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Grand Mansions: Grand Houses In The 1800s

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Most, if not all of the historic grand mansions that were built in the 1800s in New Orleans’ Garden District, Washington D.C., Charleston, Savannah, and other Southern cities, were built brick by brick and wood plank by wood plank at the hands of skilled slaves. Historically, the elaborate architectural details of each home was inscribed to impress upon the homeowner’s economic status. Louis Hughes, a former slave that escaped to freedom from Memphis, Tennessee, described the details of his former owner’s home: Cities like Charleston, Jackson, Memphis, and Richmond, held many grand mansions similar to Hughes’s owner. However, the average slave and non-slave owner resided in detached wooden cottages, row houses, and attached dwellings, that…show more content…
In some aspects, domestic slaves were considered the aristocracy of slave labor. They were usually privy to the latest news, and in some situations had access to better clothes and food (usually the leftovers from their owners ' meals). Conversely, there was a trade-off to working in city homes – domestic slaves were expected to perform the daily shopping (there were no refrigerators), cook all the meals, hand-wash clothes, run errands around the city, and performed other duties as assigned by their owner. In actuality, a slave owner’s townhome or mansion in the city may have eschewed a sense of grand elegance, however, urban slaves lived in squalor conditions that included cramped outhouses, sheds, and carriage houses that stored horses. Some wealthy slave owners provided a one room apartment on their lot that was a communal living space for all of the slaves employed in the house. Angelina Weld, a passionate abolitionist, testified to the commonality among urban slave’s necessities in their living quarters: Those enslaved to hoteliers and taverns usually resided in a cellar or attic on the property. Sojourner truth, a former slaved that escaped to freedom from New York, described the living arrangements in the cellar of her owner’s…show more content…
By 1860, the popularity of tenement communities for slaves on the outskirts of cities of slaves grew as slave owners found these living arrangements as an incentive to overcrowding. Slaves and free blacks lived among each other in these communes that were under the watch of hired patrollers. Although the accommodations were cramped, the enslaved seemingly did not mind the living arrangements as living off their slave owner’s premises provided a sense of
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