Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Slave Cabins at Kingsley Plantation
Much has been written about the conditions in which slaves lived in Florida and the South, some of it true, some of it not. For many, a visit to such places as the Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island would probably be enlightening.
Kingsley is one of the few places in Florida where visitors can learn about the daily lives of the African slaves who worked on a large plantation. The first thing you see as you enter the plantation grounds, in fact, is the long semi-circular line of slave cabins. Many are in ruins, but a restored example stands by the entrance road.
Historians and anthropologists believe that the semi-circular alignment of the slave houses on the Kingsley Plantation may reflect tradition brought over on the slave ships from Africa, as villages in some parts of the continent featured homes arranged in a large semi-circle.
The cabins themselves were made of tabby, a sort of poured concrete made using shells. This material was commonly used for construction of various types of buildings during the 18th and 19th centuries on the Georgia and Florida coasts.
Each cabin had two rooms, one for sleeping and one for other activities, and there was also a fireplace for cooking and heat.
While the cabins, of course, were nowhere near as fine as the main Kingsley House, they really were not that much different from the average Florida house of the time. In fact, they were quite a bit better constructed than some. Most Floridians of the antebellum era were small farmers or craftsmen who lived in one or two room houses, often with dirt floors. Not many average homes of the antebellum era remain in Florida, but some can still be seen in St. Augustine and Pensacola and at a few other locations around the state.
At Kingsley, there are exhibits and information panels that tell a great deal about all aspects of life on the plantation, including that of the slaves who lived and worked there. Zephaniah and Anna Kingsley ultimately freed 50 of the slaves who lived in the cabins at Kingsley Plantation and took them to Haiti where they formed a free settlement.
To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/kingsley.