Back of the Big House: The Architecture of Plantation Slavery by John Michael Vlach (Review)

Back of the Big House: The Architecture of Plantation Slavery by John Michael Vlach (University of North Carolina Press, 1993)

ACCESS PURCHASE
Students and scholars can access articles for free via Project Muse.

Back of the Big House: The Architecture of Plantation Slavery by John Michael Vlach (Review)

by Thomas W. Hanchett
Southern Cultures, Vol. 1, No. 1: Fall 1994

University of North Carolina Press, 1993

All too often, architecture buffs interested in the plantations of the pre -Civil War South have focused only on the grand homes of the planters. Early in this century, when local landmark groups began moving to preserve important structures from the era of slavery, they saved the mansions but often let the outbuildings fall away. The result has been a skewed image of history, a loss of understanding of the plantation as a working farm. Equally important, selective preservation has obscured the vital role of African Americans as the plantation labor forceā€”the South’s main economic engine. A joke that made the rounds among museum directors during the 1980s perfectly captured the resulting myopia. After a tour of a particularly grand antebellum plantation house, an appreciative couple is said to have remarked, “Wonderful place! Do you know if they had any help?”