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Sven
Beckert

Dec 12 2014, 9:00 AM
ET

  • Empire of Cotton – The Atlantic
  • Cotton is so ubiquitous as to be almost invisible, yet understanding its history is key to understanding the origins of
    modern capitalism.

    Jianan Yu/Reuters

    By the time shots were fired on Fort Sumter in April 1861, cotton was the core ingredient of the world’s most important
    manufacturing industry. The manufacture of cotton yarn and cloth had grown into “the greatest industry that ever had
    or could by possibility have ever existed in any age or country,” according to the self-congratulatory but essentially
    accurate account of British cotton merchant John Benjamin Smith. By multiple measures—the sheer numbers
    employed, the value of output, profitability—the cotton empire had no parallel.

    One author boldly estimated that in 1862, fully 20 million people worldwide—one out of every 65 people alive—were
    involved in the cultivation of cotton or the production of cotton cloth. In England alone, which still counted two-thirds of
    the world’s mechanical spindles in its factories, the livelihood of between one-fifth and one-fourth of the population
    was based on the industry; one-tenth of all British capital was invested in it, and close to one-half of all exports
    consisted of cotton yarn and cloth. Whole regions of Europe and the United States had come to depend on a
    predictable supply of cheap cotton. Except for wheat, no “raw product,” so the Journal of the Statistical Society of
    London declared, had “so complete a hold upon the wants of the race.”

    The reason for America’s quick ascent to market dominance was simple. The United States more than any other
    country had elastic supplies of the three crucial ingredients that went into the production of raw cotton: labor, land, and
    credit.

    The industry that brought great wealth to European manufacturers and merchants, and bleak employment to

    http://www.theatlantic.com

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/12/empire-of-cotton/383660/?single_page=true

    hundreds of thousands of mill workers, had also catapulted the United States onto center stage of the world economy,
    building “the most successful agricultural industry in the States of America which has been ever contemplated or
    realized.” Cotton exports alone put the United States on the world economic map. On the eve of the Civil War, raw
    cotton constituted 61 percent of the value of all U.S. products shipped abroad. Before the beginnings of the cotton
    boom in the 1780s, North America had been a promising but marginal player in the global economy.

    Now, in 1861, the flagship of global capitalism, Great Britain, found itself dangerously dependent on the white gold
    shipped out of New York, New Orleans, Charleston, and other American ports. By the late 1850s, cotton grown in the
    United States accounted for 77 percent of the 800 million pounds of cotton consumed in Britain. It also accounted for
    90 percent of the 192 million pounds used in France, 60 percent of the 115 million pounds spun in the Zollverein, and
    92 percent of the 102 million pounds manufactured in Russia.

    The reason for America’s quick ascent to market dominance was simple. The United States more than any other
    country had elastic supplies of the three crucial ingredients that went into the production of raw cotton: labor, land, and
    credit. As The Economist put it in 1861, the United States had become so successful in the world’s cotton markets
    because the planter’s “soil is marvelously fertile and costs him nothing; his labor has hitherto been abundant,
    unremitting and on the increase; the arrangements and mercantile organizations for cleaning and forwarding the
    cotton are all there.” By midcentury, cotton had become central to the prosperity of the Atlantic world. Poet John
    Greenleaf Whittier called it the “Hashish of the West,” a drug that was creating powerful hallucinatory dreams of
    territorial expansion, of judges who decide that “right is wrong,” of heaven as “a snug plantation” with “angel negro
    overseers.”

    Slavery stood at the center of the most dynamic and far-reaching production complex in human history. Too often, we
    prefer to erase the realities of slavery, expropriation, and colonialism from the history of capitalism, craving a nobler,
    cleaner capitalism. Nineteenth-century observers, in contrast, were cognizant of cotton’s role in reshaping the world.
    Herman Merivale, British colonial bureaucrat, noted that Manchester’s and Liverpool’s “opulence is as really owing to
    the toil and suffering of the negro, as if his hands had excavated their docks and fabricated their steam-engines.”
    Capital accumulation in peripheral commodity production, according to Merivale, was necessary for metropolitan
    economic expansion, and access to labor, if necessary by coercion, was a precondition for turning abundant lands
    into productive suppliers of raw materials.

    Whether celebrating the material advances generated from slavery or calling for slavery’s abolition, many
    contemporaries agreed by the 1850s that global economic development required physical coercion. Slavery enabled
    the stunning advances of industry, and the accompanying profit. Contemporaries, however, worried that this vast and
    sparkling machine was merely a façade, amplifying long-standing European worries about the political stability of the
    United States. As “an industry tributary to foreign countries,” observed British political economist Leone Levi, the
    European cotton industry was potentially vulnerable, even though its well-being, according to a French observer, had
    “become a question of life or death for tens of thousands of workers, a question of prosperity or misery for all the
    developed industrial countries.”

    Most important, slavery itself seemed potentially hazardous to stability—a “treacherous foundation,” as the
    Manchester Cotton Supply Association put it—not just because of the sectional tensions it generated in the United
    States, but also because slaves could resist and even rebel: “The system of slave labor was not to be safely trusted,”
    the association declared in 1861. “The dread of slave insurrection and civil discord,” the Cotton Supply Reporter
    complained, was ever present. Even the London money market reflected these concerns, as bonds for southern
    railroads carried higher interest than those for northern roads. “This mistrust arises,” reported the Westminster
    Review in 1850 “from a shrewd calculation of the dangers, in both a moral and physical sense, which hang over a
    state of society whose foundations are laid in injustice and violence.”

    American slavery had begun to threaten the very prosperity it produced, as the distinctive political economy of the
    cotton South collided with the incipient political economy of free labor and domestic industrialization of the North. In
    addition, the violent expansion of both these economies westward brought crisis after crisis to their nascent national

    http://books.google.com/books?id=kAAdAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

    institutions. Ample supplies of fertile land and bonded labor had made the South into Lancashire’s plantation, but by
    1860 large numbers of Americans, especially in the northern states, protested such semicolonial dependence. They,
    in time, sparked a second American revolution. Fearing for the security of their human property, southern slave
    owners struck out on their own, gambling that their European partners would intervene to preserve the world economy
    and with it their own exceptionally profitable role.

    Southern planters understood that their cotton kingdom rested not only on plentiful land and labor, but also upon their
    political ability to preserve the institution of slavery and to project it into the new cotton lands of the American West.
    Continued territorial expansion of slavery was vital to secure both its economic, and even more so its political viability,
    threatened as never before by an alarmingly sectional Republican Party. Slave owners understood the challenge to
    their power over human chattel represented by the new party’s project of strengthening the claims of power between
    the national state and its citizens—an equally necessary condition for its free labor and free soil ideology.

    Cotton exports to Europe fell from 3.8 million bales in 1860 to virtually nothing in 1862.

    Yet from a global perspective, the outbreak of war between the Confederacy and the Union in April 1861 was a
    struggle not only over American territorial integrity and the future of its “peculiar institution,” but also over global
    capitalism’s dependence on slave labor across the world. The Civil War in the United States was an acid test for the
    entire industrial order: Could it adapt to the even temporary loss of its providential partner—the expansive, slave-
    powered antebellum United States—before social chaos and economic collapse brought their empire to ruins?

    The day of reckoning arrived on April 12, 1861. On that spring day, Confederate troops fired on the federal garrison at
    Fort Sumter, South Carolina. It was a quintessentially local event, a small crack in the world’s core production and
    trade system, but the resulting crisis illuminated brilliantly the underlying foundations of the global cotton industry and
    with it of capitalism.

    The outbreak of the Civil War severed in one stroke the global relationships that had underpinned the worldwide web
    of cotton production and global capitalism since the 1780s. In an effort to force British diplomatic recognition, the
    Confederate government banned all cotton exports. By the time the Confederacy realized this policy was doomed, a
    northern blockade effectively kept most cotton from leaving the South. Though smuggling persisted, and most
    smugglers’ runs succeeded, the blockade’s deterrent effects removed most cotton-carrying ships from the southern
    trade. Consequently, exports to Europe fell from 3.8 million bales in 1860 to virtually nothing in 1862. The effects of
    the resulting “cotton famine,” as it came to be known, quickly rippled outward, reshaping industry—and the larger
    society—in places ranging from Manchester to Alexandria. With only slight hyperbole, the Chamber of Commerce in
    the Saxon cotton manufacturing city of Chemnitz reported in 1865 that “never in the history of trade have there been
    such grand and consequential movements as in the past four years.”

    A mad scramble to secure cotton for European industry ensued. The effort was all the more desperate as no one
    could predict when the war would end and when, if ever, cotton production would revive in the American South. “What
    are we to do,” asked the editors of the Liverpool Mercury in January 1861, if “this most precarious source of supply
    should suddenly fail us?” Once it did fail, this question was foremost on the minds of policy makers, merchants,
    manufacturers, workers, and peasants around the globe.

    Considering these fears, it was the more remarkable that 4 million slaves in the United States—among them the
    world’s most important cotton growers—gained their freedom during or immediately after the war. Encouraged by their
    perception of their masters’ weakness in the face of a national government bent on subduing the rebels, slaves
    embarked upon an agrarian insurrection. By deserting plantations, withdrawing their labor power, giving intelligence to
    federal troops, and eventually taking up arms as Union soldiers, American slaves pressed to make a sectional war
    into a war of emancipation. And they succeeded. Never before and never thereafter did cotton growers revolt with
    similar success, their strength fortuitously amplified by a deep and irreconcilable split within the nation’s elite.

    The emancipation of America’s cotton-growing workers, however, raised the question of where the industrial world’s

    most important raw material would come from. Landowners, manufacturers, merchants, and statesmen concluded
    from their reading of past experiences that emancipation was potentially threatening to the well-being of the world’s
    mechanized cotton industry. Consequently, they worked zealously to find ways to reconstruct durably the worldwide
    web of cotton production, to transform the global countryside without resorting to slavery. Already during the war itself,
    in articles and books, speeches and letters, they belabored the questions of if and where cotton could be grown
    without slave labor. Boston cotton manufacturer Edward Atkinson, for example, contributed to this debate as early as
    1861 with his Cheap Cotton by Free Labor, and one year later, William Holmes’s Free Cotton: How and Where to
    Grow It extended the discussion. An anonymous French author added his voice the same year with Les blancs et les
    noirs en Amérique et le coton dans les deux mondes.

    Soon such treatises were informed by lessons drawn from the Civil War experiences. The sudden turn to non-slave
    cotton during the Civil War years in Egypt, Brazil, and India as well as in Union-controlled zones of the American
    South represented, after all, a global experiment: What would a world with cotton but without slaves look like?

    Cotton Exports, 1860-1866 (in Millions of Pounds)

    Cotton capitalists and government bureaucrats had learned broad lessons during the war. Most important, they
    understood that labor, not land, constrained the production of cotton. Members of the Manchester Cotton Supply
    Association, the world’s leading experts on such matters, understood that land and climate of a “quality equal and in
    many cases superior to that” of America was available in many different parts of the globe. But these experts on global
    cotton found that “the very first requisite, which was labor” was more difficult to find.

    When the guns fell silent on the North American continent in April 1865, the greatest turmoil in the 85-year history of a
    European-dominated cotton industry came to an end. New systems for the mobilization of labor had been tested
    around the world— from coolie workers to sharecropping to wage labor—and while it was still uncertain if cotton
    production would return to antebellum levels, belief in the possibility of “free labor” cotton had become nearly
    universal. As former slaves throughout the United States celebrated their freedom, manufacturers and workers looked
    forward to factories running again at capacity, fueled by newly plentiful cotton supplies.

    Merchants, however, had little to celebrate. “The peace rumor caused almost a panic,” reported Baring Brothers
    Liverpool to their counterparts in London in February 1865. When the Indian Daily News, in an “extraordinary” issue,
    reported in early March of the capture of Charleston by Union forces, it observed, “Panic in Liverpool. Cotton down to
    one shilling,” a panic that rapidly spread to Bombay itself. This global panic illuminated to peasants, workers,
    manufacturers, and merchants how closely intertwined developments all over the world had become. Battles fought in
    rural Virginia reverberated in small villages in Berar and Lower Egypt, a farmer’s crop choice in Brazil rested on his

    https://books.google.com/books?id=CR5cAAAAcAAJ&pg=PT6&lpg=PT6&dq=Les+blancs+et+les+noirs+en+Am%C3%A9rique+et+le+coton+dans+les+deux+mondes&source=bl&ots=ME9ykuLijq&sig=fTbzNS4iXhStQzIB93R3zszLWpU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Q82JVOW-NM_GsQS01YDIAw&ved=0CDsQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=Les blancs et les noirs en Am%C3%A9rique et le coton dans les deux mondes&f=false

    reading of the Liverpool market, and real estate prices collapsed in Bombay as soon as news of the Union’s
    destruction of Richmond reached India’s shores. A British observer was amazed at these new global links that the
    Civil War had brought to the fore. “We have seen how potent and how quick,” he wrote, “the effects of ‘price’ was in the
    most distant parts of the globe.”

    The world indeed had become smaller, and the way cotton held parts of it together had changed significantly. If the
    Civil War was a moment of crisis for the empire of cotton, it was also a rehearsal for its reconstruction. Cotton
    capitalists were confident from their triumphs in recasting industrial production at home. As they surveyed the ashes
    of the South, they saw promising new levers that might move the mountain of free labor into cotton cultivation with
    new lands, new labor relations, and new connections between them. But perhaps most important, cotton capitalists
    had learned that the lucrative global trade networks they had spun could only be protected and maintained by
    unprecedented state activism. Meanwhile, statesmen understood that these networks had become essential to the
    social order of their nations and hence a crucial bulwark of political legitimacy, resources, and power. Thus the French
    observer was correct when he predicted in 1863, “The empire of cotton is ensured; King Cotton is not dethroned.”

    This post has been adapted from Sven Beckert’s book, Empire of Cotton: A Global History.

