Plantation Scenes, Slave Settlements & Houses

  • View of a Sugar Plantation, French West Indies, 1762

    This illustration is a generalized view of what is supposed to be a typical sugar plantation in the French West Indies. Details of the illustration are given in Diderot, section on Agriculture, p. 11. For example, on the upper right (1) is shown the houses of the owner and overseers (surrounded by a fence); on the lower right, the houses of the slaves, forming one or two or more streets, depending on the size of the plantation (2); sugar cane fields in the center and left (5); the water mill for grinding canes is on the lower left (6) and the boiling house (7) next to it; the curing house, where the sugar is dried in pots is on the upper left (12), and fields devoted to food crops such as manioc and bananas are on the upper slopes to the left (13). A slightly altered and reversed version of this image is in M. Chambon, Le commerce de l'Amérique par Marseille (Avignon 1764), Vol. 1, plate V, facing p. 382.
  • Rural Settlement and Houses, Cuba, 1853

    The sketch of Laz Pozas accompanies an article, Three Weeks in Cuba, by an artist (pp. 161-175). Shows house types and village layout. Laz Pozas, the author writes, is a charmingly-situated village . . . Beyond it are vast forests . . . [which] afford secure retreats for runaway negroes... (p. 175)
  • Sugar Plantation, Louisiana, 1873-74

    Shows the reaping of the sugar cane; black fieldworkers, white overseer. Original sketch made by J. Wells Chamney who accompanied the author during 1873 and the spring and summer of 1874; the latter describes this plantation on pp. 82-83. Although relating to the post-emancipation period, the scene evokes the later ante-bellum years.
  • Sugar Works and Plantation, Pernambuco, Brazil, ca. 1640

    Captioned Praefecturae Paranambucae pars Borealis, this inset from a map of Brazil (ca. 1640) by Frans Post and Georg Marggraf shows slaves engaged in various tasks of sugar manufacture and, in the center, a group of slaves is transporting a planter's wife in a hammock, a ubiquitous mode of transport for Brazil's wealthier whites. Also shown are various plantation buildings, including the manor house or great house and a vertical roller sugar mill powered by water. First published in Joan Blaeu's Rerum per octennium in Brasilia et alibi nuper gestarum . . . Historia (Amsterdam, 1647). Compare with image NW0062 on this website. (Thanks to Blanche Ebeling-Koning, of the JCB, for her assistance in describing this item).
  • Thatched Houses, Jamaica, 1808-1815

    Watercolor, showing rural house yard. Drawn from life by William Berryman, an English artist who lived in Jamaica for eight years in the early 19th century. He produced about 300 pencil and watercolor drawings of people, landscape, settlements, and flora in the island's southern parishes, the general region surrounding Kingston. He had intended to produce a series of engravings, never realized because of his death (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs, An Illustrated Guide). Several other Berryman works are reproduced in T. Barringer, G. Forrester, and B. Martinez-Ruiz [and others], Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and his Worlds (New Haven: Yale Center for British Art in association with Yale University Press, 2007), passim.
  • Pounding Cassava, Jamaica, 1808-1815

    Watercolor, showing the back of a woman who is wearing sandals and pounding cassava/manioc in a wooden mortar with a pestle; house yard, thatched house, and basket are also shown. Drawn from life by William Berryman, an English artist who lived in Jamaica for eight years in the early 19th century. He produced about 300 pencil and watercolor drawings of people, landscape, settlements, and flora in the island' southern parishes, the general region surrounding Kingston. He had intended to produce a series of engravings, never realized because of his death (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs, An Illustrated Guide). Several other Berryman works are reproduced in T. Barringer, G. Forrester, and B. Martinez-Ruiz [and others], Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and his Worlds (New Haven: Yale Center for British Art in association with Yale University Press, 2007), passim.
  • Plantation Slave Village, Suriname, ca. 1831

    Describing the layout of a plantation, the author writes: several hundred feet from various plantation buildings, and within view of the master's house or the lodgings of the watchmen, is the village/hamlet ( hameau) that is composed of many huts, constructed of wooden planks (planches) and covered with banana/plantain leaves, with a small door and two small windows. . . . These houses are surrounded by palisades/fences to protect the vegetables and poultry (p. 30). Benoit (1782-1854), a Belgian artist, visited Suriname around 1831 and apparently stayed for several months. The 100 lithographs in his book (hand colored in the John Carter Brown copy), accompanied by textual descriptions of varying detail, are derived from drawings he made during his visit, which included time in Paramaribo, the capital, as well as trips into the interior visiting Maroons and Amerindians. Forty of his lithographs, with our translations from the French text, are shown on this website.
  • House of Enslaved Plantation Laborers, Suriname, ca. 1831

