||Historic Area Stores (HAS)|
|1 razor||R1988-263 (Jon Laubach)|
|1 pewter mug||Craft House (CH)|
|1 pewter bowl||CH|
|1 chicken basket||DOC|
|1 banjo||African-American Programs|
|1 wooden spoon||AAP|
|2 stoneware bowls||HAS|
|1 Astbury mug||HAS|
|1 small stoneware bottle||HAS|
|1 wine bottle||R1982-15, 146|
|1 saltglaze mug||AAP|
|1 deck of cards||HAS|
|2 wooden combs||HAS|
|Textiles:||Furniture and Ceramics:|
|Bag of cloth|
|Objects as Installed, July 1988||Source|
|1 rolled straw tick bed||Div. of Collections (DOC)|
|1 cream wool blanket||DOC|
|1 blue wool short coat|
|Several pieces of fabric, assorted colors||DOC|
|Tools and Equipment:|
|1 round basket||DOC|
|1 packing crate||DOC|
|1 stoneware jar||R1978-39, 4|
|Objects as Installed, November 1987||Source|
This space is intended to emphasize the presence of slaves working and living in any location that had a roof and afforded a place to sleep that was dry and protected.
|Textiles:||Tools and Equipment:|
|Old shirt||Gourd dipper|
|Wool blanket||Ladder Stool|
|Objects as Installed, July 1988||Source|
|One wool blanket||Div. of Collections (DOC)|
|One old shirt||DOC|
|Tools and Equipment:|
|One wooden pitchfork|
|Stoneware bowl||Historic Area Stores (HAS)|
|One stoneware mug||HAS|
By the last quarter of the eighteenth century, skilled slaves represented an increasing percentage of the black population in Williamsburg and in Tidewater Virginia. James 159 Anderson used skilled slaves in his blacksmith operation, and the Anderson Forge is the best place in the Historic Area to interpret this aspect of black life in eighteenth century Williamsburg. A few basic items of clothing and living items were to be installed in the attic of the forge complex so as to be visible from the ground, but the building, as constructed, has no logical location for these items, and therefore no objects denoting the presence of skilled slaves are present.
The furnishing of the Carter's Grove Slave Quarter proceeded on somewhat different lines than the furnishing of the in-town spaces. Once approval was granted for the reconstruction of the slave quarter in [date] 1986, the immediate focus became the actual work of reconstruction itself, which was done by the Historic Trades housewrights using the plans developed by the Department of Architectural Research. Planning for the furnishing of the buildings began in July 1987 when Diane Dunkley, then associate curator for Carter's Grove, asked each curator to propose appropriate furnishings for the living spaces at the slave quarter. This list was given to Rex Ellis in October 1987. By January 1988 the Carter's Grove Quarter Design Group from the Department of Architectural Research had drawn up its own list of quarter furnishings, based on sources that it had used while planning the buildings for the quarter. The differences in these furnishings plans -- differences which manifested themselves in the types of articles chosen, the distribution of those articles among the various living locations, specificity of placement of the objects within each space, and the standard of living of each residential group as reflected by the quantity and type of furnishings -- resulted in a lengthy discussion, over a six-month period, between the Division of Collections and the Department of Architectural 161 Research as to what constituted the most reasonable and accurate level of furnishings for the slave quarter.
The final furnishings list for the slave quarter, as included here, reflects the decisions and opinions of the Division of Collections, based on the findings discussed in earlier sections of this report and the useful criticism given by the Department of Architectural Research and the Division of Research. The same procedures of object acquisition and installation discussed above for the in-town sites was followed for the slave quarter. The furnishings for the Carter's Grove Slave Quarter were installed on March 8-9, 1989, and the quarter opened to the public on March 11, 1989. On-going maintenance of the Quarter and its furnishings is now the responsibility of the Director of Carter's Grove.
Detailed below are the furnishings which were planned for installation in each interpreted area and those which were actually installed at the Carter's Grove Slave Quarter. Included for each living space is the list of occupants and their place in the quarter, along with the objects in place as of August 1989 and the source of supply for these articles. More detailed information about these objects are available at the Division of Collections office.
1. House 1, West: Home of Joe, a skilled carpenter, his wife and her child, and two children of a female slave at another quarter. Because of Joe's skills, he 162 is able to sell some products and thereby acquire the cash to purchase goods -- primarily textiles -- to add to what his master has provided for him and his family.163
|Joe, a carpenter||36|
|Nanny, Joe's wife||34|
|Lucy, Nanny's daughter||10|
|Esther, Letty's daughter||15 (at another quarter)|
|Charles, Letty's son||12|
|Clothing as specified by Linda Baumgarten|
|7 blankets (combination of old & new)|
|2 mattresses (for built-in beds/berths)|
|Assorted rags (blanket and clothing pieces)|
|2 built-in beds (berths)|
|4 stools (2 being made for sale) 1 six-board box|
|1 packing crate (under a bed)|
|Tools and Equipment:|
|1 iron pot|
|1 flint and steel|
|Wooden utensils (bowls, spoons)|
|Carpenter's tools (auger, chisel, froe, hammer, saw)|
|3 baskets (one for carpenter's tools)|
|1 set needle & thread|
|1 gourd dipper|
|1 crosscut saw, 1 narrow ax, grindstone (Quarter tools kept at this house)|
|1 wooden log mortar|
|1 wood pestle 1 frying pan|
|1 old candlestick|
|2 pewter spoons|
|3 tinware cups Small bag of nails|
|1 milk pan|
|1 slipware dish 1 delftware jar|