    Copyright © 2014 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All Rights Reserved. CDN powered by Edgecast Networks. Insights
    powered by Parsely .

    http://www.edgecast.com/

    http://www.parsely.com/

      Empire of Cotton – The Atlantic

    White Americans’ Hold on Wealth Is Old, Deep, and Nearly
    Unshakeable

    citylab.com/equity/2019/09/racial-wealth-gap-history-slavery-black-white-family-income/597100
    September 3, 2019

    Patrick Semansky/AP

    1. Brentin Mock

    Sep 3, 2019

    White families quickly recuperated financial losses after the Civil War, and then created a Jim
    Crow credit system to bring more white families into money.
    It will end up costing the U.S. economy as much as $1 trillion between now and 2028 for the nation to maintain its longstanding black-white racial
    wealth gap, according to a report released this month from the global consultancy firm McKinsey & Company. That will be roughly 4 percent of the
    United States GDP in 2028—just the conservative view, assuming that the wealth growth rates of African Americans will outpace white wealth growth
    at its current clip of 3 percent to .8 percent annually, said McKinsey. If the gap widens, however, with white wealth growing at a faster rate than black
    wealth instead, it could end up costing the U.S. $1.5 trillion or 6 percent of GDP according to the firm.

    “Despite the progress black families have made in civic and economic life since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, they face systemic and
    cumulative barriers on the road to wealth building due to discrimination, poverty, and a shortage of social connections,” reads the report, “as both
    mechanisms and results of racial economic inequity.”

    Crucial to understanding how to close that gap—such that it can actually be closed—is grappling with how it was created in the first place. The
    McKinsey report identifies four components that perpetuate this gap—family wealth, family income, family savings, and community context (a
    community’s collective public and private assets). Black families have not been able to build wealth due to “unmet needs and obstacles” across these
    four dimensions.

    1/3

    https://www.citylab.com/equity/2019/09/racial-wealth-gap-history-slavery-black-white-family-income/597100/

    https://www.citylab.com/authors/brentin-mock/

    https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/04/does-homeownership-really-drive-the-black-white-wealth-gap/558410/

    https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/public-sector/our-insights/the-economic-impact-of-closing-the-racial-wealth-gap

    (McKinsey & Company)

    That’s the deficit-lens on the problem as it pertains to black families. But it’s worth looking at how each of those components also played a huge role in
    boosting white families’ financial standing to begin with. The wealth, income, and savings that white families accumulated during slavery supplied the
    economic thew that catapulted them into elite affluentstatus during the country’s first two centuries of existence. But it was community context and
    creative credit machinations that helped white families maintain that status over the ensuing two centuries, putting into doubt whether a closure of the
    black-white racial wealth gap is even possible given these deeply entrenched advantages.

    Community context and connections

    A study on the transfer of wealth from Southern slaveholding families to their children helps explain how these advantages came about. Strikingly, the
    inheritance of actual material profits from the slavery-based economy isn’t the culprit some suppose. The economists Leah Platt Boustan of Princeton
    University; Katherine Eriksson of the University of California, Davis; and Philipp Ager of the University of Southern Denmark found in their study,
    “The Intergenerational Effects of a Large Wealth Shock: White Southerners After the Civil War,” that white resilience to economic catastrophe has
    been almost impenetrable.

    According to the study, the largest slaveholding families in the South took a huge hit after the Civil War—a 38 percent drop at the median and a 75
    percent loss among the top wealthiest families between 1860, a peak year for slavery profits, and 1870. But by 1880, many of the sons of those families
    had already recovered that wealth. By 1900, the sons of the richest slaveholders had not only financially recovered but were wealthier than the sons of
    families who were just as wealthy before the Civil War, but from mostly non-slaveholding assets and activities.

    Cities are changing fast. Keep up with the CityLab Daily newsletter.
    It took just one generation for white slaveholding families to regain their riches, and this rebound was not due to an inheritance of slavery profits. Much
    of that was devoured by the war, emancipation, and regressive crop productivity in the South after the war. Nor was the recovery owed to an
    inheritance of entrepreneurial skills, which the study ruled out because of the drastic transition of the economy from agricultural-based to industrial-
    based.

    “Even destroying the capital stock or temporarily expropriating the land of wealthy households would not have been enough to prevent their sons from
    experiencing full recovery.”

    The Southern dollar rally might have had something to do with those slaveholders’ sons marrying into wealthier families. But most of the wealth
    recovered by slaveholders’ children came from occupation-based earnings. The most likely explanation for the restoration of their wealth, according to
    the study, is the “role of social networks in facilitating employment opportunities and access to credit”—or, in other words, community context. The
    wealthy slaveholding families were cozy enough with the wealthy families who weren’t totally in the slavery business to leverage their relationships
    into preservation of their elite status.

    “We think the most likely explanation for the rapid recovery of slaveholders’ sons is that slaveholding families were embedded in social networks that
    facilitated adjustments to wartime losses,” reads the study. One critical adjustment facilitated in this respect was credit, which was “surprising in light
    of the fact that slave collateral formed the basis for nearly all southern credit relations and was completely wiped out after emancipation.”

    Also wiped out were, in some cases, the land and plantations themselves, which were the final major appreciable assets that some former slaveholding
    families possessed after the war. The study examines General William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea” and his “Special Field Order No. 15,” which
    directed Union troops to destroy and confiscate Confederate family homes, businesses, and properties along the Carolina and Georgia coasts. The
    households targeted and toppled by Sherman’s troops lost considerable wealth, on top of losing their slaveholding assets. But by 1880, those same
    ransacked families had financially recuperated. By that year, their wealth had even surpassed that of the wealthy families of neighboring counties that
    Sherman did not invade.

    “Results suggest that even destroying the capital stock or temporarily expropriating the land of wealthy households would not have been enough to
    prevent their sons from experiencing full recovery in a generation,” reads the study.

    2/3

    https://www.nber.org/papers/w25700

    https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/shermans-march

    Sherman’s Field Order No. 15

    Those coastal families achieved recovery through the same means that other white former-slaveholding families achieved it throughout the South: via
    their connections to those commandeering capital and finance in the post-Civil War milieu. Slaveholding families’ pre-war material resources and
    wealth did “not ultimately affect” their children’s future comeuppance, and neither did these advantages stop with their sons. By 1940, even the
    grandsons of former slaveholders were doing better than similarly situated non-slaveholding families, by graduating from high school and college—
    fairly uncommon in the South at the time—and settling securely into white-collar jobs.

    “Jim Crow Credit”

    The 1940swere also the period when white families were able to further enhance their wealth prospects through new credit and finance instruments
    created as part of the New Deal. At this point, white families and farm owners were taking advantage of loans created by what was then called the
    Federal Housing Administration and the Farm Security Administration to leverage their way into wealth. Whereas before the Civil War, mortgages and
    credit were collateralized on the backs of enslaved Africans as properties, by 1940 white families could obtain mortgages and credit collateralized by
    land, houses, and farms. And they didn’t have to come from wealthy families or be wealthy themselves to obtain this financing.

    African American farmers and families, meanwhile, were unable to establish the wealth that former slaveholding families were re-establishing, nor
    were they able to access the FHA and FSA loans at the same rates as whites. The Atlantic’s Vann Newkirk describes in his story “The Great Land
    Robbery” how black farmers lost their land and farms during this time period:

    While most of the black land loss appears on its face to have been through legal mechanisms—“the tax sale; the partition sale; and the
    foreclosure”—it mainly stemmed from illegal pressures, including discrimination in federal and state programs, swindles by lawyers and
    speculators, unlawful denials of private loans, and even outright acts of violence or intimidation. Discriminatory loan servicing and loan
    denial by white-controlled [Farmers Home Administration] and [Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service] committees forced
    black farmers into foreclosure, after which their property could be purchased by wealthy landowners, almost all of whom were white.

    University of California, Irvine School of Lawprofessor Mehrsa Baradaran calls this the “Jim Crow Credit” era, when the banking industry began
    greenlighting low-cost loans for white families, fully insured by the federal government in case those loans ever went into default. African American
    families were often passed over for these same loans, and redlined into racially and economically segregated ghettoes where housing conditions were of
    far lesser quality.

    This financial apartheid was not limited to just housing. Under Title I of the National Housing Act of 1934, the federal government created a program
    that offered loans not for the home itself, but for home improvements, to renovate aging and blighted houses. It was one of the first forms of a national
    consumer credit system, offering low-interest rate loans, without collateral, and backed by the federal government. These loans inspired banks to start
    or expand their own consumer credit lines, which quickly grew into the credit system as we know it today.

    “The FHA transformed the consumer credit market by lowering its risks and enabling banks, finance companies, and credit card companies to profit
    from consumer loans for the first time,” writes Baradaran. “If FHA home loans created suburban life, that life was enhanced by consumer loans that
    allowed the new middle class to purchase luxuries like cars, appliances, and apparel. The consumer credit market for whites shifted from the rigid and
    expensive installment lending model to the flexible and less expensive ‘revolving credit’ model enabled by the credit card.”

    African Americans were redlined out of access to these lines of credit as well. In fact, black consumers were not given a fair chance to participate in this
    credit market until legislation was passed in 1974, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which required banks to approve credit based on the credit score
    system we use today. White families, meanwhile, had 40 years of unmitigated access to credit to build wealth through homes and to purchase luxuries
    on top of that. The major sources of lending available to African Americans in redlined communities were predatory, extremely high-interest loans that
    cost more to hold than any kind of finance instrument available to whites—this remains true even today.

    “First, you legally segregate, and then you let the market do it for you”

    So just to run back the score: Southern slaveholding families were able to recuperate post-Civil War wealth losses within one generation, and by 1940
    even those families’ grandchildren were doing better than their Southern peers. Also by 1940, low-income and working-class white families are
    ushered into wealth via federally backed housing and farming loans and derivative lines of credit. In that same time, freed African Americans are
    mostly robbed of what little bit of land they were able to possess after the Civil War, and passed over for the mortgage loans and credit lines awarded to
    white families.

    In order to create, lose, and then re-create wealth—and then create new forms of wealth for other low-income white families—white families leveraged
    social networks and credit. This is the community context that the McKinsey report identifies as one of the crucial components needed for families to
    build wealth. Most African Americans were never able to develop this, and in the few areas where they did accumulate community-level wealth, it was
    taken from them. And they were unable to recover it due to racist residential and spatial settings.

    “In both circumstances, credit arrangements were used as a form of segregation and subjugation,” Baradaran told CityLab. “In sharecropping, the
    Southern economy was able to achieve through credit arrangements what they were not able to achieve through legal means. The same is the case with
    Jim Crow credit—first, you can legally segregate, and then you let the market do it for you. By cordoning off credit risks in segregated ghettos, white
    suburbs were able to build wealth unimpeded by certain risks of poverty. Wealth is preserved through this form of geographical segregation of risks.”

    According to Baradaran, it is possible to eradicate the wealth gaps, by upending the racism baked into the capital and finance systems—basically a
    radical redistribution of land and wealth. This might mean some loss of material assets and resources for white families in the short run. However, if the
    McKinsey study projections are to be believed, it could also add a trillion-plus dollars to the nation’s overall economy by 2028, which would be a win
    for everyone.

    However, even if some white families lose some wealth in this exchange, that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t bounce back tomorrow. There is
    apparently already a precedent for that.

    3/3

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/slavery-capitalism.html

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/09/this-land-was-our-land/594742/

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/09/this-land-was-our-land/594742/

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/09/this-land-was-our-land/594742/

    https://scholarship.law.uci.edu/ucilr/vol9/iss4/4/

    https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3395876

    https://www.hrc.org/blog/all-about-the-equal-credit-opportunity-act

    https://www.citylab.com/equity/2015/11/the-continuing-culture-of-disinvestment-in-baltimores-black-neighborhoods/416448/

    https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/04/how-the-fair-housing-act-failed-black-homeowners/557576/

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/09/this-land-was-our-land/594742/

    https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3395876

    https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/public-sector/our-insights/the-economic-impact-of-closing-the-racial-wealth-gap

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/

    http://file///Users/brentin/Downloads/Economic impact racial wealth_2019-8-5 (1)

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/historic-asset-boom-passes-by-half-of-families-11567157400?mod=hp_lead_pos8

    • White Americans’ Hold on Wealth Is Old, Deep, and Nearly Unshakeable
    • White families quickly recuperated financial losses after the Civil War, and then created a Jim Crow credit system to bring more white families into money.
      Community context and connections
      Cities are changing fast. Keep up with the CityLab Daily newsletter.
      “Jim Crow Credit”
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    Chapter 5

    John Michael Vlach

    The plantation landscape

    Beyond the white master’s residence, back of and beyond the Big House, was a world of
    work dominated by black people. The inhabitants of this world knew it intimately, and
    they gave to it, by thought and deed, their own definition of place. Slaveowners set up the
    contexts of servitude, but they did not control those contexts absolutely. There were many
    chinks in the armor of the “peculiar institution.” Taking advantage of numerous oppor-
    tunities to assert counterclaims over the spaces and buildings to which they were confined,
    slaves found that they could blunt some of the harsh edges of slavery’s brutality. The
    creation of slave landscapes was one of the strategies employed by blacks to make slavery
    survivable. It is now widely accepted that blacks and whites both played important roles
    in shaping everyday life in the South. Many expressions of southern folklore-tales,
    proverbs, sayings, dance steps, tunes, recipes, beliefs, quilt patterns, house types, and the
    like-are known equally well by both races. Consequently, we can expect to accurately
    understand southern plantation landscapes only if the contributions of slaves are acknow-
    ledged and included. To study these places without including the slaves’ perspectives
    would not only be inadequate, it would be futile.

    The creation of a slaves’ landscape was a reactive expression, a response to the plans
    enacted by white landowners. To mark their dominance over both nature and other men,
    planters acquired acreage, set out the boundaries of their holdings, had their fields cleared,
    selected building sites, and supervised the construction of dwellings and other struc-
    tures . The design of a plantation estate was an expression of the owner’s tastes, values,
    and attitudes. To appreciate what slaves eventually did with the realms fashioned by
    planters and to more fully understand the choices available to them, it is necessary first to
    consider the world the slaveholders made. The achievements of the planter class provided
    the social context that slaves would manipulate for their own ends. Ultimately, the slave-
    holders’ world would become the raw material with which slaves would attempt to satisfy
    some of their own social aspirations.

    THE PLANTER’S LANDSCAPE

    A plantation was not always understood to be a large agricultural estate. Indeed, in its
    earliest usage, the word plantation referred simply to an “act of planting.” Any farm, even
    a garden or a clump of trees, might be called a plantation. It was only after England’s

    96 John Michael Vlach

    conquest of Ireland in the sixteenth century that the meaning of the word was expanded
    to signify a large holding, namely “a settlement in a new or conquered country,” like the
    newly formed Plantation of Ulster and later the Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts.
    Not until 1706, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was there written evidence
    that the word indicated “an estate or farm producing a crop with servile labor,” the
    connotation generally intended by contemporary usage.

