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Vlach, John Michael. Back of the Big House: The Architecture of Plantation Slavery, The Fred W. Morrison Series in Southern Studies. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993.
In Back of the Big House, John Michael Vlach has assembled over 200 compelling photographs and oral history excerpts of former slaves to document his study of plantation buildings and spaces. Vlach's study is impressive not only for images, but also for the interpretive insight he offers on the lives of the enslaved African Americans rather than those of the plantation owners in the "Big House." His judicious selection of sources--including oral histories, site maps, measured line drawings, published journals and papers of antebellum plantation owners--reveals a metaphoric power struggle over the landscape by both slave owner and enslaved African Americans. Vlach's photographic tour leads the reader through the domains of the ex-slave (yards, kitchens, smokehouses, barns and stables, quarters for field slaves) to evoke a sense of life in "back of the big house." Though the plantation landscape itself was primarily the domain of the landowner, African Americans created their own landscape which afforded them a modicum of autonomy and relative control over aspects of their lives. Back of the Big House is a very cohesive, fully realized and much needed work that offers much in the way of interdisciplinary scholarship. [P. Williams]