Early Living of Enslaved African-Americans in South Carolina

3 Posted by - July 19, 2018 - LATEST POSTS, SLAVERY

There have been many historians such as William Dusinbere, Peter Wood and Daniel Littlefield who have shared their insights as to the first African-Americans to live in South Carolina. One example is it is believed that by 1708 through the eighteenth century South Carolina had about 18,000 people and 65 percent of those were enslaved people. In a parish, St. James Goose Creek, just north of Charles Towne, there were 2,027 blacks and 535 White people.

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There was an enormous investment into and land by the planters. One of the most universal focuses was on rice and its particular labor requirements. The slave-based agricultural system created a proud “aristocracy” whose impact on American history was spectacular, leading first to the American Revolution and later to the Civil War. However, the slaves needed a place to live and one that would protect them from outside conditions. It was important for the slaves to be healthy so that they could work in the fields’ long hours.

“The early eighteenth century slaves often lived in minimal huts built of upright poles set in a trench and covered in clay. The roofs were probably covered in palmetto fronds or other thatch. Archaeologists call these houses “wall-trench structures and they were used at least up to the American Revolution. Most had no fireplaces and they were built with earthen floors. The buildings range from about 13 feet in length and only 9 feet in width up to about 21 feet in length and around 14 feet in width. There were only a few windows and these were all open, with perhaps only a shutter to close out the bad weather.” (Sciway)

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Most often the mud wall, thatched wall-trench buildings did not last long. Many of the homes were able to sustain for around ten years, if that long. Most of them were quickly infested with termites and other pests. The wet climate in the south eroded the clay used to plaster the walls. It is believed the houses were most likely cold during the winter time and hot during the summer. The structures of the buildings have been traced back to Africa, pointing out the similarities in styles, it seems that the design was of the huts were influenced by their inhabitants.

“In the 1840s or 1850s the slave Okra built an African-style house with wattle and daub walls and a thatched roof of palmetto leaves on a Georgia Sea Island plantation. The owner, however, made Okra tear the house down, proclaiming that he wanted no “African hut” on his plantation. As late as 1907 a clearly African-style house was built near Edgefield, South Carolina. The former slave explained that he modeled his house on traditional Kongo styles.” (Sciway)

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Archeologist found that there were many different styles of early slave houses. There are some that although had a wall-trench design, may have had a fireplace which perhaps reflected the gradual introduction of European forms.

Because enslaved African-Americans spent the majority of their time outdoors, archaeologists are discovering that the slave settlements often exhibit places where African-Americans prepared their food. Areas such as large pits, filled with charcoal and broken pottery may be found near the houses. There are also small smudge pits where slaves would burn corn cobs, probably to keep the insects away.

Studies and findings are still being made every day about the enslaved African-Americans, and the way they lived. Visit here for more information.

 

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