    For most of the seventeenth century, a southern planter was a poor farmer who held
    claim to about a hundred acres and owned no slaves. 1 His house was, according to British
    traveler ]. F. D. Smyth, likely to be a tumbledown dwelling built “almost all of wood
    covered with the same; the roof with shingles, the sides and ends with thin boards, and
    not always lathed and plastered within; only those of the better sort are finished in that
    manner, and painted on the outside. The chimneys are sometimes of brick, but more
    commonly of wood, coated on the inside with clay. The windows of the best sort have
    glass in them; the rest have none, and only wooden shutters. “2 English revenue agent
    Edward Randolph reported in 1696 that when Virginia planters laid claim to new lands,
    they would merely “clear one Acre of that land, and … plant and tend it one year … but
    take no care of their Crop, nor make any further use of their land.” 3 Generally, a common
    planter’s fields were haphazardly tended; crops were raised in odd-shaped plots scattered
    about his holdings. Hills of tobacco and corn were scratched up with hoes between dead
    trees and the remnants of charred stumps, while livestock foraged freely, without super-
    vision, across unfenced woodlands, marshes, and pastures. Ground that was worn out by
    too many seasons of planting a single crop was allowed to grow up in briars and bushes.
    These scraggly holdings, although productive enough to support their owners, were
    denounced by many visitors, who saw in the increasingly gullied and eroded farms only
    ruin and waste. 4

    By the last quarter of the seventeenth century, this apparent disregard for the look
    of the land was effectively countered by a small group of well-off planters, those who were
    able to assemble large holdings extending over thousands of acres.5 Among this rising
    group of fashion-conscious social elites, which included no more than two dozen family
    lines, neatness and order were considered important attributes of landscape management.
    According to the new dictates of the Georgian mode, a proper gentleman’s house was not
    only substantially constructed but was, in plan, symmetrically balanced. The predictable
    order of a house’s facade and of its spatial arrangement was extended to the surrounding
    gardens and, as far as was reasonable, to the layout of the entire estate.

    Bacon’s Castle in Surry County, Virginia, built about 1665, was among the earliest
    of these new, imposing estates (Figure 5.1). Although the house was modest in size, it was
    constructed in brick at a time when almost all of the houses in Virginia were wooden
    frames sheathed with thin skins of riven boards, and therefore it was no doubt seen as a
    mansion. Standing two-and-a-half stories high, Bacon’s Castle was also distinguished from
    the houses of the common folk by its fashionable curved gables, triple diamond-set
    chimney stacks, and full-height porch and stair towers. Another expression of status
    was the large, formal pleasure garden, enclosed by walls and hedges, that stretched out in
    front of the building. Divided into eight rectangular units by graveled paths, the garden

    The plantation landscape 97

    5.1 Bacon’s Castle, Surry Co., Virginia, begun 1665

    JI 0 contained several secluded nooks equipped with built-in benches where visitors might
    1,1ke their ease. 6

    The inspiration for estates like Bacon’s Castle and the others that followed it was
    provided by English manorial estates, which usually co(sisted a “smaller Georgian
    house set in a park of modest proport10ns- a warmth of red bnck, a flash of stucco,
    Jmong luxuriant trees.” The parklands surrounding these manor houses were, writes land-
    cape hjstorian W. G. Hoskins, their most impressive feature: “Parks grew yet more

    extensive during the eighteenth century, in the age of the territorial aristocracy. Building
    themselves magnificent houses, they needed {or thought they needed) more square miles
    of conspicuous waste to set them off. “7 It was qwte understandable, then, that the estates
    developed by the Virginia gentry would remind British visitor William Hugh Grove of the
    pleasant parks and manor houses of the English midlands.8 The members of this upper
    class, too, had made themselves into a “territorial aristocracy,” and they, too, quickly put
    a much distance as possible between themselves and the rest of the population.

    The resemblances between the aristocratic estates of England and the American
    colonies were more than coincidental. Frances Carter, wife of Robert Carter of Nomini
    I lall, informed her husband that she would not feel comfortable in Virginia until he had
    “made her a park and stock’d it. “9 Some Virginia planters either patterned their houses
    upon specific English country houses or availed themselves of architectural guidebooks
    published in London to ensure that their homes would conform to the latest British
    fa hions. William Byrd Il, for example, is believed to have based the design of Westover,

    great house overlooking the James [river] that he built in 1735, on Drayton Court, the
    · orthamptonshire seat of the Earl of Peterborough.10 Almost a decade earlier, Mann Page

    98 John Michael Vlach

    had fashioned his mansion at Rosewell after Cound Hall in Shropshire.11 English .
    ences were also conveyed by such books as William Lawson’s A New
    Garden (1618), which contained detailed diagrams and instructions for laying our f and
    gardens, or Walter Blith’s English Improver; or, a New Survey of Husbandry (lorrna]
    The new Virginia plantations were so thoroughly linked to British antecedents that 649 ·
    two decades after the American Revolution, a Polish visitor to Washington’s M even
    Vernon would remark: “The General has never left America, but when one sees his h ouni
    and his garden it seems as if he had copied the best samples of the grand old hom ouse esteads of England.” 12

    Similar developments were also visible during the early eighteenth century in the
    Carolina lowcountry. In the hinterlands of Charleston, for example, members of the
    Middleton family established two impressive estates. The house at Crowfield, the plan .
    tion built by William Middleton in 1730, was approached by a long, ramrod-strai;.
    avenue, and its grounds were ornamented with numerous “garden contrivances” includi
    basins, fishponds, canals, elegant parterres, and a bowling green. The whole estate w ng
    laid out symmetrically along a north-south axis extending from the road through the
    house and gardens to the rice fields beyond. Ten years later, Henry Middleton acquired a
    large plantation tract along the Ashley River, one of twenty he was to own in his lifetime.
    By 1755 his Middleton Place was as sumptuous as his brother William’s plantation. Both
    were thoroughly British in character; Crowfield was, in fact, named for an English holding
    belonging to the family. The gardens on the two plantations are readily compared with
    the detailed views of the landscaping of English country estates found in J. Kip’s Britan11111
    Illustrata (1709), a book that may have guided the Middleton brothers.

    13

    These grand estates in the Carolinas and the Chesapeake region were extraordinary
    places. Vast beyond comprehension in size and elaborately designed and decorated,
    they were atypical, showplace plantations. Yet, their very exceptionalism made them
    impressive that, by the middle of the eighteenth century, the definition of plantation would
    change once more. No longer just a large farm run with supervised captive labor, from
    the middle of the eighteenth century onward the ideal plantation was a large, tastefullr
    appointed country estate belonging to a prominent gentleman.

    The tangible glory of manorial estates served as the most persuasive propaganda for
    the celebration of the plantation ideal. Implicit in the structured layout of Georgiaa
    houses, formal gardens, and extensive stretches of fenced and cultivated fields was a
    sense of the planter’s dominance over both nature and society. The wide gap between the
    material condition of a great planter and that of even his closest local rival was unckr-
    scored by the way in which his house was approached. Access was achieved by mo ·
    along a route marked by a series of threshold devices- gates, drives, forecourts, st
    terraces, porches, passageways, doors- all of which were intended to make the ho
    and its owner, appear more impressive.14 At Thomas Lee’s Stratford Hall, for example.
    low wall stretched across the forecourt of the building, effectively stopping visitors frnll
    riding their horses up to the steps. Only a “humbling pedestrian access” to the ho
    was allowed.

    15

    Guiding these planters in setting up their estates was a highly rational fo rmali
    The world was, in their view, suitably improved only after it was transformed from

    The plantation landscape 9

    9

    UNCLE SAM PLANTATION CONVENT, ST, JAMES PARISH, LOUISIANA LA .74 LJ1
    ·- – —· ·– – ···········—··-·

    5.2 Uncle Sam Plantation, Convent, St. James Parish, Louisiana, 1837- 49; aerial view drawing

    chaotic natural condition into a scene marked by a strict, hierarchical order. The planters’
    landscapes were laid out with straight lines, right-angle corners, and axes of symmetry,
    their mathematical precision being considered as a proof of individual superiority (Figures
    5.2 and 5.3).

    Although the aloofness and reserve signaled by this rigid imposition of order was
    intended chiefly to ensure that the plantation owner receiN@ the respect he felt was his
    due, ironically such expressions of social hierarchy made the new plantation
    ideal appealing to “middlin'” yeomen. The commoners who were effectively put in their
    place upon visiting a Westover or a Stratford Hall were anxious to have their own turn
    to exercise a similar social authority. It is not too surprising, then, that when new planta-
    tions were created in interior portions of the South during the nineteenth century, the
    old manorial model served as their inspiration. This new gen_eration of planters, often
    young Virginians or Carolinians gone west to seek their fortunes, hoped to attain at
    last the prominent social rank that their foreparents had sought. As they moved first
    to the frontiers of Georgia and Kentucky and later as far west as Texas, they carried an
    eighteenth-century idea with them as an important item of cultural baggage. Architectural
    historian Roger G. Kennedy aptly observes that this “New South was the Old Tidewater
    South transported across the Piedmont.” 16 .

    100 John Michael Vlach

    5.3 Uncle Sam Plantation, plan

    m []
    m [IJ

    11!:.) ti
    [IT

    .. . ,. HOlll C
    G 0 • t

    . ====-=-==:J
    1″0 100 ‘

    Certainly the plantation established by Benjamin Grey in central Kentucky was as
    impressive as any back in old Virginia. A journalist visiting Grey’s estate in 1843 wrote
    that his house “stands near the centre of the domain on rising ground, and commands a
    fine view of the country around. . .. A pretty yard of smooth greensward, decked with
    shrubbery and evergreens, is enclosed around with pointed white palings, and adjoining
    this is a noble park.” Grey’s neighbor Nicholas Hart, in an attempt to imitate the ancient
    ways of the English nobility, stocked his own park with a herd of elk. 17 The conspicuous
    grandeur of Oak Valley, a plantation located in Yazoo County, Mississippi, as described
    by private tutor DePuy Van Buren, once again suggests manorial aspirations: “In the front
    ground, you see magnificent China-trees. The orange myrtle, with its glossy green foliage
    trimmed in the shape of a huge strawberry; the crape myrtle with its top hanging thick
    with long cone shaped flowers of a peach-blow color; the cape jasmine, with its rich
    polished foliage spangled all over with white starry blossoms … and that richest and
    sweetest blossom of tropical shrubs- the japonica.”

    18

    Further evidence of the westward diffusion of the Tidewater plantation form is
    provided by some of the sugar plantations in southern Louisiana. Along the shores
    of Bayou Teche, plantations developed by Anglo-Americans were laid out in what
    geographer John B. Rehder calls a “block plan.” On these estates, the planter’s mansio

    The plantation landscape 101

    buildings, and slave houses were all clustered closely together in a gridlike pattern.
    farrn ·ans of this type were easily distinguished from the estates of French planters,
    plantatJ . employed a linear format. While the block plan probably stems from the formal
    who try first used in the design of gentry estates in Virginia and Carolina, mid-
    georne nth-century visitor Thomas Bangs Thorpe thought he recognized along the shores ninetee f the Teche “expressions so often witnessed in the lordly parks of England. “19
    0 Although plantations were established all over the South, by 1860 the largest, and
    therefore the roost lavishly developed, estates tended to be concentrated in three distinct

    The oldest and generally most prominent plantations were located in a coastal areas. .
    · n extending from the Chesapeake Bay to northern Flonda and not more than a reg10 . . .

    hundred rniles inland from the Atlantic. A second concentrat10n of large plantat10n
    estates occupied a fifty-mile-wide area of cotton lands running through the middle
    ortions of South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, terminating in eastern Mississippi.

    third plantation zone consisted of the fertile bottomlands of the lower Mississippi
    Valley, frorn just above Memphis to below New Orleans. There were also noteworthy
    lantation zones in the Florida Panhandle, northwestern Alabama, and along the Gulf

    of Texas, but these were smaller enclaves rather than major regions.
    Large plantations dotted the southern countryside fairly evenly from Maryland to

    Texas, signaling to all passersby the financial and social rewards of the plantation system.
    However, well into the nineteenth century, those benefits were still only realized by a few
    families. Historians have usually granted planter status to those men and women who
    owned at least twenty slaves. Thus in 1860, when plantation agriculture had reached its
    furthest extent, there were only 46,274 plantations in the entire South. Though this figure
    may seem large, it represents only 12 percent of all slaveholding families, who in turn
    made up only 24 percent of all white southerners.20 The greatest proportion of these
    estates- some 20, 789- were run with between twenty and thirty slaves and though
    considered small plantations, they were, in fact, only slightly larger than slaveholding
    farms and not very different in character. Only the plantations that were run with large
    numbers of slaves, a hundred or more, approached the manorial ideal. By this measure,
    there were in 1860 only about 2,300 truly large-scale plantations, and perhaps only half
    of those were developed to the state of elegance promoted by the widespread southern
    mythology.21 By the middle of the nineteenth century, less than 1 percent of all slave-
    holding families fit the plantation stereotype, a percentage that had remained constant
    since the middle of the eighteenth century.22

    How such an unrepresentative place as the great plantation estate came to dominate
    the self-perception of the South is a matter about which there has been considerable
    discussion. It is enough to say here that both those farmers who owned only a few slaves
    and those who owned none were impressed by the lavish plantations inhabited by the
    gentry, and they looked upq,rithem with a mixture of admiration and envy. The deference
    with which the few great planters in any county were regarded is related no doubt to the
    messages that were visually conveyed by the design of their estates, crystal-clear indica-
    tions of a landlord’s dominance that required the submission of black laborer and white
    visitor alike.