|1 colono-ware pot/bowl|
|3 creamware plates (varying conditions) 1 Chinese export bowl/cup|
|Toys (marbles, etc.)|
|Piece of looking glass|
|Corn and remnants of shucking|
|Vegetables, in basket [Monitor for rot and insect problems]|
|1 pocket knife Pipe & tobacco|
|1 old straw hat|
|1 pr. wool breeches||Janice Ryan|
|1 red kerchief||Div. of Collections|
|1 cocked hat||DOC|
|1 pr. shoes||Historic Trades (HT)|
|1 pr. boy's short trousers||Janice Ryan|
|1 striped woman's jacket w/removable sleeves;||HT|
|7 blankets (combination of old & new)||DOC|
|1 pallet (for bedframe)||DOC|
|1 knit hat||Gert Katz|
|1 striped petticoat||HT|
|1 shirt||Kathleen Smith|
|1 felt hat||DOC|
|1 pr. plaid hose||Costume Dept. (CD)|
|1 pr. man's short trousers||Janice Ryan|
|1 used red coat w/waistcoat||DOC|
|1 bedframe (berth)||HT|
|3 stools||Michael Lewis|
|1 wooden bench||Michael Lewis|
|1 packing crate|
|Tools and Equipment:|
|2 grubbing hoes||HT and Bill Blair|
|1 iron pot|
|1 flint||Historic Area Stores|
|7 wooden spoons, 1 wooden bowl, 3 wooden trenchers||HT and Bill Blair|
|1 claw hammer||HT|
|1 mallet||Bill Blair|
|1 chalk line||DOC|
|2 iron wedges||HT|
|1 broken mortising ax||HT|
|1 pr. dividers||HT|
|2 baskets, including one for carpenter's tools||DOC|
|1 needle and thread||DOC|
|1 butcher knife||Golden Age Arms Co. 1 garden rake|
|1 frying pan||HT and|
|1 old hogscraper candlestick||DOC|
|2 pewter teaspoons||HAS|
|4 tinware cups||HAS|
|Small bag of nails||HT|
|1 stick with string||DOC|
|4 fishing poles (2 unfinished)||Bill Blair|
|1 wooden mortar and pestle||Bill Blair|
|1 large combed slipware trencher||Craft House (CH)|
|2 colono-ware bowls||Mattaponi Indians|
|2 creamware plates||HAS|
|2 delft plates||CH|
|1 Imari mug||HAS|
|1 large stoneware jar||HAS|
|1 small stoneware jug||HAS|
|1 colono-ware dish||Mattaponi Indians|
|1 Astbury pitcher||HAS|
|1 marble||Bill Weldon Kindling|
|1 razor||Jon Laubach|
|1 pocket knife||Gedney Godwin or HAS|
|1 pipe and tobacco||HAS|
2. House 1, East: This space is occupied by two single male slaves. These men are field hands, and their living 166 space is the primary storage space for the agricultural equipment used on the plantation.167
|Bristol 29 Manuel 20|
|Clothing as specified by Linda Baumgarten 2 blankets|
|Boards for pallets|
|1 small packing crate or log (seat)|
|1 box w/lid and leather hinges|
|Tools and Equipment:|
|1 wheat sieve|
|1 ox chain|
|2 tobacco knives Wooden spoons|
|1 gourd bowl|
|1 gourd dipper|
|2 wood or ceramic plates|
|1 wine bottle|
|1 milk pan|
|1 jar (salt-glaze)|
|Broken creamware, delftware, salt-glazed stoneware in open pit|
|1 clay pipe with broken stem|
|1 tobacco twist|
|1 set fishing gear|
|1 banjo 1 razor|
|1 pocket knife|
|Rushes 1 pail|
|Items in Storage:|
|1 broken iron pot|
|Hoes - variety of types Iron and wooden wedges 1 crosscut saw|
|1 mallet or beetle|
|1 old sifter 1 small plow 1 large plow Part of plow|
|1 harrow & coulter|
|1 ox yoke and chains|
|Seed, in bags [Monitor for rot and insect problems]|
|Sacks & bags Knives|
|1 broken piece of furniture|
|1 shirt||Div. of Collections|
|1 small barrel w/wooden hoops||DOC|
|1 high bench||Historic Trades (HT)|
(1 occupant is sleeping on straw on cellar cover; 1 occupant is sleeping on clapboards covered with straw in front of fireplace)
|Tools and Equipment:|
|1 wheat sieve||HT|
|2 wooden spoons||HT or Bill Blair|
|1 knife||Golden Age Arms Co.|
|2 narrow hoes||HT|
|1 pewter plate||Craft House (CH)/HT 1 small pot|
|1 wine bottle||DOC|
|1 earthenware cup||Historic Area Stores|
|1 stoneware mug||HAS|
|1 Imari saucer||HAS|
|1 clay pipe with broken stem||HAS|
|1 tobacco twist||HAS|
|1 pocket knife||HAS or Gedney Godwin|
|Items in Storage:|
|5 hoe handles||Bill Blair|
|1 narrow hoe head||HT|
|2 wooden wedges||Bill Blair|
|2 wooden mauls|
|3 pieces rope (1 old; 1 new rope; 1 misc.)||HT|
|1 furrow plow||HT (loan)|
|2 ox yokes -- 1 w/bows, 1 w/o bows||HT|
|6 grain bags, filled with styrofoam peanuts||DOC/Distribution Cn.|
|2 flails||Bill Blair|
|1 knife||Golden Age Arms Co.|
|3 wooden pitchforks||Blair/Pennsylvania|
|1 iron pitchfork|
|2 wooden shovels||Bill Blair|
|2 garden rakes|
|1 handle for rake||Bill Blair|
|1 reaping hook||HT|
|1 large basket (2' x 4')||HT|
|Parcel of old harness||HT|
3. House 1, Shed: The shed attached to House 1 is the living space for an elderly slave who is accorded what is, in his master's eyes, the distinction of having a private space for sleeping and storing his possessions.
|Old Paris, a widower and infirm||71|
|Clothing as specified by Linda Baumgarten|
|2 blankets (one old, one new)|
|1 "bed" (mattress)|
|1 built-in bed|
|Tools and Equipment:|
|1 pocket knife and carved pieces 1 whet stone|
|1 gun, pouch, horn|
|1 pail 1 fork|
|1 wooden spoon|
|1 gourd bowl|
|1 salt-glaze or stoneware dish or plate|
|2 small bottles|
|1 wine bottle|
|1 earthenware or stoneware mug|
|1 colono-ware chamber pot|
|1 strand African beads, fetish or decorated item 1 clay pipe and 1 twist tobacco|
|1 basket or box for storage|
|1 pair of old shoes, one cut up for scrap leather|
|1 pr. long wool trousers||Janice Ryan|
|1 felt hat||Div. of Collections|
|2 blankets (one old, one new)||DOC|
|1 bedframe||Historic Trades (HT)|
|Tools and Equipment:|
|1 penny knife||Historic Area Stores|
|1 cartridge bag||Irvin Diehl|
|1 powder horn||Clay Smith|
|1 fork||G. Gedney Godwin|
|1 wooden spoon||Bill Blair|
|1 wooden bowl||Bill Blair|
|1 knife||Golden Age Arms Co.|
|1 Imari saucer||HAS|
|1 wine bottle||DOC|
|1 colono-ware cup||Mattaponi Indians|
|1 crutch||Bill Blair|
|1 clay pipe and 1 twist tobacco||HAS|
|1 crate||Michael Lewis|
|1 pair of old shoes||DOC|
4. House 2, West: Living space for a group including the daughter, grand-daughter and great-grand-daughters of Paris. Domestic activities such as sewing and cooking are emphasized here.