    Benoit describes this image: Each slave has a small house, of 9 to 10 feet high and 10 to 12 feet in diameter, with a door and a small window. Furnishings consist of one or two beds, raised about a half a foot from the ground. The house is made of bamboos on which there is a matting without a cross bar. Slaves usually cover themselves with a wool blanket, and since they are very sensitive to the nighttime dampness they make a fire in the middle of their hut which is tightly closed (p. 53). Benoit (1782-1854), a Belgian artist, visited Suriname around 1831 and apparently stayed for several months. The 100 lithographs in his book (hand colored in the John Carter Brown copy), accompanied by textual descriptions of varying detail, are derived from drawings he made during his visit, which included time in Paramaribo, the capital, as well as trips into the interior visiting Maroons and Amerindians. Forty of his lithographs, with our translations from the French text, are shown on this website.
  • Cedarhall Plantation, Antigua, British West Indies, 1830

    Caption, Vue de Cedarhall dans l'isle de Antigoa aux Indes Occidentals. Shows plantation house in background; male and female figures in foreground. One of a set of 4 separately published engravings, made from Stobwasser drawings.
  • Gracehill Plantation, Antigua, British West Indies, 1830

    Caption, Vue de Gracehill dans l'isle de Antigoa aux Indes Occidentales. Plantation house in background; in foreground several slave children and mother with infant on her back. One of a set of 4 separately published engravings, made from Stobwasser drawings.
  • Gracebay Plantation, Antigua, British West Indies, 1830

    Caption, Vue de Gracebay dans l'isle de Antigoa aux Indes Occidentales. Shows plantation house in background; in foreground man and woman, former carrying a hoe, latter carrying child in her arms and a bundle on her head. One of a set of 4 separately published engravings, made from Stobwasser drawings.
  • Plantation Scene and Slave Houses, Barbados, 1807-08

    This engraving shows thatched houses and a cross-section of one with its interior furnishings. Shown are people dancing and playing musical instruments (see also image reference NW0014), and a work gang with the ubiquitous long-handled hoe and white overseer or manager. Background structures include the sugar mill and boiling house; behind these the manor or dwelling house, the residence of the owner or manager. The engraving presents a rather idyllic and pastoral view of slave life and activities. It masks a reality that was far less picturesque. It does not show the abject material conditions of the enslaved, the dilapidation of their housing, their tattered and worn clothing, the hunger they often suffered, the blandness (and often inadequacy) of their food rations, and the contaminated water they frequently drank; it also obscures the illness and infirmities that were widespread in plantation villages or settlements. Waller, a British naval surgeon, lived in Barbados for a year in 1807-08, but there are no references in the text to this illustration, and it is not known if the engraving was based on Wallerís own eyewitness sketch or was the creation of some artist or the engraver, identified as R. Sennett. For discussions of the housing and settlements of the enslaved in Barbados, see Jerome Handler, Plantation Slave Settlements in Barbados, 1650s-1834, In A. Thompson, ed., In the Shadow of the Plantation: Caribbean History and Legacy (Ian Randle publisher, Kingston, Jamaica, 2002), pp. 121-158; ibid., Vernacular Houses and Domestic Material Culture on Barbados Sugar Plantations, 1650-1838, Jl of Caribbean History 43 (2009): 1-36.
  • Sandy Point Estate and Windmill, St. Kitts (St. Christopher), British West Indies, ca. 1795

    Shows a windmill and enslaved workers engaged in activities associated with bringing canes to the mill; also various outbuildings. Toward the right center is a small illustration of a cattle or horse powered mill; a white overseer is shown on horseback in bottom center. The Barbados Museum greeting card caption specifies that this watercolour painting is attributed to Agostino Brunias, c. 1795. The source of the painting is not given (other than specifying it was held in a private collection in Trinidad), but neither it nor a print of it is today (2010) located in the Museum. This painting or another like it was sold at auction in 1998 (Lot 43, Sale 6015) by Christie's of London; Augustin [sic] Brunias is identified as the painter on Christie's website. The caption/title on the painting's bottom margin, not shown on the greeting card issued by the Barbados Museum, reads: A North View of the Buildings on the Sandy Point Estate of Sir Patrick Blake Baronet in the Island of Saint Christopher. With a view of the north parts of Brimstone Hill, Charle's Fort, Figtree Fort, the town of Sandy Mount, and the Adjacent County. Scholars familiar with Brunias, who we contacted, are skeptical that Brunias did the painting (they prefer not to be acknowledged because they have not viewed the original painting). For biographical notes on Brunias, see image reference NW0009.
  • Sugar Plantation Mill Yard, Barbados, 1881

    Shows owner's or manager's house of Andrews plantation in center rear; to right, a windmill base; also figures of women with dung baskets on their heads. In foreground, carter with team of oxen. Though depicting a scene in the post-emancipation period, this image evokes the slave period.
  • Ashford Plantation, Barbados, 1830s-1840s

    Caption, Ashford. the estate of Henry Hart Esq. Barbados; parish of St. John. Shows features typical of a Barbadian sugar plantation yard area in early period. This unique drawing was made by a teen-age girl between 1837 and 1845, several years after slave emancipation. However, the basic settlement pattern of the slave period is still quite evident. The drawing clearly shows major features of the plantation yard, including the mansion house (which still stands although modified over the years) windmill, boiling house, pond (from which slaves and livestock drew their water supplies), and located between the mansion house and pond, the houses of some of the laborers or ex-slaves. For more details on this drawing, see Jerome S. Handler and Frederick W. Lange, Plantation Slavery in Barbados: An Archaeological and Historical Investigation (Harvard Univ. Press, 1978), p. 297, note 3. A photograph of this drawing, with permission to reproduce, was graciously provided to Handler by Mrs. Mildred Hart Higgins, owner of the sketchbook which contains the drawing.
  • Stone House, Barbados, n.d.