    According to architectural historian Dell Upton, the highly formalized layout of
    showplace plantations constituted an “articulated processional landscape,” a spatial

    102 John Michael Vlach

    system designed to indicate the centrality of the planters and to keep them aloof from any
    visitors behind a series of physical barriers that simultaneously functioned as social
    buffers.23 A yeoman farmer entering a planter’s estate would follow a prescribed
    formal route that led to the planter’s parlor or office. Although the intricate sequence of
    gates, terraces, pathways, and other threshold markers was intended to emphasize the
    yeoman’s lack of standing in relation to the planter, it could just as easily have indicated
    whether the yeoman’s social position was improving. In other words, a visitor’s status
    was measured by how far into the planter’s world he or she was allowed. The plantation
    ideal remained pervasive in the South for more than a century because the will of the
    elite was matched by the acquiescence of those who could only dream of owning such a
    grand place.

    Even though ownership of a lavish plantation estate was beyond the reach of most
    southerners, planters of more modest means still tried to make their homes and gardens
    fashionable by incorporating some formal qualities of design or decoration. A Greek
    Revival porch, for example, complete with columns and entablature, might be grafted
    awkwardly onto a humble log cabin as a statement of presumed sophistication. Self-
    proclaimed arbiters of taste promoted the formal plantation style, usually by berating
    struggling would-be planters for their failures. In 1857 a Georgia newspaper editor wrote
    that, on plantations in his locale, there was “the singular want of elegance and comfort
    about the domestic arrangements of those who are able to provide them . … A log house
    half decayed with age, or a frame house without paint, and . . . a yard without a shrub or
    a flower … are too frequently the insignia of a planter’s premises. “24 Even more shrill was
    the attack launched by John Forsyth in an address to an Alabama horticultural society in
    1851. He directed his listeners to “Go to the homestead of a Southern farmer and tell me
    what you see.” Making no pause for an answer, he thundered, “The planter’s home is
    generally a rude ungainly structure, made of logs, rough hewn from the forest; rail fences
    and rickety gates guard its enclosures. And why? . .. We murder our soil with wasteful
    culture because there is plenty of fresh land West- and we live in tents and huts when we
    might live in rural palaces. “25 The plantation ideal established such high architectural
    expectations that most planters were doomed to fail; the only acceptable level of success
    was great success.

    In the second quarter of the nineteenth century, the most representative planters
    owned between twenty and thirty slaves and devoted the larger portion of their four or
    five hundred acres to cotton, probably on recently cleared “newgrounds.” In 1853
    Frederick Law Olmsted visited just such a plantation in northern Louisiana . He found that
    the owner’s house was but a “small square log cabin, with a broad open shed or piazza
    in front, and a chimney, made of sti

    About the house was a large yard, in which were two or three China trees, and two fine
    Cherokee roses; half a dozen hounds; several negro babies; turkeys and chickens, and a
    pet sow, teaching a fine litter of pigs how to root and wallow. Three hundred yards from

    The plantation landscape 103

    the house was a gin-house and stable, and in the interval between were two rows of
    comfortable negro cabins. Between the house and the cabins was a large post, on which
    was a bell to cal.I the negroes. A rack for fastening horses stood near it. On the bell-post
    and on each of the rack-posts were nailed the antlers of a buck, as well as on a large oak-
    tree near by. On the logs of the kitchen a fresh deer skin was drying. On the railing of the
    iazza lay a saddle. The house had but one door and no window, nor was there a pane of

    p . 26 glass on the plantat10n.

    Plantation life, particularly in the western portion of the cotton belt, was essentially
    a S artan pioneer experience on the edge of a constantly advancing frontier. 27 Settlements
    lik: the one visited by Olmsted were carved out of the wilderness in the optimistic hope
    that a substantial upgrading would follow after a few harvests. More often, however,
    these temporary homes were abandoned altogether as the cycle of planting was started
    a ain on a new, more promising tract of land. The common planter might follow the
    :ode! of a large plantation estate and create an ensemble of buildings including a separate
    kitchen, a string of slave houses, and several barns and storage cribs, but these were, as
    Forsyth had complained, only “rude ungainly structures,” and no one would ever have
    mistaken such a house for a “rural palace.”

    That plantations existed along a spectrum ranging from superbly appointed
    mansions set amidst well-tilled fields to expedient shelters thrown together in slash-and-
    burn clearings is certainly borne out by the testimony of former slaves. Martha Colquitt
    from Lexington, Georgia, recalled: “Our Big House sure was one grand fine place. Why,
    it must have been as big as de Mill Stone Baptist Church. It was all painted white
    with green blinds and had a big old high porch dat went nigh all ’round de house.” This
    dwelling presents a marked contrast to the house of Mary Ella Grandberry’s master in
    Barton, Alabama, which she described in the 1930s as “a li’l old frame building like a
    ordinary house is now. He was a single man and didn’t have so terrible much, it seem
    … just to look at him you’d think he was a poor white man.” 28

    The appearance of a plantation certainly varied with the crop that its owner
    attempted to grow. The cultivation of tobacco, cotton, rice, and sugar, the primary staples
    of the plantation economy, each followed different schedules and work routines and used
    different equipment and storage structures. One type of plantation could be distinguished
    from another by its barns, mills, and other gear. The identity of a tobacco plantation
    was marked by the distinctive tobacco barns used to cure the leaves before they were
    packed into huge barrels. Standing in the yards of most cotton plantations were both a
    gin house and a press for compacting processed lint into bales. By the second quarter
    of the nineteenth century, rice plantations had large steam-powered mills to comple-
    ment the older threshing platforms and wi7 nowing houses where slaves had previously
    refined the rice by hand. The mills located on Louisiana’s sugar plantations were
    large sheds, sometimes as much as three hundred feet long, containing boilers, engines,
    conveyor belts, rollers, and evaporators. Because these mills spewed clouds of smoke
    and steam as the cane juice was transformed first into syrup and then into raw sugar,
    it is not surprising that sugar plantations were said to resemble New England factory
    towns .29

    104 John Michael Vlach

    The appearances of plantation fields also varied with the crop that was grown. The
    rice fields of South Carolina and Georgia, for example, stood out prominently because the
    were developed on reclaimed wetlands. Rice paddies were diked off from the surroundiny
    marshes, leveled, and then irrigated ingeniously by means of a system of sluice gates
    canals. The landscape resulting from these efforts was, according to Olmsted, “Holland-
    like. “30 The sugar fields of Louisiana, laid out in rectangular units marked off by ditches
    and cross-drains, also had an engineered appearance. British observer William H. Russel
    thought John Burnside’s sugar plantation was impressive in part because his fields were
    judged to be “as level as a billiard-table. “31 Because the crop did not require any special-
    ized techniques of cultivation, a cotton planter’s acres did not look very different from any
    other farm. And because cotton planters tended to specialize only in their single cash crop,
    their fields showed the viewer little more than continuous furrows pushing up the same
    plant, often right up to the door of the planter’s house. Contemporary visitors, hoping for
    more diversity, denounced the monotonous rows of cotton as drab.32

    Other variables affecting the visual appearance of a plantation included the size and
    organization of the available work force, the condition of the soil, and the willingness of
    its owner to embrace up-to-date methods of cultivation, harvest, and processing. There
    were also inevitable subregional differences within an area as large as the South, a
    geographic zone reaching from the Atlantic Ocean to the prairies of central Texas and
    from the Gulf of Mexico to the Ohio River Valley.

    Any plantation reflected not only the local ecology and climate, but the conse-
    quences of a particular settlement history as well. Finding it difficult, if not impractical,
    to ignore the customs of the cultural region in which their estates were located, planters
    frequently used the same designs for houses, barns, and outbuildings as yeoman neigh-
    bors. In the Tidewater South, where single-pen barns were favored, for example, planters
    also used single-crib barns. Similarly, the planters in the Piedmont and upland South
    showed their regional allegiances by selecting double-crib barns over other possible barn
    types. Maryland plantation estates closely resembled mid-Atlantic farmsteads both in
    their layout and in their selection of buildings. It is apparent that so-called plantation
    architecture was often nothing more than a particular expression of whatever vernacular
    tradition happened to be dominant in a given region. It is difficult, then, to refer with
    confidence to a single “plantation style” of architecture, for these regional variations in
    building customs affected the design of houses as well as service structures.

    THE AFRICAN AMERICAN PLANTATION LANDSCAPE

    The experiences of plantation slaves were quite different from those of plantation owners,
    not only because of their status as captive laborers, but because so many of them were
    held on the larger and therefore less typical plantations. Historian John B. Boles demon-
    strates how so many slaves came to live on large-scale manorial holding(

    Imagine a universe of ten slaveholders, eight owning two slaves apiece, one owning rwenty-
    four, and the tenth possessing sixty. Obviously most slaveholders (80 percent) would own

    The plantation landscape 105

    (
    ….-:(j \_

    “‘
    .. } –

    5.4 Slave houses, Hermitage Plantation, Savannah, Georgia, nineteenth century

    fewer than five slaves, but most slaves (84 out of 100) would reside in units of more than
    twenty. Such an imaginary model suggests what the nwnbers reveal. In 1850 … over half
    [of the slaves], 51.6 percent, resided on plantations of more than twenty bondsmen. The
    figures were more pronounced in the Deep South, and still more so in 1860, when fully 62
    percent of the slaves in the Deep South lived in plantation units.33

    Plantations, albeit unintentionally, served as the primary sites at which a distinctive
    black American culture matured. By 1860 over 800,000 slaves were living mostly in the
    company of other slaves, in groups of fifty or more. On almost 11,000 plantations, conse-
    quently, slave settlements were big enough to resemble, in the words of former slave
    occupants, “little towns. “34 No doubt their quarters did resemble villages (Figure 5 .4 ). A
    group of fifty slaves probably contained about ten families housed in as many as ten but
    110 fewer than five cabins, depending on the type of buildings used as quarters. Slave settle-
    ments containing larger populations obviously required more houses and thus were even
    more townlike. Bill Homer, a former slave from Shreveport, Louisiana, described a large
    grid pattern of slave houses when he recalled that the quarters on his plantation “was fifty
    one-room cabins and dey was ten in a row and dere was five rows.” 35 A map of the
    Stapleton plantation on St. Helena Island, South Carolina, drawn up in 1789, shows that
    the slave quarter, containing eighteen cabins, was set out in a block pattern three rows
    deep and six rows wide. 36

    Although slaves had no legal power, they were often able nonetheless to use their
    marginal status to their advantage. Kept for the most part in small frame or log houses,
    slaves knew that they were being humbled by their master, who owned a big mansion-
    or at least a bigger house- that often was located on the highest ground available.

    106 John Michael Vlach

    However, because their more modestly constructed slave quarters frequently were located
    some considerable distance from the planter’s residence, slaves also had ample oppor-
    tunity to take control of many domestic concerns. Beyond their master’s immediate
    scrutiny, beyond its boundary lines, slaves created their own landscape. This was a domain
    that generally escaped much notice, mainly because it was marked in ways that planters
    either considered insignificant or could not recognize.

    Rhys Isaac has suggested that paths and trails into the countryside were the central
    elements of the slave landscape in Virginia. Some of these secret tracks led to clandestine
    meeting places in the woods, used sometimes for ritual purposes and at other times for
    festive parties at which fiddles were played and stolen pigs barbecued. Paths also led from
    the slave quarters across the fields to a particular corn house or to some other food store
    that was known to have a conveniently loose board in its gable. A shortcut through the
    woods or marshlands that surrounded the fields may have allowed slaves from different
    plantations to rendezvous more conveniently and to return to their assigned tasks with
    less chance of detection. On those plantations located near navigable streams and rivers,
    the waterways were yet another domain over which slaves exercised particular control by
    means of their boating skills.37 The whole ensemble of sites and pathways constituted, in
    Isaac’s terms, “an alternative territorial system. ” 38

    This system, used wherever large groups of African Americans were gathered
    together, encouraged racial solidarity and provided slaves with a means to escape, at least
    temporarily, from their masters’ control. Moreover, the informal qualities of this type of
    landscape, specific material indications, may also have reflected an ethnic choice. The
    loose, ad hoc scheme of preferred paths and gathering places was created incrementally
    by a series of improvisational responses to the given landscape rules of white masters.
    Because similar improvisational responses by black people to Anglo-American culture are
    known to have resulted in the creation of distinctive African American forms of speech,
    music, and dance, it is not too farfetched to suggest a parallel development in their
    responses to their assigned environments. 39

    Some slaves are known to have countered the geometrically circumscribed order
    imposed by their masters’ logic with what seemed like chaos. For example, the forty-one
    slaves at Mount Vernon who were assigned to the so-called Muddy Hole Farm, where
    they worked under the supervision of a black overseer, located their cabins randomly
    among the trees at the edge of the cleared fields. Those slaves living on the plantation’s
    other “farms,” where they were supervised by white overseers, had their cabins set in
    straight lines at regular intervals along the edge of a road.40 One observer of Georgia rice
    plantations similarly noted that when slaves were given the chance to build their own
    houses, “they wanted their cabins in some secluded place, down in the hollow, or amid
    the trees, with only a path to their abode. “41 In one of the slave villages at J. J. Smith’s
    cotton plantation near Beaufort, South Carolina- apparently located far away from his
    central processing area- although the cabins consisted of a row of boxy frame buildings,
    all were set at odd, irregular angles to one another.42

    If the black system of place definition positively embraced the random and mean-
    dering givens of the natural world, their spaces would naturally strike white observers as
    sloppy and poorly maintained. British visitor Edward Kimber, in fact, went so far as to

    The plantation landscape 107

    ·t that slave settlements located on the backlands of plantations (those fields beyond
    cert! yawners’ immediate scrutiny) produced “Indolence and Nastiness.”43 What white
    theII . . . I ( ” ,, ) h I f

    0
    le were prone to cnt1c1ze as soppy or worse, as nasty was t e save pre erence

    pe p landscape marked by few overt boundaries and fixed sites, an environment open to fora . · .
    d characterized by movement. Planters who wanted theu places clearly and certainly

    ::fined could only be annoyed at the way slaves acted. In an 1833 issue of the Southern
    Agriculturist, a South Carolina planter wrote: plantation might be .considered as a

    iece of machinery; to operate successfully all of its parts should be umform and exact
    the impelling force regular and steady. “44 Clearly slave actions went against this

    d ·ce countering its suggestions with behavior that seemed deliberately careless. In the a VI ,
    li ht of what is known about life within various slave communities, the inhabitants’

    were indeed deliberate, for they hoped thereby to carve out a domain of their own
    and thus improve, however slightly, the conditions of their captivity.