|Venus, a widow and Old Paris's daughter||50|
|Sukey, Venus's daughter (her husband, Simon, is at another plantation)||27|
|Nancy, Sukey's daughter||12|
|Lewis, Sukey's son||8 months|
|Clothing as specified by Linda Baumgarten|
|1 mattress (for bed)|
|1 or 2 crates with board for table|
|1 old chair or stool|
|Tools and Equipment:|
|1 iron pot|
|1 pair scissors|
|1 set needle & thread|
|1 gourd dipper|
|2 gourd bowls 1 cask|
|1 frying pan|
|1 flint and steel 1 pair pot hooks|
|2 milk pans|
|1 stoneware jug|
|1 delftware plate|
|3 (unmatched) dishes|
|1 Buckley ware storage jar|
|1 creamware bowl|
|2 small glass bottles|
|1 cornhusk or handcarved wooden doll|
|1 baby's rattle|
|Vegetables in pit [Monitor for rot and insect problems]|
|1 striped woman's jacket w/removable sleeves||Historic Trades (HT)|
|1 pr. plaid hose||Costume Dept. (CD)|
|1 child's shift||Kathleen Smith|
|1 old shirt||HT (Carpenters)|
|1 pr. knit hose||Div. of Collections|
|2 women's shifts||Kathleen Smith|
|1 unfinished shift||Kathleen Smith|
|1 striped petticoat||HT|
|1 small barrel||DOC|
|1 crate||Michael Lewis|
|1 straw bed||DOC 1 board|
|1 stool||Michael Lewis|
|Tools and Equipment|
|1 iron pot|
|1 pair scissors||Historic Area Stores|
|1 set needle, thread and brass thimble||DOC/HAS|
|1 pair pot hooks||HT|
|1 butcher knife||Golden Age Arms Co.|
|3 wooden spoons||Bill Blair|
|1 wooden tray||Bill Blair|
|1 medium wooden bowl||Bill Blair|
|1 very small wooden bowl||Bill Blair|
|1 small barrel||DOC|
|1 small wooden mortar and pestle||Bill Blair|
|1 stoneware pitcher||HAS|
|1 delft plate||Craft House (CH)|
|1 Imari saucer||HAS|
|1 medium and 1 large stoneware jar||HAS|
|1 Imari mug||HAS|
|1 cornhusk doll||Donna Tilghman (DOC)|
|1 small round basket||HT|
|1 fishing pole|
5. House 2, East: This space was to have been exhibited as the living area for another family grouping, but is now used as a break area for the Quarter's interpretive staff. The proposed furnishings are listed below for reference.
|Harry - Venus's son & Paris's grandson||23|
|Sally, Harry's wife||22|
|James, Sally's son||4|
|Portia, Sally's sister||17|
|Will, Portia's son||1|
|Tom, Sally's brother||14|
|2 men's jackets||1 knit cap|
|1 child's wool frock||3 oznabrig shirts|
|3 pr. plaid hose||1 felt hat|
|2 shifts||1 child's shirt|
|Rags for diapers||1 infant shirt|
|Assorted rags (blanket and clothing pieces)|
|2 large pallets|
|1 small barrel|
|2 stools||2 boxes|
|Tools and Equipment:|
|1 iron pot|
|1 fishing pole/line|
|1 frying pan|
|1 reaping hook|
|1 gourd bowl|
|1 salt-glaze dish or bowl|
|2 creamware dishes, plates or saucers|
|Kindling||2 iron keys|
|Corn||Vegetables [Monitor for rot and insect problems]|
|1 comb (design to be decided)||Buttons|
6. House 3: The house of the foreman, himself a slave, and his family. His status is slightly higher in the master's eyes and consequently the furnishings are more extensive than those of the other slave quarter occupants.
|Judith, Daniel's wife||37|
|Sam, Judith's son||18|
|Phill, Judith's son||16|
|Milly, Judith's daughter||9|
|Betsy, Mary's (at another plantation) daughter||3|
|Clothing as specified by Linda Baumgarten|
|1 "bed" (for bedframe)|
|"Bedding" in loft|
|1 worn blanket|
|1 old chair|
|1 built-in bedframe|
|1 low stool|
|Tools and Equipment:|
|1 frying pan|
|1 wooden mortar|
|1 wooden pestle|
|1 pair pot hooks|
|Pewter & wooden spoons|
|1 iron pot|
|1 flint & steel|
|1 flesh fork|
|1 candlestick Rushes|
|1 tea kettle|
|1 gourd dipper|
|2 pewter plates|
|1 pewter mug|
|2 mugs (delft or salt-glaze)|
|2 sizes bowls (salt-glaze or creamware)|
|1 drinking glass Creamware plate(s)|
|1 colono-ware jar|
|2 wine bottles|
|1 export plate|
|2 different sizes slipware dishes|
|1 Chinese porcelain cup|
|1 trap, or string with chicken neck & net for crabbing|
|Children's toys, including cloth or wooden doll|
|1 looking glass Sewing equipment|
|Vegetables [Monitor for rot and insect problems]|
|1 pair earrings|
|1 clay pipe & twist tobacco|
|1 old canister|
|1 pr. boy's short trousers||Janice Ryan|
|1 pr. plaid hose||Costume Dept. (CD)|
|1 striped petticoat||Historic Trades (HT)|
|1 pr. men's trousers||Janice Ryan|
|1 straw hat||Div. of Collections|
|1 child's shift||Kathleen Smith|
|1 pr. knit hose||DOC|
|1 man's striped shirt||HT|
|1 man's shirt||Kathleen Smith|
|1 felt hat||DOC|
|2 pallets (1 small pallet on clapboards; 1 large pallet on bedstead)||DOC|
|"Bedding" in loft (2 boys on straw)||DOC|
|1 worn blanket (included with other blankets)||DOC|
|1 old chair||DOC|
|1 bench||Michael Lewis|
|1 small barrel (24", for seat)||DOC|
|1 small barrel (14")||DOC|
|2 packing crates||Michael Lewis|
|1 stool||Michael Lewis|
|Tools and Equipment:|
|1 grubbing hoe||HT/Bill Blair|
|1 frying pan||HT/|
|1 pair pot hooks||HT|
|2 large pewter spoons||Historic Area Stores 7 wooden spoons|
|2 large pots (one in loft)|
|1 medium pot|
|1 flint & steel||HAS/Jon Laubach|
|1 flesh fork||HT|
|2 butcher knives||Golden Age Arms Co.|
|1 boning knife||Golden Age Arms Co.|
|1 hogscraper candlestick||DOC|
|1 large trencher||Bill Blair|
|2 medium trenchers||Bill Blair|
|7 wooden spoons||Bill Blair/HT|
|1 pewter plate||Craft House (CH)/HT|
|1 pewter mug||CH|
|1 iron skillet||DOC|
|1 garden rake|
|1 tin cup||HAS|
|1 small round basket without handle||HT|
|1 Imari mug||HAS|
|1 delft mug||CH|
|1 stoneware mug||HAS|
|1 creamware plate||HAS|
|1 colono-ware bowl||Mattaponi Indians|
|4 wine bottles||DOC|
|1 combed slipware trencher||CH|
|1 delft plate||CH|
|1 large stoneware jar||HAS|
|2 earthenware cups||HAS|
|1 razor||Jon Laubach|
|1 looking glass||Michael Lewis|
|1 pair shears||HAS|
|1 set needle and thread||DOC|
|1 fiddle||Gerald Kowalski|
|1 clay pipe & twist tobacco||HAS|
|1 baby's rattle||Michael Lewis|
When the effort began in the early 1980s to furnish selected sites at Colonial Williamsburg to reflect the lives of the Africans and descendants of Africans who made up a majority of the colonial capital's population, relatively little was known about slaves' lives. Although the origins of Negro slavery in America were discussed in every book that dealt with the subject, most scholars focused their attention on slavery in the nineteenth century, where much information -- written, oral and pictorial -- survived to tell the story. The tentative beginnings of slavery in Virginia and the Chesapeake, the institutionalization of slavery in the eighteenth century, and the ways in which both blacks and whites constantly changed the system and adjusted to it in those years received, by comparison, relatively little study. Only a handful of researchers were interested in the topic -- and they were primarily interested in the political, economic, legal and social ramifications -- and at Colonial Williamsburg, investigations into the topic had to be squeezed into already crowded agendas. Thus it was that Colonial Williamsburg's historians, curators and architects had relatively little information to guide them as they began to plan programs and installations designed to reflect the black experience in eighteenth-century Williamsburg.
