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Back of the Big House : The Architecture of Plantation Slavery


John Michael Vlach

This is an image of book entitled Back of the Big House: The Architecture of Plantation Slavery by John Michael Vlach. [Image of two cottage houses lined up in a row]

Behind the "big houses" of the antebellum South existed an entirely different world, socially and architecturally, where slaves lived and worked. Vlach has chosen over 200 photographs and drawings from the Historic American Buildings Survey of the 1930s--an archive that has been mined many times for its images of the planters' residences but almost never for those of slave dwellings.

"Vlach interweaves contemporary reports, oral histories of former slaves and archaeological evidence of surviving outbuildings in an unemotional but powerful manner."--New York Times Book Review

"[Vlach] presents us with a book that is at once album, introduction, and overview of the complexity and diversity of southern plantation architecture."--South Carolina Historical Magazine

"This is a solid piece of documentation which forcefully illuminates a neglected yet pivotal aspect of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century reality."--Maryland Historical Magazine

"One of the most user-friendly studies of African-American material culture ever written."--American Historical Review

"Contribute[s] significantly to the architectural no less than the social history of the United States from colonization to the Civil War."--Journal of the Early Republic

"John Michael Vlach proves himself America's foremost scholar of African American material culture in this gracefully written and profusely illustrated examination of the vernacular architecture of plantation slavery. Drawing upon the best of folklife studies, architectural history, cultural geography, and historical archaeology as well as the records of the Historical American Buildings Survey and his own extensive fieldwork, Vlach has produced an indispensable study."--Charles Joyner, author of Down by the Riverside: A South Carolina Slave Community

"Vlach expands our understanding of slave life while illuminating the little-known world of antebellum southern agriculture. Back of the Big House confirms Vlach as the preeminent scholar of African-American material culture."--Dell Upton, University of California, Berkeley

Back of the Big House: The Architecture of Plantation Slavery by John Michael Vlach, is available from the University of North Carolina Press (ISBN: 0-8078-2085-7) Hardcover $45.00 or (ISBN: 0-8078-4412-8) Paperback $22.50

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The Cultural Landscape of the Plantation

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