    Within their settlements, slaves established strong family identities, created distinc-
    tive art forms, and developed meaningful religious rituals. 45 To the furthest degree
    ossible, they took charge of their lives. Among the many tangible signs of black initia-

    and autonomy, the foremost spatial statements were the extensive vegetable gardens,
    sometimes as big as half an acre per person, in which slaves raised much of their own
    food . Such self-sufficiency was undergirded by other demonstrations of slave skill. Frances
    Anne Kemble, who in the late 1830s lived on a plantation in coastal Georgia with a
    slave population approaching five hundred, observed that slaves who had woodworking
    abilities built furniture and boats, which they sold for considerable sums in the nearby
    rown of Darien.46 On other plantations, slaves developed similar entrepreneurial enter-
    prises, selling chickens, ducks, and pigs that they raised, and even a horse or two. Others
    were able to improve their material conditions by offering their blacksmithing, tailoring,
    or coopering skills for hire.47 Frederick Law Olmsted noted that in one particularly large
    slave village, again in Georgia, the slaves daily secured their homes and possessions under
    lock and key, asserting their right to personal space and property.48 By acting as if they
    owned the quarters, these slaves had overturned the declared order of the plantation.
    Although everything they had could be taken away in a moment if the master so desired,
    few planters wanted to disturb the inner workings of large slave villages. As long as the
    slaves performed their assigned tasks with reasonable efficiency, planters concerned them-
    selves neither with the routines of the slave quarters nor the domestic claims being
    exercised there.

    Once they were able to establish a level of proprietorship in the quarters, some slaves
    felt emboldened enough to exert a claim over their work spaces as well. Philip Fithian, a
    tutor in Westmoreland County, Virginia, during the late eighteenth century, found that
    the slaves at Nomini Hall regularly took over the stables as a place in which to hold their
    private entertainments. From his frequent complaints that his pupil, Henry Carter, spent

    much time in the kitchen or in the various craft shops, we can infer that these build-
    ings, too, were regarded as black spaces and therefore off limits to white boys who hoped
    to become well schooled in the refined ways of gentlemen.49 The cook at the Merrick plan-
    tation in Louisiana not only ran the kitchen but determined who could have access to it.
    Caroline Merrick, at one time the plantation’s Young Miss, remembered being driven out

    108 John Michael Vlach

    of the room by the cook’s stern rebuke: “Go inter de house, Miss Carrie! Yer ain’t no
    manner er use heah only ter git yer face red wid de heat. “50

    After years of toil in the fields, slaves sometimes began to feel that the harvest was
    their achievement rather than their master’s. He may have owned the crop, but they had
    created it. There is no more eloquent expression of a slave’s identification with the soil he
    worked than the claim made by a former South Carolina slave named Morris. Early in the
    twentieth century, when he was about to be thrown off the plantation where he had lived
    all his life, he went to the landlord to state his case.

    I was born on dis place before Freedom. My Mammy and Daddy worked de rice fields.
    Dey’s buried here. De fust ting I remember are dose rice banks. I growed up in dem from
    dat high … . De strength of dese arms and dese legs and of dis old back . . . is in your rice
    banks. It won’t be long before de good Lord take de rest of pore old Morris away too. An’
    de rest of dis body want to be with de strength of de arms and de legs and de back dat is
    already buried in your rice banks. No .. . you ain’t agoin’ to run old Morris off dis place.

    51

    The ironies of plantation slavery were many and profound, for although the plan-
    tation system was the very reason people of African descent were enslaved, it also provided
    them with an arena in which they could begin to piece back together their shattered
    lives. While ownership of a plantation clearly divided whites into distinct have and
    have-not classes, blacks generally found themselves drawn together in sufficient numbers
    to constitute coherent social groups. Comforted by the fellowship of the quarters, they
    were able to confront the injustice of their captivity in ways both subtle and obvious;
    among their various strategies of accommodation and resistance was the creation of their
    own version of the plantation. Recognizing that they could define a space for themselves,
    they took back the quarters, fields, gardens, barns, and outbuildings, claiming them as
    parts of a black landscape. Empowered by this territorial gesture, they were able to forge
    an even stronger sense of community, which few planters would ever recognize or
    acknowledge.

    Even when slaves were most persistent in establishing their own landscapes, they
    attempted few bold gestures. Instead, they prudently relied on subtle adjustments to
    their dwellings, or they sought out spaces where their masters were unlikely to intrude.
    Their domains, consisting mainly of rough and ungainly dwellings together with their
    cluttered yards, reflected not a lack of ability but their material poverty. Denied the time
    and resources needed to design and build as they might have wanted, they simply appro-
    priated, as marginalized peoples often do, the environments to which they were assigned.

    The slaves’ agenda is the hidden dimension of a southern plantation. Looking over
    these places, one sees most clearly the pattern of well-known, European-derived fashions.
    The ordered surfaces of building facades and well-tended grounds, however, were under-
    pinned by a slave community whose labor provided the wealth with which planters
    created their impressive estates. The more than two-and-a-half-million slaves held on
    plantations in 1860 clearly dominated the southern countryside. It was, finally, their
    formidable demographic presence that transformed plantations into undeniably black
    places. This circumstance fostered such a self-reliant attitude among slaves that they were

    The plantation landscape 109

    . . ed to think about their captivity and its various physical contexts in ways that they
    most reassuring. Just as slaves usually did not consider it a crime to take extra

    ns from the master’s storehouse in order to satisfy their hunger, neither did they
    ranoider the buildings and in which they were forced to work to be solely his
    cons ty s2 Thus the kitchen might be claimed by the slave cook, the dining room by the
    proper ·

    ervant the loom house by the weaver, the barn by the field hand. houses ‘
    Acts of appropriation leave few physical marks, and therefore they must be
    ·ously recalled in order to be factored into our interpretation of surviving slave build-consc1

    .
    5

    and spaces. Consequently, southern plantations can only be described accurately ::d analyzed fully if we remember the territorial prerogatives claimed and exercised
    repeatedly by slaves.

    Notes
    1 Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia

    (New York: W.W. Norton, 1975), p. 94.

    2 Quoted in Rhys Isaac, The Transformation of Virginia, 1740-1790 (Chapel Hill: University of
    North Carolina Press, 1982), p. 33.

    3 Quoted in Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom, p. 220.
    4 John R. Stilgoe, Common Landscape of America, 1580 to 1845 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale

    University Press, 1982), pp. 75-76.
    5 Louis B. Wright, The First Gentlemen of Virginia: Intellectual Qualities of the Early Colonial

    Ruling Class (San Marino, Calif.: The Huntington Library, 1940), pp. 158, 190, 286, 346.
    6 Thomas Tileston Waterman, The Mansions of Virginia, 1706- 1776 (Chapel Hill: University of

    North Carolina Press, 1946), pp. 22- 25; Nicholas Luccketti, “Archaeological Excavations at
    Bacon’s Castle, Surry County, Virginia,” in William M. Kelso and Rachel Most, eds., Earth
    Patterns: Essays in Landscape Archaeology (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1990),

    7
    8

    9

    10
    11
    12

    13

    14

    15

    16

    17

    18

    pp. 24, 27, 32, 35.
    W. G. Hoskins, The Making of the English Landscape (London: Pelican, 1970), pp. 167, 170.
    Gregory A. Stiverson and Patrick H. Butler III, eds., “Virginia in 1732: The Travel .Journal of
    William Hugh Grove,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 85 (1977): 26.
    Louis Morton, Robert Carter of Nomini Hall: A Virginia Tobacco Planter of the Eighteenth
    Century (Williamsburg, Va .: Colonial Williamsburg, Inc., 1941), p. 207, n. 4.
    Wright, First Gentlemen of Virginia, p. 330.
    Waterman, Mansions of Virginia, pp. 108- 9.
    Quoted in Anne Leighton, “For Use or for Delight”: American Gardens in the Eighteenth
    Century (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976), p. 269; see also Clement Eaton, The Growth of
    Southern Civilization, 1790- 1860 (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), pp. 3-4.
    Samuel Gaillard Stoney, Plantations of the Carolina Low Country (Charleston: South Carolina
    An Association, 1955), pp. 59, 61-62, 119, 170- 75.
    Dell Upton, “White and Black Landscapes in Eighteenth-Century Virginia,” Places 2, no. 2
    (1985): 66.
    Fraser D. Neiman, “Domestic Architecture at the Clifts Plantation: The Social Context of Early
    Virginia Building,” in Dell Upton and John Michael Vlach, eds., Common Places: Readings in
    American Vernacular Architecture (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986), p. 311.
    Roger G. Kennedy, Greek Revival America (New York: Stewart, Tabori, and Chang, 1989),
    p. 286.
    Eugene L. Schwaab, ed., Travels in the Old South Selected from Periodicals of the Times
    (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1973), 2: 292, 295.
    Quoted in Eaton, Growth of South Civilization, pp. 122- 23.

    110 John Michael Vlach

    19 John Burkhardt Rehder, “Sugar Plantation Settlements of Southern Louisiana: A Cultural
    Geography, ” Ph.D. diss., Louisiana State University, 1971, pp. 84-86, 100-3, 109; Schwaab
    Travels in the Old South, 2: 495. ‘

    20 Ulrich B. Phillips, Life and Labor in the Old South (Boston: Little, Brown, 1929), p. 339.
    John B. Boles, Southerners, 1619- 1869 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1983):
    p. 75.

    21 Harold D. Woodman, ed., Slavery and the Southern Economy: Sources and Readings (New
    York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1966), p. 15.

    22 See Isaac, Trans formation of Virginia, p. 21 , for a discussion of figures on mid-eighteenth-century
    plantation ownership.

    23 Upton, “White and Black Landscapes,” p. 66 .
    24 Quoted in James C. Bonner, “Plantation Architecture of the Lower South on the Eve of the Civil

    War,” Journal of Southern History 11 (1945): 372.
    25 Ibid., p. 374.
    26 Frederick Law Olmsted, The Cotton Kingdom: A Traveller’s Observations an Cotton and Slavery

    in the American Slave States, ed. by Arthur M. Schlesinger (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1953),
    p. 280.

    27 The small plantation in northern Louisiana described by Olmsted can profitably be compared to
    the profile of a slaveowning farm in Yell County, Arkansas, detailed by John Solomon Otto
    in “Slaveholding General Farmers in a Cotton County,” Agricultural History 55 (1981): 167- 78.

    28 Norman R. Yetman, ed. , Life Under the “Peculiar Institution”: Selections from the Slave
    Narrative Collection (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1970), pp. 61, 144.

    29 Olmsted , Cotton Kingdom, p. 249. See also John Michael Vlach, “Plantation Landscapes of the
    AntebeUum South,” in Edward D. C. Campbell, Jr. , and Kyrn S. Rice, eds. , Before Freedom
    Came: African-American Life in the Antebellum South (Charlottesville: University Press of
    Virginia, 1991), p. 41, Figure 43.

    30 Olmsted, Cotton Kingdom, p. 181.
    31 Quoted in J. Carlyle Sitterson, Sugar Country: The Cane Sugar Industry in the South, 1753-1950

    (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1953), p. 47.
    32 Bonner, “Plantation Architecture of the Lower South,” p. 375.
    33 Bales, Black Southerners, p. 107.
    34 George P. Rawick, ed., The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography (Westport, Conn.:

    Greenwood Press, 1972), 3 (pt. 4): 177, 15 (pt. 2): 364.
    35 Yetman, Life Under the “Peculiar Institution, ” p. 168.
    36 See Vlach, “Plantation Landscapes of the Antebellum South,” p. 28, Figure 30.
    37 Dell Upton, “Imagining the Early Virginia Landscape,” in Kelso and Most, Earth Patterns, p. 74.
    38 Issac, Transformation of Virginia, pp. 52-53.
    39 ]. L. Dillard, Black English: Its History and Usage in the United States (New York: Vintage,

    1972); Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans (New York: W.W. Norton, 1971); Lynne
    Fauley Emery, Black Dance in the United States from 1619 to 1970 (Palo Alto, Calif.: National
    Press Books, 1972).

    40 See Mechal Sobel, The World They Made Together: Black and White Values in Eighteenth-
    Century Virginia (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987), pp. 105, 109.

    41 Quoted in Eugene D. Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made (New York:
    Random House, 1972), p. 534.

    42 Charles Joyner, “The World of the Plantation Slaves,” in Campbell and Rice, Before Freedom
    Came, p. 79, Figure 70.

    43 Edward Kimber, “Observations in Several Voyages and Travels in America,” William and Mary
    Quarterly, 1st ser., vol. 15 (1906-7): 148.

    44 James 0. Breeden, ed., Advice among Masters: The Ideal of Slave Management in the Old South
    (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980), p. 31.

    45

    46

    47

    48
    49
    so

    51

    52

    The plantation landscape 111

    See Herbert G. Gutman, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750- 1925 (New York:
    Vintage, 1976); John Michael Vlach, The Afro-American Tradition in Decorative Arts
    (Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1978); Lawrence W. Levine, Black Culture and
    Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom (New York:
    oxford University Press, 1977).
    Frances Anne Kemble, Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-39 [1863] , ed .
    by John A. Scott (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984), p. 63.
    Philip D. Morgan, “The Ownership of Property by Slaves in the Mid-Nineteenth-Century Low
    Country,” Journal of Southern History 49 (1983) : 399-420.
    Olmsted, Cotton Kingdom, p. 185.
    Upton, “White and Black Landscapes,” p . 70.
    Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old
    South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), p. 142 (emphasis in original).
    Charles Joyner, Down by the Riverside: A South Carolina Slave Community (Urbana: University
    of Illinois Press, 1984), pp. 42-43.
    Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll, pp. 602- 3.