It was not long after the decision to implement these programs that those people involved realized that much more 180 research had to be done in order to present an accurate view of eighteenth-century slavery in Tidewater Virginia to Colonial Williamsburg's visitors. Historians worked to discover the legal, demographic and historic information necessary, and architectural historians labored to analyze excavated buildings remains, fragile above-ground structures and vague records in their search for eighteenth-century Virginia slave housing. Meanwhile, curators scoured the sources available to them --legal, personal and printed documents, archaeological recoveries, antique objects -- for information about the material culture of slavery. It was this concentrated "push" for information which gave a more accurate focus to the identification and furnishing of slave living areas in the Historic Area and at Carter's Grove, and the results of which is described in this report.
We now are on much firmer ground in talking about the material culture of slavery in eighteenth-century Tidewater Virginia. According to the evidence gathered over the course of this project, slaves had access to a variety of goods from a variety of sources, both English and colonial, and they were as willing participants in the market economy as their situations would allow. Slaves acquired the things they lived with in several ways: from their masters, either as "issued" or "supplied" goods, or "hand-me-downs," through purchase and barter, through theft, and from the fruits of their own efforts. Most masters were content to let slaves acquire objects in all of these ways except theft, but there was a well-understood line 181 beyond which slaves understood they could not go and beyond which masters would not let them go. When slaves began to infringe on what masters felt was their own sphere -- whether that be the growing of tobacco, the keeping of livestock, or the spending of what masters felt was their time on a slave's own project --slaves were firmly put in their place. Yet despite these boundaries, slaves still managed to acquire goods.
These goods were, for the most part, the same types of goods used by white colonists. Those things given to slaves by their masters to do their jobs -- the "supplies" discussed in Chapter IV -- were used by all who lived in colonial Virginia and performed those tasks, whether they were black or white, although these goods may have been better or worse than those used by whites. "Issued" goods -- the clothing and blankets issued to slaves on a regular basis -- may have been made from coarser materials, but they were based on recognizable clothing types worn by the English colonists. Even the food the slaves ate came from many of the same types of animals, though the parts they received from the master were considered the less-desirable ones, and the wild life may not have been in the best condition. Based on the accounts kept by merchants, slaves purchased goods which made their lives more tolerable, enhanced their appearance, and enriched their diet -- all activities which were accepted by their masters. The legal records indicate that the goods slaves acquired by theft may have been sold to finance their escapes but just as often may have been stolen to use in their own quarters. 182 In short, slaves used every available means open to them, both legal and illegal, to improve their lot, with the end result that there was a wide range of goods which might be found at any slave quarter.
Yet there is much that is not known about eighteenth-century slave material culture. There is very little information about African customs and traditions that may have been transmitted from generation to generation, even though things like the oft-discussed root cellars may have had their antecedents in African practices. As is noted in the introduction, the paucity of information from slaves themselves means that we have no idea about what slaves thought about their living conditions, how they used the objects they had, and what qualities they sought in the things they wished to acquire. Although travelers were quick to give opinions about slavery in America, few of them left detailed verbal descriptions of the conditions they found, and virtually no artist -- except, perhaps, Benjamin Latrobe and the anonymous artist of "The Old Plantation" -- left a visual description of the things slaves used on a daily basis.
All of the black presence installations have been designed to reflect the information that is known and to hint at the ambiguities which will always exist. Although we are confident that there were hierarchies in the slave community, the ways in which these hierarchies are reflected in the furnishings indicate a twentieth-century way of thinking about eighteenth- 183 century hierarchies, not what may have actually been the case (for example, the furnishing of the foreman's house at Carter's Grove with more goods of a higher level implies that the foreman had more status -- we do not know that this was necessarily true.). We are also looking at them in the way that a master may have looked at hierarchy: giving an elderly slave a separate sleeping area and place to keep his meager belongings may well reflect a white master's idea of status, not a slave's, whose memories of Africa include elderly tribe members who lived with their extended families and were not forced to live apart from them.
We do not know how these English goods were arranged in slave spaces nor how they were used on a daily basis. Were slave quarters neat or messy, full of accumulated cast-offs and "found" objects, or sparsely furnished, with meager amounts of goods? We suspect that the truth lies somewhere in-between these extremes, but we do not know. We do not know about slave preferences in goods -- which readily-available items were fashionable and which were not. Even in the matter of clothing, where so much information is available, we are not even sure how slaves wore their clothing and how it was altered to reflect notions of proper dress that had developed in the slave community.
Therefore the decision was made to present a range of furnishing possibilities (especially at Carter's Grove) just as the architectural historians decided to present a range of building possibilities, despite the fact that there are 184 inconsistencies not only between the furnishings in-town and at Carter's Grove but even from house to house at the Slave Quarter. By presenting a range of possibilities, we felt that visitors could better understand the complex nature of eighteenth-century slavery in Tidewater Virginia and how that complexity played itself out in the personal lives of individual slaves.
And what do we hope Colonial Williamsburg's visitors learn from their visit to all of our "black presence" spaces? We hope that they learn that within a system that was oppressive and often brutal, Virginia's slave population did their best to make their lives as comfortable as possible while strengthening and supporting the bonds of family and developing their own skills to the extent feasible. The furnishings seen today in the slave-occupied settings in the Historic Area and at the Carter's Grove Slave Quarter are the props with which our interpreters help the visitors experience another aspect of eighteenth-century life. It is an aspect which we cannot defend and may not wish to discuss, but it is an aspect which is crucial to understanding the roots of American life today.
Attached is the report of the subcommittee on the interpretation of the black experience at Colonial Williamsburg.
The committee consisted of Reginald Butler, Cary Carson, John Moon, Phil Morgan, Earl Soles, Bill Tramposch, and myself as chairman. Ed Chappel and Shomer Zwelling joined our discussions at different points, and Graham Hood read and commented upon an early draft of the report.