    House made of coral limestone; thatching appears to be sugar cane trash. No date on photo, but very early 20th cent., perhaps late 19th. Although long after slave emancipation in the British West Indies, the house is very similar, if not identical, to one type of slave housing that became increasingly common in Barbados during the first several decades of the 19th cent.
  • Wood Plank House, St. Vincent, West Indies, ca. 1898

    This type of thatched house was probably found during the later years of the slave period, in the early 19th century.
  • Wood Plank House, Barbados, 1907

    Roof of cane trash; kitchen extension on right. Although the photo is long after slave emancipation, the house closely resembles wooden plank houses with thatched roofs found among Barbados plantation slaves, particularly in the pre-emancipation (pre-1834/38) decades of 19th century.
  • Thatched Houses, Barbados, 1898

    Thatched houses in a Scotland District village. Two working-class white children are shown leaning against the house on the right. Although many years after slave emancipation in 1834-38, these houses probably closely resemble those inhabited by slaves in earlier periods. Barbados had a relatively large poor white population, many of whom lived in villages on the eastern (Atlantic) side of the island. See J. S. Handler and S. Bergman, Vernacular Houses and Domestic Material Culture on Barbados Sugar Plantations, 1650-1838. Jl of Caribbean History 43 (2009) : 1-36.
  • Thatched Wood Plank House, Barbados, 1898

    Closely resembles one type of house found during the later decades of the slavery period; thatching was cane trash. See J. S. Handler and S. Bergman, Vernacular Houses and Domestic Material Culture on Barbados Sugar Plantations, 1650-1838. Jl of Caribbean History 43 (2009) : 1-36.
  • Sugar Plantation, St. Croix, Danish West Indies, ca. 1840

    View of Butler's Bay by Frederick von Scholten. A European brig sailing along north coast. View shows sugar plantation with windmills, manor (great) house, and slave houses in foreground. (Thanks to Leif Svalesen and George Tyson for assistance in identifying this item.)
  • Sugar Plantation, St. Croix, Danish West Indies, ca. 1840

    View of the La Grange plantation by Frederick von Scholten with town of Frederiksted in background. Slave gang in foreground is harvesting field of sugar cane; left center are sugar works, windmill, and plantation yard. (Thanks to Leif Svalesen and George Tyson for assistance in identifying this item.)
  • Sugar Plantation, St. Croix, Danish West Indies, ca. 1840

    Constitution Hill plantation by Frederick von Scholten showing windmill and sugar works; slave houses on hill above the plantation yard; pond in foreground. (Thanks to Leif Svalesen and George Tyson for assistance in identifying this item.)
  • Black Settlements and Houses, North Carolina, 1866

    Trent River settlement of newly emancipated slaves, showing cabins, school house, chapel; images of men, women, children engaged in various activities, e.g., conversing, playing games, fishing from a boat in a river, carrying loads on heads.
  • Muster of Plantation Slaves, Brazil, 1867

    Caption, Fortnightly Slave Muster, Brazil. Shows large group of slaves gathered in compound of Casa Grande plantation (Morro Velho, in the valley of Rio de San Francisco); plantation house in background. This illustration was first published in Richard F. Burton, Explorations in the Highlands of Brazil (London, 1869, vol. 1, facing title page; titled The Fortnightly Slave Muster at the Casa Grande, Morro Velho). Burton describes this scene in great detail; an excerpt follows: A peculiar sight . . . is the Revista or muster of the blacks, which takes place every second Sunday. . . . about 1100 out of 1452 attended in the 'Compound' . . . . Both sexes were bare-footed--everywhere in the Brazil a token of slavery. The women . . . were ranged in columns of six companies. They were dressed in the 'Sabbath' uniform, white cotton petticoats, with narrow red band round the lower third; cotton shawls striped blue and white, and a bright kerchief, generally scarlet, bound round the wool . . . . Ranged behind the women, the men are clothed in white shirts, loose blue woolen pants, red caps . . . and cotton trousers . . . . Children of an age to attend the Revista are clad in the same decent comfortable way . . . . The slaves answer to the roll-call made by the heads of the respective departments. This done, the Superintendent, followed by the Manager and Assistant Manager of the Blacks, and the two medical officers, walks down the companies and minutely inspects each individual. . . . Muster over, both sexes and all ages are marched off to church. The day is then their own.... (pp. 236-237).
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