    Louis P. Nelson

    Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum,
    Volume 21, Number 1, Spring 2014, pp. 88-125 (Article)

    Published by University of Minnesota Press
    DOI: 10.1353/bdl.2014.0006

    For additional information about this article

    Access provided by University of Virginia Libraries __ACCESS_STATEMENT__ (Viva) (2 Sep 2014 16:09 GMT)

    http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/bdl/summary/v021/21.1.nelson.html

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    88 | 

    louis p. nelson

    Architectures of West African
    Enslavement

    The gleaming white castle rises dramatically
    from the promontory overlooking the coastal
    town of Dixcove, Ghana, much as it has for more
    than three centuries (Figure 1). Visitors arrive in
    town and park at the base of the hill, climbing to
    the castle on foot. The path wends up the side of
    the hill and diverts to the west toward the small
    parade ground that stands between the front of
    the castle and the sea. Two massive diamond-
    shaped bastions stand to either side of a heavily
    rusticated door, which opens through the solid,
    unbroken masonry of the outer wall into the
    front courtyard of the castle. In the back corner
    of an interior courtyard is an arched opening
    into the northeast bastion, accessed by a range of
    three steps. The small chamber behind is closed
    by a heavy iron gate (Figure 2). No more than
    two hundred square feet, this was the slave hole.
    Merely 2 percent of the total square footage of
    the whole compound, this small cell was a criti-
    cal component of the sequences of such spaces in
    English castles along the west coast of Africa. It
    played a vital role in the highly lucrative system
    of transatlantic slavery that defined the coastline
    of West Africa and that sustained the sugar pro-
    duction of the British West Indies from the late
    seventeenth century to the abolition of the slave
    trade in 1807.1

    The slave holes of the English castles lining
    the west coast of Africa were and are horrifying.2
    “There was nothing to be heard but the rattling
    of chains, smacking of whips, and the groans
    and cries of our fellow men,” reported Ottobah
    Cugoano.3 But these chambers were not the only
    spaces experienced by enslaved Africans in the

    long journey from Africa to the Caribbean. While
    historians have dealt extensively with many di-
    mensions of the slave trade—and this article de-
    pends on the published scholarship of a number
    of excellent historians—architectural historians
    have left the spaces of enslavement largely un-
    touched. This article situates the historical nar-
    ratives of the slave trade not in buildings but in
    spaces, some permanent, some temporary, some
    floating, and some created by implements of
    bondage. This understanding of space depends
    on that formulated by Henri Lefebvre in which
    space is at once physical, socially produced, and
    imagined.4 When possible, physical spaces have
    been documented, recorded in their surviving
    conditions as artifacts of slavery.5 But these spaces
    were very much the product of those social and
    economic relationships governing the capture
    (and resistance to capture), containment, trans-
    fer, and sale of people. They are also products of
    the British imagination, changing as their in-
    tended function changed and changing relative
    to other institutional architecture. Understood as
    agents in the economic and social relationships
    of exchange, these spaces—in buildings and in
    canoes—are components of a machine of pro-
    duction dedicated to the generation of “the slave”
    as a social, historically contingent and situated
    subject.

    In tracking sequences of spaces, I do not pre-
    tend to suggest that this article reports a typical
    experience; variations over space and time and
    among personal dispositions mean such an at-
    tempt would be folly.6 But the telling that follows
    was in its component parts the reality for many

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 89

    who were transported against their will from Af-
    rica to the Caribbean by British slavers, a term
    used historically to identify both the men who
    enslaved and the boats that carried their victims.
    Based on fieldwork in Ghana and on a careful
    examination of documentary and visual records
    in England, Ghana, and the United States, this
    article reconstructs the spatial experience of the
    enslaved, examining when possible not just the
    physical spaces but also the spatial experience of
    the senses, so powerfully captured by Cugoano.

    By engaging sequences of spaces, this article
    embraces four methodological convictions. The
    first is that the meanings of spaces are not always
    determined by their physical production. Some-
    times the experience of a space, if such an experi-
    ence can be reconstructed, is far more important
    than its material making. Another conviction is
    that the writing of history benefits from the rigor-
    ous examination of the spaces where events took
    place; too frequently, historians generate disem-

    bodied narratives that divorce events from place.
    And this article also presumes that the most im-
    portant meaning of architecture is often found in
    the various human networks—social, economic,
    political—that tied those spaces one to the next.
    Derived from these three convictions, this article
    is a history of architectural experience.

    The fourth and last methodological convic-
    tion is potentially the most important. West Af-
    rica’s coastal castles and their associated spaces
    are rightly understood as spaces engaged in the
    economic processes of slave making—of trans-
    forming a person into a commodity. It is no ac-
    cident that the definitive study of the Royal Af-
    rican Company—the organization that oversaw
    England’s African trade until 1750—was written
    not by a social or a political historian but by a
    historian of business in a series on emergent
    international capitalism.7 The decisions made
    by Europeans along the west coast of Africa and
    by their African partners were motivated by

    Figure 1. View of the
    castle at Dixcove, Ghana.
    Photograph by Louis P.
    Nelson, July 2012.

    90 |   BUILDINGS & LANDSCAPES  21,  no.  1 ,  SPRING 2014

    economic self-interest, and over time it became
    increasingly clear that the highest profits lay in
    the production of slaves. This economic machine
    matured through the eighteenth century, gen-
    erating finely tuned processes of exchange and
    function-specific architecture to support that
    machine.

    Understood as an economic process, slave
    making had a number of important factors that
    drove the decisions of enslavers. One was valua-
    tion; central to this process was the recognition
    that individuals became more valuable as they

    traveled further in the process from capture to
    final sale in the New World. Allied with this was
    the recognition that some goods had higher value
    potential over other goods; in slave making these
    criteria were typically gender, age, and health.
    A younger healthy male had far greater value
    potential than an older sickly female. Another
    reality was that damaged goods were less valu-
    able, creating an incentive to protect investment
    from damage. While deeply inhumane, these
    were the factors that drove many decisions in the
    early modern West African trade; to ignore this
    reality is to write poor history. But it is also poor
    history to write about these spaces under the
    presumption of isolation. In some ways, the trad-
    ing castles transformed in the later eighteenth
    century to support the slave trade corresponded
    with European prisons, schools, and institutions
    of reform, which also transformed and matured
    in these same decades.8 The fundamental differ-
    ence was, of course, that prisons and schools ap-
    pealed to the humanity of their subject to enact
    reform (however insufficiently), whereas the cas-
    tles in West Africa and their allied spaces were
    more concerned with the economic processes
    of commodification.9 These differences will be-
    come clear as the narrative unfolds.

    Capture and Coffles
    The first act of enslavement was capture. En-
    slaved Africans were sometimes the result of
    wars. In 1682 Barbot reported that one English
    trader recently purchased three hundred Afri-
    cans “almost for nothing, besides the trouble of
    receiving them at the beach in his boats.” This
    was a huge number, the result of a recent war:
    “The Commenda men brought them from the
    field of battle, having obtained a victory over a
    neighboring nation, and taken a great number
    of prisoners.”10 Nonetheless, as recent histori-
    cal scholarship has made clear, most Africans
    sold into slavery in the eighteenth century were
    not legitimate prisoners of war but the result of
    internal legal processes, debt, famine, or, most
    commonly, kidnapping.11 One English observer
    wrote, “We often saw several thousand men in
    full war paint march inland where they stormed
    the villages, set the houses ablaze and caught

    Figure 2. View of the
    slave hole gate at
    Dixcove Castle, Ghana.
    Photograph by Louis P.
    Nelson, March 2011.

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 91

    the inhabitants.” Francis Owen, another English
    trader, described how an African trader “went
    out with his troops, set three sides of a village
    ablaze, placed his soldiers at the forth side to grab
    those inhabitants who ran out of the flames.”12
    Especially as the eighteenth century unfolded,
    kidnapping became the primary mode of slave
    production across West Africa as African trad-
    ers worked to meet the escalating demand for
    enslaved Africans from their European trading
    partners.

    Surviving African accounts of capture are
    rare. That written by Ottobah Cugoano, pub-
    lished in 1787 as part of the emerging critique
    of the slave trade, offers a rare glimpse into the
    experience of an African boy.13 Playing with
    friends, Cugoano was assaulted by “ruffians”

    who claimed the boys had “committed a fault
    against their lord” and must travel with them to
    answer for this fault. Threatened with weapons,
    the boys submitted and walked for two days to
    what was likely a market town, where they were
    divided among the houses of locals, colluders
    in the plot. After spending six days in a house,
    Cugoano was eventually conveyed under the
    direction of another trader to a town populated
    with white men near the coast. The next morn-
    ing, the trader took him into the castle under the
    presumption of obtaining some trade goods, but
    it was in the castle that young Ottobah came to
    fully understand his kidnapping.14 Asa-Asa, an-
    other African boy, relayed how his hometown was
    attacked and burned by invaders. They pillaged
    for two days and then carried off all the survivors

    Figure 3. Map of
    the West Coast of
    Africa identifying the
    locations of various
    sites mentioned in the
    text. Drawn by Jason
    Truesdale.

    1 2 3
    4

    5

    Gambia Rive

    r

    Cross R

    iver

    Benu
    e Rive

    r

    Lake Volta

    Black Volta

    White Volta
    Red Volta

    Senegam
    bia

    Sierra Leone

    Windward Coast
    Gold Coast

    Bight Of Benin

    Bight Of Biafra

    Nig
    er R

    iver

    Kumasi

    Salaga

    Sankana

    Gwolu

    Idah

    Timbuktu

    Old Calabar

    Ouidah

    1 Nzulezu
    2 Dixcove
    3 Cape Coast
    4 Anomabo
    5 Accra

    Bauchi

    Atlantic Ocean

    92 |   BUILDINGS & LANDSCAPES  21,  no.  1 ,  SPRING 2014

    in a coffle of about twenty.15 It is not surprising
    that these accounts came from children. The
    increasing numbers of older children sold into
    slavery over the course of the eighteenth cen-
    tury has led some historians to see kidnapping
    of youth supplanting war as the primary means
    of introducing persons into the slave trade mar-
    ket, especially as the value of adolescent males—
    unwounded by war—surpassed the value of all
    other categories of potential slaves.16 The result
    was the delivery of millions of Africans to the
    coast, some as the result of war or crimes in their
    village but, as the century unfolded, most deliv-
    ered to coastal factories by armed raiding parties
    through a method called “grand pillage,” which
    simply meant people stolen from their homes as
    they slept, worked, and played.17

    Many African communities fiercely resisted
    raiders.18 Oral histories from the Kasena, Bulsa,
    and Chiana peoples have preserved stories of at-
    tack and resistance against African slave traders.19
    The Mfantses still use a greeting that echoes re-
    sistance to slaving: “If there is someone chasing
    you, let us know so as to hide you.”20 Victim com-
    munities also enacted architectural strategies of
    resistance. The Daagare people of Sankana have
    an oral tradition that reports cow horn alarms
    were used to warn nearby villages of a slaver
    attack. That same community also points to a
    series of three caves that were used as places of
    refuge.21 With appropriate provisions these caves
    provided sanctuary for weeks at a time. One of
    their songs begins, “When the raiders came, the
    people of Sankana stood firm” (Figure 3).22

    The people of Gwollu offered a different strat-
    egy for defense: they built a wall encircling their
    village. The village elders reported that the wall
    “was constructed at the time of the notorious
    raiders,” in response to “the disappearance of
    people.” They found that their people were being
    trapped in nets in the forest. But then the raid-
    ers began attacking the village, coming at night,
    usually burning houses to drive out the inhabi-
    tants. The village elders offered a number of
    solutions, including (1) building roofs of baked
    bricks that could not burn as easily; (2) installing
    impediments to block or trap an intruder; and
    (3) installing narrow doors, often low enough to

    require bending over to gain entry, that would
    allow only a single person access to the interior.
    Yet even after these were put in place, the raids
    continued. So the final solution was to erect a vil-
    lage wall with small holes for surveillance. After
    two years the wall was complete and brought to
    the village “limited peace.”23

    Sometimes, resistance resulted in even more
    drastic measures. Research in Dahomey (now
    Benin) has determined that the region’s many
    lacustrine (waterborne) villages were part of a
    defensive strategy of relocating whole villages to
    the edges of lakes that were both visually shel-
    tered and largely inaccessible by land, thereby
    more easily defensible.24 The appearance of such
    lacustrine villages across West Africa, from
    Benin through at least western Ghana, suggests
    the possibility that this practice was widespread
    (Figure 4). Such strategies required, of course,
    learning new architectures and embracing dif-
    ferent foodways. Isolation meant safety. From
    building walls to building water villages, Afri-
    cans responded to the raids of the slavers. Ac-
    tively attending to these architectural strategies
    reminds us that capture was itself a stage in the
    process and that victim communities were ac-
    tively engaged in acts of resistance. There was an
    architectural history to African-on-African and,
    eventually, European-on-African violence.

    Once captured, the enslaved African was
    bound to a coffle in the forced march from the
    point of capture to trading posts along the coast.
    A remarkable early representation of such a gang
    appears in a watercolor sketch drawn by Captain
    Samuel Gable into the logbook of the Sandown,
    an English slaver ship that slaved in Sierra Leone
    in 1793. Entitled, in part, “Representation of a
    Lott of Fullanis bringing their slaves for sale to
    the Europeans,” the image shows a collection of
    drivers armed with bows and arrows marching
    seven enslaved in a gang along the horizon of
    the picture plane (Figure 5). The implements of
    restraint are the diagonal yokes that reach from
    the waist of one captive to the neck of another.
    Other slaves are carrying large baskets on their
    heads, likely filled with food and essential sup-
    plies or sometimes other trade items like ivory
    tusks, which had to be carried with the coffle dur-

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 93

    ing the days, weeks, and sometimes months of a
    march.25

    Such yokes were the target of much criti-
    cism among abolitionists by the late eighteenth
    century. Thomas Clarkson’s Letters on the Slave
    Trade, published in 1791, includes two plates
    illustrating three variations on the yokes (Fig-
    ure  6).26 In the simplest version, Clarkson re-
    ports, Africans were bound around the neck by
    two pieces of wood fastened to each other at the
    ends. Such individual devices prevented escape
    by creating an impediment to the escapee, who
    could not quickly run through the dense for-
    est. A second version shows a single yoke with
    crutches, one at each end to secure two people.
    The third has a crutch at one end and a twisted
    rope at the other, by which it was hung around
    the neck. “It is reported to be so heavy,” Clarkson
    writes, “that it is extremely difficult for the per-
    son who wears it to walk, much less to escape or
    run away.” The only way to manage the weight

    of the log was to rest the crutched end of the
    yoke on the shoulders of the person before. In
    Clarkson’s account the straight end of the yoke
    was tied around the person’s neck, and in the
    captain’s sketch it appears to be secured around
    the waist. One such yoke, probably from the early
    nineteenth century, survives in the collections of
    the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool.
    The base of the yoke has an indentation a few
    inches from the end that would have been used
    to secure a cord between the yoke and the neck or
    waist of the captive. The crutched end of the yoke
    does not have any evidence of such mechanisms
    for fastening, suggesting that it simply rested
    on the shoulders of the person before. Some ac-
    counts indicate that Africans were bound neck to
    neck in chains with their hands fastened behind
    their waists or to their sides.27 Bound in one of
    these ways, most coffles walked from their point
    of capture to the coast. Evidence of the torture of
    this march was clear to Carl Wadstrom when he

    Figure 4. The isolated
    lacustrine village of
    Nzulezu, Ghana.
    Photograph by Louis P.
    Nelson, March 2011.