Our meetings were stimulating and productive. The committee developed a firm consensus supporting the recommendations made in the report and has high hopes that a new effort in the area of interpreting the history of Williamsburg's black residents and the realities of slavery will now be made.
So it is with a sense of accomplishment as well as with optimism for its future that I convey this report to you.
Until quite recently, Colonial Williamsburg said very little about the town's eighteenth-century black residents and the system of slavery and racial subordination within which they lived. Indeed, interpreters were advised to avoid introducing these difficult topics into their presentations and instructed to parry questions about slaves and slavery should an inquisitive visitor raise them. Places of exhibition were virtually devoid of any material evidence of the presence of blacks who, by 1775, had become the town's majority. Thad Tate's The Negro In Eighteenth-Century Williamsburg, published in 1965, was the exception that proved the rule that the Foundation's research effort ignored Williamsburg's black population and the matter of slavery as completely as did interpretation in the Historic Area and at Carter's Grove.
Film was the only medium during these years by which Colonial Williamsburg depicted at least the fact of a substantial black presence in the colonial capital. There are black faces aplenty in "Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot;" "The Music of Williamsburg" even explores, although neither thoroughly nor per-suasively, an important aspect of Afro-American culture. But even these noteworthy efforts fall far short of offering the public a coherent picture and interpretation of the black experience and the practice of slavery in eighteenth-century Williamsburg.
Efforts to redress those serious omissions in Colonial Williamsburg's educational program got underway in the mid-1970's. Many people have contributed to these efforts. Some especially noteworthy milestones were the discussions held with invited black educators and museum professionals during and after the bicentennial year, the report of the curriculum committee, the creation of a living history program and the Company of Colonial Performers and the several history programs generated thereby, the York County project, the conference on black history, a series of training programs for interpreters on black history topics, the compilation of recordings of traditional Afro-American music, and, bringing us up to work in progress, a revision of the official guidebook that will introduce a number of Afro-Americans into its pages, the hiring of a re-search historian and the support of an Institute fellow, each conducting research on the topic of black life and slavery in colonial Virginia, field research on slave quarters, and an 187 -2- interpretive and agricultural experiment in the garden and fields of Carter's Grove.
Yet these efforts, important as they are, have had, in the subcommittee's estimation, only a limited impact on Colonial Williamsburg's interpretation of the black experience for its visitors. Most interpretations one encounters make no reference to blacks, and very few buildings and sites suggest their presence. There are still too few blacks among our interpretive staffs and too few blacks among our visitors.
The members of the subcommittee are unanimous in the belief that a sustained effort to extend and upgrade the quality of Colonial Williamsburg's presentation and interpretation of the black experience must now be launched. Failure to do so, we feel, will result in a loss of the momentum we so far have gained and the atrophying of the programs we now offer the public.
The subcommittee was formed to address this problem and to make recommendations as to what the next steps should be to insure that the story of Williamsburg's black residents and of slavery in eighteenth-century Virginia and its capital, an essential element in the broader story of "Becoming Americans", will be told at Colonial Williamsburg as fully and as accurately as possible. To this end, we make the following recommendations to the Educational Policy Committee, to the Program Planning and Review Committee, and to whichever other officers, directors, and committees of the Foundation are deemed appropriate.
We urge that the statement below be adopted as the expression of the Foundation's educational policy for interpreting the black experience at Colonial Williamsburg in the 1980's and beyond:
The active presence of a black majority, the emergence of a vital Afro-American subculture, and the grim realities of life servitude alike are to be the three emphases of the interpretation of the black experience at Colonial Williamsburg. The means used to do this will, properly, be varied and chosen with an eye toward the particular audience, site, theme, and personnel involved. Some sites might offer interpretations that are dedicated chiefly to black themes, while others might touch such topics only tangentially. However, no site in the Historic Area should be allowed to offer routine interpretations that make no reference of any sort to blacks or to slavery.
It is every interpreter's job to make the colonial capital's black residents visible to our visitors, and the job of all our research and training departments to provide them with the means to do so.
It is important that we learn more about our audience for black history, about what they expect and what they actually get from us on this subject. We need to know, too,why we don't have more black visitors so that efforts can be made, if that seems feasible, to attract more of them to Williamsburg. Therefore, we recommend:
Ongoing research into the history and material culture of Afro-Americans in colonial Virginia is essential to any plans to extend and upgrade interpretation of the black experience at Colonial Williamsburg. To this end, our recommendations are:
The training offered by the Department of Interpretive Education is vital to the strengthening of the interpretation of the black experience at Colonial Williamsburg. Thus, the sub-committee recommends :
Non-programmatic educational materials should continue to play a part in the Foundation's overall effort to teach its audience about the black experience in colonial times. We recommend :
It is essential that the presence of what, by 1775, had become a black majority in the City of Williamsburg be physically evidenced in the Historic Area. Interpretation at historic sites begins with objects and the setting. To strengthen our interpretation of the black experience at Colonial Williamsburg, therefore, those settings and objects must be found, constructed, reconstructed, or created. We recommend, therefore:
Interpretation of slavery is, in the opinion of the subcommittee, one of the most difficult yet one of the most important for interpreters to achieve. Here, theatrical techniques are most appropriate. So, we recommend:
The subcommittee agrees that new positions need to be created and, in certain instances, that a black man or woman should fill the job if the task of interpreting the black experience is to be successfully carried out at Colonial Williamsburg. It therefore recommends:
Because a program of sustained interpretive upgrading such as that proposed in this document needs oversight if it is to make real strides, we recommend:
The lack of an interpretive site,in the Historic Area to show thedesignated lives of blacks and less-than-higher-class whites makes the job of all of our interpreters difficult and, for the majority of our visitors who see the Historic Area on their own, gives visitors a skewed and extremely distorted view of life in Williamsburg in the 18th century. During the years when the political story of Williamsburg was the most important and our responsibility was to tell the story of Wythe, Randolph, Jefferson, and others, this failure to show the black 50% and the white majority was easier to justify. We now purport to be "doing social history" and the lack of such sites today is unconscionable.
We hear of some limited areas being developed but none ever appear. The only opportunity to discuss black families and their lives at a site that enhances that discussion was the short-lived Brush-Everard Kitchen experiment last fall. We have heard nothing since that time about what we plan to do for 1985. No major evaluation was done. No movement to refine or extend the program has been discussed that I know of. This one attempt has flowered and died.no
The lack of a specific site to discuss blacks in Williamsburg or a number of small sites to show the presence of blacks here is misleading to the public, and our mission should be one that expands and broadens the visitor's knowledge and understanding rather than one which obfuscates the existence of 75% or more of the people who lived in Williamsburg in the 18th century - slaves, free blacks, poor whites, and middling whites.
