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Front of Cherie Quarters Cabin, a rare existing slave cabin

Courtesy of the Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation

Side view of one of the cabins
Courtesy of the Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation

The two single-story slave dwellings, which remain on the historic Riverlake Plantation, are known as the Cherie Quarters Cabins. These buildings are significant because they are rare surviving examples of a once common antebellum building type which has all but disappeared from the state. Standing roughly 400 feet apart, the twin cabins are all that remain of the slave quarters for Riverlake Plantation. The number of cabins on the site during the antebellum period remains unclear but former residents of a thriving African-American community who called the quarters home in the 1930s assert that about 30 cabins existed at that time. Rectangular in plan, each of the two remaining cabins is raised approximately two feet above grade on large brick piers. Each cabin is two rooms wide with a gallery on its fašade. The gallery is open to the tin roof, which is pitched from front to back, has gable ends, and is pierced by a central chimney. Both rooms possess front and rear doors, as well as a window on one side. In the antebellum era, each room housed a separate African-American family.

Cherie Quarters was the birthplace and childhood home of African-American author Ernest J. Gaines, writer of noted works including The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1970), A Gathering of Old Men (1983), and A Lesson Before Dying (1994). Despite their recent use, the age and authenticity of the quarters are uncontested as the timber frame constructions are held together with nails produced between 1830 and 1880. The census schedules of 1860 reveal that there were approximately 1,640 holdings of 50 or more African-American slaves in Louisiana on the eve of the Civil War. This information, along with various other sources, indicates that at one time there must easily have been thousands of slave cabins across the state. Although no comprehensive survey of slave quarters has been undertaken in Louisiana, it is probable that only about 40-50 survive.

The Cherie Quarters Cabins are located half a mile from the intersection of State Hwy. 1 and Major Ln. in Oscar. They are privately owned and not open to the public.

 

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