    94 |   BUILDINGS & LANDSCAPES  21,  no.  1 ,  SPRING 2014

    Figure 5. “Representation of a Lott of Fullonis . . . ,” Samuel Gable Logbook, 1793. Image courtesy National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, England.

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 95

    noted the “mangled bodies of several [Africans
    who had just arrived], whose wounds were still
    bleeding  .  .  . a most shocking spectacle.”28 The
    march to the sea was gruesome. The estimates
    of mortality vary widely, but it is absolutely clear
    that not all who began the journey lived to see
    the ocean.29

    Although evidence is scant and uncertain, his-
    torians generally agree that while most Africans
    came from within a few hundred miles of the
    coast, some traveled great distances. They could
    hail from as far as Timbuktu, approximately one
    thousand miles from the closest castles or facto-
    ries on the Gold Coast.30 The complexity of Af-
    rican trading meant that the majority of those
    Africans sold into slavery experienced complex
    African trading networks that brought captives
    from across the interior.31 Ghanaian historian
    Akosua Perbi has determined that early mod-
    ern Ghana had at least nine major trade routes
    by which captives were channeled to the coast.32
    Most of the interior routes passed through Ku-
    masi; one of the major spurs from Kumasi led di-
    rectly to Cape Coast. Those traveling substantial
    distances likely passed through one of the inte-
    rior’s many market towns. Perbi has identified as
    many as sixty-six market towns in Ghana, most
    of which probably engaged in the trade of slaves.33
    As a result, captives became commodities in the
    complex trading network that spread broadly
    across west and central Africa. Asa-Asa, for ex-
    ample, reported that he had been sold six times
    over the course of about six months, “sometimes
    for money, sometimes for cloth, and sometimes
    for guns,” before he arrived at the coast, where he
    was sold again for exportation.34

    The largest and most important market town
    in what would become modern Ghana was Sal-
    aga, located approximately three hundred miles
    inland from Cape Coast. This critical town en-
    joyed a very important position. Situated between
    the two branches of the Volta River, Salaga was
    easily accessible to the coast. The town was the
    terminus for two branches of the trans-Saharan
    trade routes and was the market town with the
    greatest access to North Africa.35 Salaga was also
    politically important as the major market town
    under the rule of the Asante, after their capture

    of the town in 1744. The Asante were one of the
    major African tribes that provided Africans for
    the transatlantic market, and as a result the Sal-
    aga market became a major point of exchange.36
    Recent archaeological investigations have uncov-
    ered evidence for the courtyard of a large slave
    warehouse, as well as water dams and cisterns
    used to bathe slaves before sale.37 As described
    by Perbi, the Salaga market was divided into two
    sections, foodstuffs and slaves. The majority of
    the foodstuffs were sold in the morning, while
    the sales of people usually took place in the af-
    ternoons, a lag that gave traders time to organize
    their “stock” by gender and age and to assess
    their value. Some period accounts suggest that
    a town crier announced the daily opening of
    the slave market, having been paid by traders to
    launch sales.38 This was an experience often re-
    peated; many if not most people would be housed
    in slave camps at some point along the journey.39

    Research on the internal trade in the Bights of
    Biafra and Benin, the regions that would become
    southeastern Nigeria, suggests that traders in
    these places also depended on a vast network that
    penetrated deep into the African interior. The
    diary of Antera Duke, one of the leading African
    traders in Old Calabar in the Bight of Biafra, in-
    dicates that he depended on a trading network

    Figure 6. Representation
    of a yoke as printed
    in Thomas Clarkson,
    Letters on the Slave Trade
    (London, 1791).

    96 |   BUILDINGS & LANDSCAPES  21,  no.  1 ,  SPRING 2014

    that ranged over 30,000 square miles and that
    most of his slaves came from market towns near
    the fringes of that region; many came from the
    Cameroon grasslands, most having already trav-
    eled great distances.40 David Northrup’s work on
    this region suggests that many captives, if not a
    majority, were marched in coffles from at least
    as far as Bauchi, a major market town more than
    500 miles from the coast, although the last 150
    miles was surely by canoe on the Niger or Cross
    Rivers.41 Many of these enslaved Africans also
    passed through the market town of Idah, near
    the critical junction of the Niger and Benue Riv-
    ers. The market in Idah occurred every ten days,
    was attended by as many as six thousand people,
    and witnessed the sale of approximately three
    hundred enslaved Africans at each market (see
    Figure 3).42

    If travel by land in a coffle was the experience
    of most enslaved Africans, some were also trans-
    ported from market to market via canoe. This
    was certainly the case for those in Gambia and
    the Bight of Biafra, both regions dominated by
    major river systems. Fashioned from the trunk
    of a single enormous tree, canoes, up to eighty
    feet in length, could hold scores of paddlers, raid-
    ers, and captives.43 When preparing for a raiding
    expedition, canoes were fitted out with a range
    of weaponry, including “two guns, which were
    three pounders, fixed upon a block of wood; one
    in the canoe’s stern and one in the bow.”44 Fleets
    of up to twelve canoes would depart on expedi-
    tions that could last as long as three weeks, re-
    turning with as many as thirty enslaved Africans
    per canoe. These canoes were such a critical
    component of slaving on Old Calabar that Olau-
    dah Equiano noticed that some people seemed
    to live out of their canoes, which were fitted out
    with “household utensils and provisions of all
    kinds. . . . [Some] staid and cooked in theirs, and
    laid in them all night.”45 In such canoes the initial
    captives of a raid traveled for weeks, as described
    by one sailor, with “their Arms generally pin-
    ioned behind their backs with Grass Ropes. They
    are made to lie down in the Bottom frequently
    of a wet canoe.”46 In Gambia and the Bights of
    Benin and Biafra, most of the enslaved arrived at
    their final African destination via canoe; along

    the Gold Coast that arrival was on foot as part of
    a coffle.

    Before arriving at a coastal castle, most coffles
    would pass through the castle town: “Their
    streets and roads . . . are only poorly kept clean
    so there is a right good smell,” wrote Johannes
    Rask in the early eighteenth century. But he then
    asserted that their courtyards were “usually very
    neat and clean” and that trees planted along the
    streets “provide a comfortable shade and a lovely
    appearance so that every negeri looks like a small
    green grove.”47 Occupants of the town included
    the majority of the castle slaves, or those slaves
    owned by the castle—not intended for resale—
    purchased to undertake work in the castle. One
    report from 1749 lists 379 castle slaves for Cape
    Coast Castle, all identified by name and occupa-
    tion, which ranged from washerwoman to brick
    mason.48 But living in the town was also an as-
    sortment of both African and European traders,
    many of whom had houses and offices in town;
    they frequently paid a regular fee to house in the
    secured slave holes of the castle those slaves they
    intended to sell to ship captains. Centuries-old
    multistory masonry buildings are likely the rem-
    nants of such traders’ houses (Figure 7). Often
    predating the erection of the castle, the town was
    a socially and economically complex entity that
    was thoroughly integrated into the workings of
    the castle.49

    At some point the coffle came in sight of the
    castle itself. As described by one European ob-
    server, the castles appeared to be “chalk moun-
    tains, especially when the sun shines directly on
    them.”50 The first sight of the castle was often a
    terrifying prospect, for at that moment enslaved
    Africans came to understand their fate. As one
    firsthand European observer wrote, “To be ex-
    ported is, for them, synonymous with being
    murdered.”51 He continued, “Sometimes a gag is
    placed in the slave’s mouth, which is forced wide
    open, in order to keep him from shouting.  .  .  .
    This intractability among the slaves as they ap-
    proach the coast also has its origin partly from
    their conviction that they are going to be shipped
    out to places where they will be eaten.”52 Oth-
    ers, like young Cugoano, had been tricked into
    approaching the castle: “Those [slaves] who are

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 97

    brought [to the castles] without knowing the fate
    that awaits them there . . . are violently fallen upon
    in the forts and dragged into the slave holes. . . .
    They, especially the women, throw themselves to
    the ground, shriek, stretch their hands over their
    heads and turn their eyes to heaven.”53

    The Royal African Company
    The early history of the British castles along the
    west coast of Africa falls into two major eras:
    their formation under the Royal African Com-
    pany and their restructuring and expansion
    under the Company of Merchants Trading to Af-
    rica, which took over control of the fortifications
    in May 1751. Under the direction of the Royal Af-
    rican Company, the amount of space dedicated to
    the containment of enslaved Africans at Dixcove
    and most other castles was never very large. In
    part, this is because, at the point of their con-
    struction in the later seventeenth century, the
    trade in slaves was only one growing dimension
    of the broader African trade undertaken from
    these castles.

    While the English had been involved in trade
    along the west coast of Africa since a 1618 expe-
    dition up the Gambia River, the establishment
    of a permanent well-organized presence on the
    coast did not materialize until the construction
    of the castle at Cormantin in the 1630s.54 But in
    these early years the trade was driven almost en-
    tirely by the search for gold; the trade in slaves
    was dominated by the Portuguese, who enjoyed
    an exclusive position of selling slaves to Spanish
    plantations in the Americas. The revolt of the
    Portuguese against the Spanish in 1640 opened
    the door, however, to alternative European sup-
    pliers of enslaved labor. Paired with the rapid ex-
    pansion of sugar production in the newly settled
    English colonies in the eastern Caribbean, the
    middle decades of the seventeenth century set
    the stage for English involvement in the African
    trade in slaves. While English slaving had taken
    place for decades under various structures, this
    country’s involvement in the African slave trade
    took on an organized structure in 1672 with the
    foundation of the Royal African Company, which
    received the English monopoly on the African
    trade for a stretch of five thousand miles of the

    African coast.55 By that time human trafficking
    was assumed to be an integral part of the African
    trade.

    The Royal African Company took over man-
    agement of the various settlements and fortified
    castles already present on the West African coast.
    The oldest settlement, the castle at Cormantin,
    had been begun by the English in the 1630s but
    was lost to the Dutch in 1665. The most impor-
    tant settlement was Cape Coast Castle, which
    was begun by the Swedes in 1652 but taken by
    the English in 1664. The castle at Cape Coast
    stood “on a round head jutting out into the sea . . .
    and its being encompassed on that side  .  .  . by
    several rocks and the sea itself, render it inacces-
    sible on that side. The only landing is just under
    the fortress.”56 The Royal African Company dra-
    matically expanded the Swedish castle at Cape
    Coast from 1674 to 1682.57 After that expansion
    the castle included a number of large warehouse
    spaces, apartments for the governor, barracks for
    soldiers, and a chapel, in addition to the various
    towers and bastions defining its perimeter. But
    much of its power derived from its appearance,
    not from its actual constructed fabric; as with
    most early European construction in Africa, the
    walls were largely rubble contained in two ve-
    neers of whitewashed stone. Since castles were
    often poorly maintained, castle governors regu-
    larly complained that the heavy rains would liter-
    ally wash the building away.58

    Given its remarkably advantageous site, the

    Figure 7. European
    slaver’s house, Elmina,
    Ghana. Photograph by
    Louis P. Nelson, March
    2011.

    98 |   BUILDINGS & LANDSCAPES  21,  no.  1 ,  SPRING 2014

    castle at Cape Coast was from the 1670s onward
    the center of English trading interests along the
    West African coast. Through the seventeenth
    century, the castle housed a garrison never
    smaller than fifty men and often over one hun-
    dred. The castle also boasted an officer corps of
    ten to fifteen and as many as thirty castle slaves.59
    The Royal African Company lost its monopoly
    on the Africa trade at the end of the seventeenth
    century, but it continued to oversee the mainte-
    nance and construction of castles along the West
    African coast, including the one at Cape Coast,
    until the middle of the eighteenth century (see
    Figure 3).60

    From Cape Coast the company established
    along the coast a number of factories—small,
    intentionally experimental, and often imperma-
    nent settlements where traders could engage in
    business. These were unfortified outposts of a
    few men intended to establish a successful trade
    treaty with a local chief.61 If they succeeded, the
    location might become a castle; if they failed, the
    company had lost little capital investment. The
    letterbooks of the Royal African Company offer
    brief glimpses into the material realities of these
    factories. In 1681 James Nightingale wrote from
    a remote location to the castle at Cape Coast. He
    notified the castle authorities that he had made
    arrangements with the local chief to build the
    factory. “They demand ten Anchors of brandy for
    ye whole charge of building ½ in hand ye other
    halfe when it is built,” a small charge for the con-
    struction of a building, he thought. He wanted
    immediate approval to move forward “to have it
    finished before Ye Raines.”62 The factory was to
    be built out of posts, mud, and thatch, the stan-
    dard West African building materials, excepting
    “doors, doorcases and windows,” which were to
    be imported to the site.63

    Letters from other factories make it clear that
    the most important building was the warehouse.
    Ralph Hassell requested “a new good large lock
    for the warehouse door.” But he also requested
    “some irons for slaves for we have none here: I
    bought three men and three women yesterday:
    I am afraid of their running away for want of
    irons to put them in.” Those enslaved Africans,
    it seems, were stored in the warehouse, together

    with other trade goods.64 These impermanent
    factories were a reflection of the reality that trade
    in any one location fluctuated enormously and
    that the management of some established forti-
    fied sites and some portable sites simply made
    more economic sense than the construction of
    many immovable, capital-intensive castles in
    locations that might prove unprofitable.65 Espe-
    cially in the seventeenth century, the supply of
    enslaved Africans to the trade was closely linked
    to African wartime activity, and if a region was
    relatively peaceful, the supply of prisoners of war
    to an established castle could dwindle quickly. As
    a result, smaller factories could be moved up and
    down the coast as the market required, channel-
    ing victims to Cape Coast by canoe or sloop.