Our interpreters are frequently told to "include blacks in your interpretation" as they should. Is it fair to them or to the public whose education is our responsibility to talk only and not show? How much less success would the printer have in his interpretation if he had no printing press, no "Virginia Gazette," no paper, no inkballs? How much impact would be made by interpreters discussing family and home life if they could talk only about bedchambers and kitchens instead of visiting those we have open at the Wythe House, the Peyton Randolph House, and other sites? Is it reasonable to expect our interpreters to devote 75% of their interpretive time to 75% of the population because there are no specific sites to be seen while ignoring the sites and the personalities shown at those sites that are presently open to the public? To expect interpreters to be able to give a fair, balanced, and complete interpretation to visitors or to expect visitors who walk about on their own to get an accurate understanding of life in Williamsburg in the 18th century is an impossible expectation without the proper sites to visit.194 -2-
How often, for example, was a music teacher in town? How many lives did he influence? What percent of the population ever saw him? Or how many musical instruments were actually made in a shop in Williamsburg? What was the economic, social, and political impact of the musical instrument maker on life in 18th century Williamsburg? Or, to take another tack, how often were window hangings changed in the 18th century compared to today? How often were prints "installed," removed, or rearranged then as compared to now?- so?
The closing of the Geddy House has all but eliminated any visual reference to any middling sort of person in Williamsburg. We show work placesAnderson but no residences of the "working" people in the town. Rather than closing the Geddy, I would argue for opening other sites to show the lives of the lower sort of white which made up a vastly greater percentage of the population than did the Wythes and Randolphs. There are numerous buildings - the Quarter, Isham Goddin House, Elizabeth Reynolds House, Lightfoot Tenement, or Barraud Stable - which could be refitted to tell one part of that story. If the usual CW style prevailed, this retrofit would take years to do, but without such sites our claim to be telling the correct story of Williamsburg is a sham. We at least have the Geddy House to allude to that sort of life, but it is closed for the year.
As to blacks, I applaud the efforts over the past years to develop the Brush-Everard property into a site where blacks, whites, blacks and whites, and others can be shown, interpreted, and understood. But how long before that site fills the 59-year void that exists today? There are many many sites that could be fairly easily converted to show black life. Not a single building (save the closed Brush-Everard Kitchen) even shows a pallet for a slave to sleep on. We have closet doors and dresser drawers hanging open all over the place, can we not have black "things" shown (e.g., a pallet under the chest in the upper passage at the Wythe House or the upstairs "parlor" of the Peyton Randolph; slave "things" in the closets at the Randolph, Wythe, or Palace; evidence of "temporary" or "impermanent" occupation by individual blacks or family or other units of blacks in stables, kitchens, dairies, passages etc.)?
I suggest that it would not be difficult, time-consuming, expensive, or inaccurate to fit up several rooms, stables (now being used as garages), or other spaces to show the kind of marginal life that slaves must have lived here. I and many others know enough about that life of some poor or lower-class blacks today or at least in some part of the 20th century to be able to imagine and recreate a similar tableau for the 18th century, based on what we know from all sources. What we create, even if somewhat inaccurate, is not as inaccurate as ignoring them completely. Better to err with minor inaccuracy than in complete omission. For example, a small garage, formerly a carriage house or stable (and there are dozens) could have its unauthentic interior boarded over with used weatherboards, clapboards, shingles, laths, scraps, or anything similar. A floor could be created in a similar way or the ground tamped down to serve that purpose. A cooking fire could be on the ground inside without a chimney, or a wattle and daub chimney could easily be thrown up and made to look the way many slaves and/or free blacks had to do to make do. Few furnishings would be needed - used or broken reproductions from the taverns would suffice, and beds could be piles of straw, shucks, shavings, or similar items covered by old reused clothing or material salvaged from the costume shop or other source.195 -3-
These sites need not be interpreted constantly by on-site staff but having a person or people, black or white, first- or third-person types, would be extremely valuable.
I again assert that this could be done with proper cooperation from everyone involved quickly, cheaply, effectively, and accurately. We cannot continue to interpret what we do how we do it or claim to interpret what we do while devoting our assets to questionable activities and practically ignoring such a huge proportion of the population.
W.W.C.1) Visuals - placed where:
The following represents recommendations from Denny, Conny, and me concerning a plan of action for representing the Black Presence in Williamsburg:
Priority of sites would be: A) Wythe property, B) Wetherburn's, C) Brush, and D) Ludwell-Paradise stable.
Denny has asked that Jay, Kevin, Ed, and I get together to create a list of materials to be used along with projected costs.
The other buildings looked at (Palace, Powell-Waller, Carpenter's Yard, and Anderson Forge) have either been designated as low priorities or have plans that include exhibition of the black experience already.
I have also enclosed a copy of Pat Gibb's report on the Powell-Waller property for your information. Of special note is the "furniture and accessories" section.
Members present: Dennis O'Toole, Rex Ellis, Ed Chappell, Jay Gaynor, Kevin Kelly, Conny Graft, Bill Cole
Members discussed the need to make the room presently furnished as slave space to look more believable and more lived in. Jay Gaynor and Ed Chappell discussed the present furniture and whether or not it was appropriate for slaves. The group looked at the rooms above the furnished room and noted the accessibility to that space with the wide, sturdy staircase. Ed Chappell stated that it is possible that a partition existed upstairs that separated the space into two rooms. Rex Ellis stated that the upstairs space would work well for some of his special programs and that we would need to furnish those rooms to reflect black living space.
Members decided that the room adjoining the stable could have housed a stable hand. We need to put in hoes, wheat, flax, clothes on a nail, etc. This space would represent the lowest range of slave living quarters on the Wythe property.
The discussion centered on the use of the room adjoining the kitchen and whether or not it would have been 1) primarily living space, 2) primarily work space, or 3) a combination of work and living space. Members decided that the third option was the best and that we could add a small bed and some private belongings to that space and still have kitchen work being demonstrated.
Members discussed showing the presence of black life inside the house. Jay Gaynor stated that although this is more in Margaret Pritchard's area he could see a pallet upstairs.
Members discussed the fact that now that the basketmakers have moved out, the space is available. The large hearth indicates its use as a working fireplace. The upstairs is accessible via a staircase and would not need major architectural changes. Members discussed three possible representations for this space:
Members Present: Dennis O'Toole, Rex Ellis, Ed Chappell, Jay Gaynor, Kevin Kelly, Conny Graft, Bill Cole
Ed Chappell stated that we're not sure about the evidence for the reconstruction of this building but that we could put some slave clothing in the building to represent a black gardener.
Members decided that this is one of our best sites. We need to add objects outside in the yard to show work in progress, we need to install a visitor well in the kitchen and we need to add mere evidence of slave presence in the kitchen itself.
Members decided to let visitors go up the first three steps and peek into the room upstairs. Boxes or other objects would be placed on the fourth step to prevent visitors from going further. We need to add nails on the rafters with clothes hanging from them as well as other personal belongings to represent living quarters.
Jay Gaynor stated that we could not let visitors any further into the room because they would lift the objects, even reproductions would be damaged.
Members discussed putting a quern out in the yard and other artifacts to represent activities slaves would have been involved in.
Members decided to use the space in the back of the stable, between the two furnished bed chambers, to represent sleeping space for a stable hand. A pallet, an open box, clothing hanging from nails, a cup could be placed on the floor beside the present Harness rack.
Members agreed that this space is not appropriate for exhibition of slave quarters.
Members discussed adding objects to the yard to represent slave activities such as clothes drying, a wagon loaded with coal, evidence of food preparation (peeling potatoes, shelling peas, etc.)
Members decided that there would not be any benefits from installing a static exhibit in this area. The inventory lists cooking and laundry utensils for this space.
Jay Gaynor recommended adding some bandannas, a jacket laying over a barrel, and a few other personal belongings in the pantry.
Members agreed that the shed space was not plausible living space as presently constructed.
Rex Ellis would like to use the shed as shelter for his storyteller program in the evening. Dennis O'Toole stated that he could do that until the carpenters returned to the site.
Members talked about the privy and the possibility of moving that to another site in town to represent slave quarters. The committee discussed Brush-Everard and Wetherburn's Tavern as two possible locations. Jay Gaynor wondered whether the privy's construction would be too crude for an urban site such as Williamsburg.
Members Present: Dennis O'Toole, Rex Ellis, Ed Chappell, Kevin Kelly, Canny Graft, Bill Cole
Members decided that we could show living space both downstairs and upstairs. The space below the trap door would contain bedding, blanket, musical instrument, a box, 4 legged stool. A harness in the midst of repair would be placed in this space. Clothes hanging from nails, a pair of boots, and a ladder laying on the floor to represent access to the second floor space could be added. Ed Chappell stated that he has found wrought nail ladders that Roy Underhill could reproduce. During winter months the shutters should be closed. Other personal belongings would be added upstairs and the trap door would be open so visitors could peek up into that space.
Members decided that if the Powell-Waller Committee wants to use this space they should be able to. We could show at least two families living in this space. Perhaps we could place a small sign at entrance to stairs stating "Please use caution when walking up the stairs."
Members also decided that if we can't show slave life upstairs, there's no reason why we can't show slaves living downstairs. How can we show evidence of children? Rag dolls? Cornhusk dolls, etc.?
Ed Chappell recommended that we bring John Vlatch here to walk the sites with us and look at these spaces to determine appropriate artifacts.
Members also discussed adding a musical instrument, and bible. Rex Ellis asked if there was any document issued with baptisms that we could show. Bill Cole also recommended that in connection with religious life and slaves that we should reconstruct the stairs to the North Gallery in the Bruton Parish Church.
Members decided that although the stable could be used it was not high on our list of priorities. Ed Chapell asked if we had plans to reduce the parking area at Powell-Waller. Dennis O'Toole stated that there is no need for parking at that site.
Members decided that we need to make the kitchen look as if it's in use. One pot meals and cornmeal should be added to show evidence of Afro-American foodways.
Pat Gibbs has discovered that there is no mention of laundry equipment in Wetherburn's inventory, and believes that perhaps the laundry was sent out: Members decided that this room should be high on our list of priorities and that this room would represent living and working space, and especially a communications center between blacks who worked for Wetherburn and those that accompanied the travelers. Members also discussed that since an experiment is planned for October at Wetherburn's and that black life will be interpreted in this space that this is another reason to place this space high on our list of priorities. We could put 1 bedstead, 2 stools, 1 chair, 3 boxes, a table, clothing hanging from nails, traveling bags, swaddling clothes, etc.
Members discussed showing evidence of yard work such as carts, wood piles (some split, some not), sheets being mended and repaired, a salting trough, salting barrels, etc. Brandied cherries should also be placed inside the kitchen.
Ed Chappell talked about showing living upstairs in between the floor-boards. This space could represent space for unmarried or unskilled slaves, nailers perhaps. Ed talked about his interest in building the kitchen to represent cooking and living quarters upstairs. There is also evidence of smaller buildings behind the forge and we need archaeological investigations in order to determine if those buildings were slave quarters.
The attached work sheets represent in draft form possible activities (daily-regular and seasonal) and ideas (main discussion topics and optional topics) to be included in interpreting rooms in the house and outbuildings and areas in the gardens and yards.
Please view this as a document to work from. I welcome your general comments, concerns, and suggestions for additions, changes, and deletions.
The 90-minute tour to be implemented next fall allows for up to 4 groups of 20 students or adults per hour to enter the property every 15 minutes beginning at 9:00 am. Assuming the last group will enter at 3:30 pm, a maximum of 26 groups can visit the property each day.
At our last meeting we agreed groups should enter the house through the rear door and go up the back stairs to the Lumber Room (northwest room--2nd floor). Minutes given below include time to get to the next area.
|Revised Order||Revised Time|
|Lumber Room||15 minutes|
|Chamber||(9:30-2:30 - 15||2:30-4:30 - 10)|
|Laundry (black living space)||20 minutes|
|Stable Area||10 minutes|
Reminder: We are interpreting the Powell family in Williamsburg, about 1770.
I look forward to hearing from you in and out of committee. Feel free to call me with comments or return annotated charts. Thanks.
P.G.Copies to: Messrs. Carson and the Research Services Unit, Chappell, Gaynor, Hurst, Ms. Leviner, Messrs. Mahone, O'Toole, Pappas, Taylor, Lounsbury
Characteristics: Well lit east room in kitchen outbuilding door an door into laundry
|Haul wood, draw water|
|10:15a.m.||Prepare and cook dinner. Persons in groups can assist in limited ways.||-Bake & decorate holiday foods.|
|2-3 p.m.||Wash pots/pans, clean up kitchen. Persons in groups can assist in limited ways.|
|about 3p-4:45 p.m.||Generally activity in laundry at this time||Occasionally make butter, cottage cheese, jams, jellies, pickles; dry fruits, herbs, vegetables||Occasionally in late spring make butter of cottage cheese||Occasionally make jams, jellies, or pickles; dry fruits, vegetables, and herbs, string red pepper beans, and braid onions|
|Furniture/Accessories||Discuss||Possibly Discuss||Character Interpreter Discuss|
|-Present furnishings||-Relationships between Mrs. Powell and the kitchen slaves||Any ideas from left column in greater detail||Mrs. Powell: especially her relationship with the household slaves|
|-Meal planning and preparation of food (methods & labor involved)|
|-Utensils: acquisition & use||Female adult slave: her relationship with Mrs. Powell|
|- types of food eaten by different levels of society||-- work she and other slave women did|
[illegible]and some laundry activities; also storage area
Characteristics: Well lit west room of kitchen outbuilding with outside door, door into kitchen
|10:15 a.m. to about 3 p.m.||Activities in kitchen||Late fall and winter occasionally make tallow candles||Ditto|
|3p.m. to 4:45 p.m.||Spin, card, knit or polish candlesticks with assistance from persons in groups|
|Furniture/Accessories||Discuss||Possibly Discuss||Character Interpreter Discuss|
|-1 or more pallets, several coarse blankets||- Room use: by Powell's slaves: 3 female women and their 6 children under age 7||- Black religion||Female adult slave: - master slave relationship from black point of view|
|-chair, table (for ironing or slave eating)||-Domestic work of the slaves||Powell's other slaves & their work||-black family life|
|-obviously hand crafted gourd or wooden tablewares with few badly chipped cast-off ceramic dishes||-Black family life (good & bad aspects): changes through the years; rearing children; separation of families & ways tried to overcome (night-walking, running away, harboring runaways)||-Advantages of intown living||-domestic work|
|-slave clothes (hand-me-downs and yearly issue) hanging from hooks||-Discipline of slaves & slave resistance||--more access to communicate and meet with other blacks|
|-crude, hand crafted toys for slave children||--Housewife's role in slave health care|
|-irons, ironing blanket on built-in dresser shelves|
|-clothes horse hung with dish towels, etc.|
|-few accessories: comb, broken piece of mirror, scraps of ribbon, buttons, needles, pins, thread|
|-spinning wheel, wool & cotton cards, knitting needles, yarn|
|-storage jars, baskets, barrels, candlemolds, soap jar & gourd dipper|
|-bucket, broom, brushes, & other cleaning supplies|
Prompted by a memorandum from Bill Cole, a meeting of-the Program Planning and Review Committee was called to discuss the representation of black presence in the Historic Area. Mr. Cole's memo stressed a need to establish (in all possible haste) sites that exhibit black material culture, and that such an exhibit would aid Historical Interpreters in their discussion of the black experience in Colonial Virginia. After some discussion, Denny O'Toole was asked to organize a committee that would present recommendations on possible sites, and articles (clothing, tools, furniture, etc.) that could be used in such an interpretation.
A core committee was formed consisting of Ed Chappell (Architectural Research), Kevin Kelly (Research), Jay Gaynor (Collections), and Rex Ellis (Black Programming).
After arriving at a consensus on which sites would be most appropriate and accessible for the exhibits, the actual articles to be displayed were discussed.
Throughout the process of selection, the committee has solicited the aid of those departments and individuals deemed necessary to make the selection of materials as accurate as possible.
Sites chosen and articles selected were decided upon because they help to represent the diversity that existed in Colonial Williamsburg's black population. By showing the range of experiences, greater accuracy (in the presence of so many unknowns) will be facilitated.
The purpose then, is to show material evidence of the black presence in Colonial Williamsburg. This in turn will increase and enhance the interpretation of the black experience.
Articles will be acquired from various sources.
Outside vendors will be contracted for articles that are either unavailable within the Foundation, or can be purchased at a lower price.
Colonial Williamsburg craftsmen will be used whenever possible.
There are some articles (i.e. stools, benches, simple boxes) that can be made by interpreters within the Black Programs Department. It is felt that such a project would not only add to the interpreters' skills, but would also add to the authentic of the article, since many articles used by the black community were homemade.
As requested, we have developed a list of furnishings for use in the development of an initial group of Historic Area sites at which black life will be interpreted or visually indicated. We have attempted to include a range of living conditions. The artifact groups are hypothetical, but we believe that if implemented, they will represent a solid beginning. The groups are based on a variety of evidences, including archaeological excavations at quarters, runaway ads,. Latrobe drawings, and very fragmentary inventories.
Several of the small vignettes, such as those at the Ludwell-Paradise Stable and Anderson Forges, will largely be static exhibits. We all feel, however, that most of the groups should be used as settings in which to interpret the lives of blacks and the relationships among and between blacks and whites.
Wetherburn's Tavern. This complex offers an opportunity to introduce the lives of some resident blacks, including people who worked in the tavern and its service building, and blacks who were passing through town, primarily in the company of white tavern patrons but not necessarily confined to that. Thus a range of activities and types of people can be suggested.
Laundry Room. The chief exhibit in this complex is the laundry room, which would have been a principal domestic space for Wetherburn's slaves. Cooking for workers' meals as well as temporary housing for travelers is implied, but sleeping areas for residents would have been elsewhere, in the attic and in other subsidiary buildings.209 Page 3
Front and Rear Work Yards. It is felt that exterior work areas were an important part of black people's lives. These yards offer an opportunity to indicate a variety of types of work associated with a large tavern.
Wythe Property. Because of the variety of appropriate spaces on the Wythe property, the complex can be especially useful for illustrating housing for a range of black people with different degrees of status.
Kitchen, West Room. The fireplace and relatively fine finish suggest the quarters of a favored slave, perhaps the cook. This theme can be developed with a bed raised off the floor, a small amount of furniture, and a Bible. The availability of small consumer items to this person should be indicated by the presence of ceramics and clothes. A quilt can indicate that African culture links have not necessarily been entirely lost, even for a seemingly acculturated person.210 Page 4
Laundry, Inner Room. We would interpret this room as the residence of a considerably larger family. Family members would have work responsibilities in the main house, and they share some of the superior status given to the person in the kitchen. However, they have less consumer goods, their space is more crowded by the number of people, and there would be less privacy because people living in the attic would have to pass through the room.
Laundry, Outer Room. A small amount of clothing, rolled-up bedding, and a chest would indicate the presence here of two adults who, while resident on the Wythe property, had a less stable and complex domestic environment. In essence, they are camping out in a room primarily intended for other functions.211 Page 5
Stable This area would represent the very bottom of the social scale. Items would be mostly discarded on handed down.
Inner First-Floor Room. This sizeable but unheated room would be occupied by Bristol and Cupid. Both have articles indicating their relatively high status with the white household, but also goods they could have purchased themselves. Both Bristol and Cupid would have some access to capital.
Attic, Partly Visible from Below. Less of this cook's possessions will be visible, but we offer indications that she had somewhat less than her counterpart on the Wythe property.
Anderson Forge, Attic Visible From Shop A-1. The Anderson. complex is a crucial area for dealing with skilled and unskilled blacks working in an industrial setting and their potential relationships with blacks who have domestic jobs. Much of this awaits further physical development of the complex, but slight indications of workmen's presence in the attic can provide a beginning.
Ludwell-Paradise Stable. The stable offers another opportunity to indicate the presence of someone working and living in a rather undifferentiated setting. It is suggested that he or she would be working near the stalls and sleeping in the attic.
Because there is some disagreement about designating certain articles as belonging to "blacks only," the list of materials we have chosen primarily represents articles that could have been used by blacks or whites within the same socio-economic level (i.e. indentured servants, poor whites, and like).213 Page 7
We recommend that upon approval by Program Planning and Review the following take place:
The installation of these exhibits will be a major first step toward a responsible black interpretation by Colonial Williamsburg. We see it as both a means and an incentive toward active interpretation of the black experience.
In addition, we recommend consideration of the following steps that would place the Foundation in a better position to deal with black social history.
March 16, 1987