    Even so, castles were essential. Physically dom-
    inating the landscape, castles created the sense
    of a secure site for the high-stakes buying and
    trading in slaves and other goods. A substantial
    percentage of indoor space in most remote castles
    was given over to warehouses for storage of the
    various European and East Indian goods used in
    the African trade.66 One account by Dane Hans
    Christian Monrad, penned between 1805 and
    1809, reported that the castle warehouses stored
    those things considered most valuable by African
    traders, especially “guns  .  .  . gunpowder, shot,
    flint stones, iron, lead, swords, knives of various
    kinds, all manner of cotton, calico, salem puris [a
    cotton cloth from India], silk cloth, wollen caps,
    quantities of beads, mirrors, and  .  .  . tobacco,
    rum, brandy and cowries.”67 While the particu-
    lars vary from account to account, it is quite clear
    that the most valuable trade item across Africa
    was guns.68 It was critical that castle warehouses
    remain filled with ready trade items to quickly
    satisfy the demands of African traders.69 But
    some early factories and castles also offered a
    dedicated containment space for small lots of
    captives during the negotiations between castle
    governors and African traders. Through the sev-
    enteenth and into the early eighteenth century,
    this was most commonly accomplished through
    the construction of a purpose-built “slave house,”
    sometimes called a “slave booth,” often erected
    outside the walls of the castle or factory.70

    Because the grim setting offered safety and

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 99

    easy access to provisions, purchasing slaves from
    the castle meant prices higher than those when
    purchasing slaves from coastal impermanent
    factories.71 If they were up to the challenge, sla-
    ver ship captains could negotiate and purchase
    Africans directly from independent African or
    European traders along the coast, who often sig-
    naled passing ships that they had Africans for
    sale.72 But such purchases from the coast were
    more dangerous in wartime; mooring offshore
    and out of site of a friendly castle for long periods
    of time left a slaver ship much more vulnerable
    to attack.73

    Some of those factories at geographically or
    politically advantageous positions eventually
    became fortified outposts; the castles at Kom-
    menda, Anomabo, Secondi, and Dixcove were all
    built later in the seventeenth century to replace
    earlier factories. Early plans from Dixcove, begun
    in the 1690s, offer an example of the castles
    built by the Royal African Company. The shel-
    tered cove at a place called “Dick’s” had been a
    favored landing place for canoes and small boats
    for centuries.74 The English had established a fac-
    tory there by 1684, but in 1692 they began the
    construction of a castle, which took four years
    to complete. In 1711 it was described as a large
    square castle of stone and lime with two round
    flankers and two square bastions.75 A 1727 sur-
    vey of Dixcove completed by William Smith for
    the Royal African Company documents the early
    rectilinear core of the castle, with three diamond-
    shaped bastions and one round tower, suggest-
    ing that one of the round towers had by that point
    been replaced (Figure 8). The open courtyard in
    the interior was ringed by buildings providing
    some warehouse storage, apartments for officers,
    and barracks for soldiers.

    Careful examination of early plans and the
    surviving fabric of Dixcove and many other
    castles makes it clear that the builders of Dix-
    cove never dedicated a large space for the hous-
    ing of enslaved Africans, a view contrary to the
    standard interpretation of these coastal forts. In
    fact, Dixcove’s placement insured its importance
    not so much as a slave castle—although it was
    a slave castle—but as a guard over a supply of
    essential natural resources. A heavily forested

    site provided lumber; a natural bed of lime-
    stone sourced masonry building materials; and
    a natural spring made it an excellent location
    for ship refreshment and repair.76 As a result,
    its role in the slave trade was largely as a point
    of temporary holding and transfer.77 Of course,
    captives passed through this and other fortifica-
    tions and factories along the coast, but they only
    passed through. Records of the Royal African
    Company from 1678 suggest that between April
    and December of that year, Cape Coast housed
    1,854 Africans for sale, quite obviously not all at
    the same time. Three hundred sixty-six arrived
    from Anamabu; 330, from Egya; 166, from the
    castle at Accra; and the same number, from Win-
    nebah. The rest are unaccounted for but presum-
    ably came from small factories along the coast or
    from traders delivering directly to Cape Coast.78

    Unlike the smaller fortifications, Cape Coast
    had underground containment chambers with
    substantial capacity.79 These chambers were cre-
    ated by the English expansion of the castle in the
    1680s; they utilized the remains of the quarry
    from which the stone for the massive exterior
    walls and new bastions had been extracted. The
    massive hole, it seems, was vaulted and paved
    above to create a central parade ground.80 One ac-
    count from 1682 describes the vast chamber as a
    “mansion . . . cut out of the rocky ground, arched
    and divided into several rooms; so that it will con-
    veniently contain a thousand Blacks, let down at
    an opening for the purpose.” The advantage of
    keeping the enslaved underground was “good
    security to the garrison against any insurrec-
    tion.”81 Inspection of the surviving fabric of the
    castle suggests that some portion of the series
    of chambers under the courtyard (spaces now
    used as cisterns) were first used for containment.
    These chambers had no natural light except that
    leaking in through the single openings near the
    roof vaults, through which slaves were raised and
    lowered (see Figure 9). A later 1756 plan of the
    castle shows a number of ventilators in the floor
    of the courtyard, extending all the way across the
    parade grounds, presumably inserted to deliver
    more light and fresh air into the spaces below.
    The ventilators suggest that these spaces were
    vast indeed, spanning across the width of the

    100 |   BUILDINGS & LANDSCAPES  21,  no.  1 ,  SPRING 2014

    parade ground. While period descriptions report
    that these cells were intended to hold up to one
    thousand captives, records reveal that they actu-
    ally held far fewer. One account from the turn
    of the eighteenth century records four hundred
    Africans being held in the containment cham-
    bers of Cape Coast.82 With or without the venti-
    lators, the conditions must have been unthink-
    able. Even above, in the best apartments for the
    captain and his guard, one factor wrote in 1708,
    “there is never a dry room to lye in.”83

    The Company of Merchants
    Founded in 1750, the Company of Merchants
    Trading to Africa took over management of the
    forts and instituted a major restructuring of the
    West African slave trade. This change was driven
    largely by the press to undermine the monopoly

    on the slave trade held by the Royal African
    Company at its founding.84 As early as the late
    seventeenth century, merchants—many from
    Bristol—began to launch voyages independent of
    the Royal African Company, a process that slowly
    weakened the company’s monopoly and caused
    its slow demise.85 The newly founded Company
    of Merchants was open to anyone who wanted to
    enter the slave trade. Parliament agreed to pay a
    yearly grant to the company for the maintenance
    of the British castles along the coast of West
    Africa. The London-based African Committee,
    consisting of three men, one each from London,
    Liverpool, and Bristol, received the monies, gath-
    ered the necessary materials, men, and other
    resources, and sent them to Cape Coast to then
    be distributed to the various castles as necessary.

    Through the 1750s and 1760s, the company

    Figure 8. Plan of Dixcove
    Fort as it appeared in
    1727. Drawing by Jason
    Truesdale based on
    William Smith, “Survey
    of Dixcove Fort, 1727,”
    appearing in Arnold
    Walker Lawrence,
    Fortif ied Trade-Posts: The
    English in West Africa,
    1645–1822 (London: Cape
    Publishers, 1969), 188.

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 101

    spent a great deal of time and resources assess-
    ing and improving the physical condition of the
    existing fortifications and building new forts.
    In 1756 the company informed the governor of
    Cape Coast Castle that “the ruinous condition of
    the Forts in general, is a matter of great concern
    to us.”86 That same year, the company sent John
    Appleby, an “engineer,” to Africa to oversee the
    reconstruction of the castles, with the instruc-
    tion that he was to be in charge of all designs, “ex-
    cept you shall find it necessary from the opinion
    of the governor and council at Cape Coast Castle
    to make any Alterations in the Lodgements for
    Slaves or any of the inner Apartment.”87 The com-
    pany wished the fortifications to be made sub-
    stantial, “making good use of lime, and not clay
    as formerly,” objecting to the mud-walled con-
    struction of so much of the castle construction
    under the Royal African Company.88 A few years
    later, in 1758, the company required reports from
    the chiefs of each castle assessing the material
    conditions of the outposts along the coast. Let-
    ters sent in the 1760s suggest that those chiefs
    had not repaired or upgraded the conditions of
    the castles to the expectations of the company.89

    Under the Royal African Company the forti-
    fications had been understood as trading posts
    where Europeans could engage in business trans-
    actions with African traders. One of the increas-
    ingly lucrative markets was the trade in slaves.
    In the seventeenth and early eighteenth centu-
    ries, many castles housed slaves not in dedicated
    rooms in the castle but in stockades called “slave
    yards” outside the castle walls.90 Under the Com-
    pany of Merchants, the fortifications became
    installations dedicated almost exclusively to the
    trade in slaves. For the first time castle plans care-
    fully illustrated slave containment chambers,
    called “slave holes” on most mid-eighteenth-
    century plans. Most commonly, these slave
    holes were built within the thick walls of a newly
    erected bastion, as in the case of Dixcove’s slave
    hole. The use of the term hole might draw from
    the square ventilators that often opened through
    the pavement of the bastion down into the cham-
    ber (Figure 9). It might also draw from the an-
    cient use of the term hole as a verb meaning “to
    oppress.”91 The appearance on the 1750s plan of

    Cape Coast Castle of a “Black Hole,” a deep, nar-
    row chamber clearly used for punishment, sug-
    gests that hole certainly retained its association
    with explicit oppression in the middle decades of
    the century. Plans also demarcate slave yards—
    transformed into a place for daily exercise—and
    identify ventilators for the holes within bastion
    walls. Records from the second half of the cen-
    tury demonstrate that the sick from among the
    enslaved were sent out of the castle into town to
    recover, so as not to contaminate the rest of the
    African captives. One 1753 letter from the cas-
    tle governor to a ship’s captain reports that the
    eighteen Africans being held in the castle were
    all in good health but that three had been sent
    to town. A 1770s listing of castle rules reports
    that no sick slave was to remain in the castle.92
    Such attention to conditions was quite obviously
    driven not by general concerns for welfare but
    the economic incentive to preserve the value of
    an investment in human capital. Remote castles
    were refitted with secure slave holes for more ef-
    fective temporary containment; new castles were
    built at points central to the slave trade; and a
    new set of holding chambers was added at Cape
    Coast, which remained the flagship fort. Under
    the Company of Merchants, the castles became
    slaving machines.

    Changes to the existing fortifications are well
    represented by the new work at Dixcove Fort. The
    expansion of the new spur had, in fact, begun
    prior to the economic restructuring and so cannot
    be claimed as improvements by the Company of
    Merchants. A plan of the castle produced in 1750
    represents the new-built spur and barracks—
    constructed of locally fired bricks—but notes
    three old bastions out of repair.93 Significantly,
    a 1750 plan drawn under the directorship of the
    Royal African Society does not differentiate any
    one of the three ruined bastions as any differ-
    ent from the others. This is significant because
    a 1756 plan of the same fort—now produced
    under the aegis of the Company of Merchants—
    reveals that the small slave hole, the same space
    that survives to the present, had been installed
    in the northeast bastion—and was called the
    “slave room” on the plan (Figure 10). Bastions, of
    course, lent themselves well to such a function.

    102 |   BUILDINGS & LANDSCAPES  21,  no.  1 ,  SPRING 2014

    They were segregated from the rest of the spaces
    of the castle interior. They were usually very sol-
    idly built. And they usually had only a single en-
    trance that was easily surveilled from many loca-
    tions within the fort. H. C. Monrad, writing from
    personal experience, reported that in such spaces
    slaves “spend the night on wooden planks, one
    over the other, [suggesting wall-mounted shelves
    for sleeping] in dark vaults where only a little air
    can seep in through a square hole that has been
    made in the door.” He continued by remarking
    his surprise that the enslaved didn’t suffocate,
    “since the heat, augmented by the evaporation
    from many people, caused by that of which one
    must at times, rid one’s self, and which are col-
    lected in large tubs, produce an extremely abhor-
    rent, mephitic stench.” The odor, he continued,
    was at times so strong that “in the morning when
    the rattling doors are opened, (especially if there
    are many slaves), [it] spreads over the entire fort
    and corrupts the air.”94 By the second half of the
    eighteenth century, all English castles were out-
    fitted with similar slave holes.

    Soon after taking control in 1750, the Com-
    pany of Merchants began a campaign to construct
    a new castle at Anomabo, a lucrative factory since
    the sixteenth century.95 Surviving records sug-
    gest that Anomabo had become a favored slaving
    locale for many English slave captains.96 The pri-
    mary motivation was to secure the site for Eng-
    lish trade and to provide defense against a feared
    French invasion.97 The agreement with the local
    chief allowed the English to build “a fort or ware-
    house of whatever kind they choose,” as well as
    to cultivate ten acres for a garden.98 By 1753, Par-
    liament, which was charged with paying for the
    castle at Anomabo, finally consented, and the
    foundations of the castle were laid in August of
    that year. Built right on the edge of a beachside
    shelf of rock, the building is a large square hulk
    with massive diamond-shaped bastions at all
    four corners (Figure 11). Intent on building a cas-
    tle that did not require constant repair, all of the
    building materials were shipped from England.
    More than two million English bricks traveled to
    Africa as ballast, approximately twenty thousand

    Figure 9. Courtyard
    at Cape Coast Castle,
    Cape Coast, Ghana. The
    square opening to the
    left of the stairs is an
    entrance into the early
    containment chambers.
    The ventilators—two
    small openings, framed
    in stone and cut into the
    pavement—can be seen
    to the far right on the
    edge of the courtyard.
    This castle is a World
    Heritage Site and as such
    has been restored, unlike
    most others along the
    coast. Photograph by
    Louis P. Nelson, August
    2012.

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 103

    sent in each of some one hundred ships. Since
    the ships were unable to dock, all of these materi-
    als had to be brought ashore by canoe. As in the
    retrofitted forts, the company built a dedicated
    slave hole into one of the bastions, although here
    the chamber was much larger than allowed by
    smaller preexisting bastions (Figure 12). The cas-
    tle was operational but still not complete by 1760.
    The efficiency of castles like Anomabo is made
    evident by the fact that while Cape Coast contin-
    ued to be populated by an ex-patriot community
    of up to one hundred, these smaller castles were
    often manned by as few as six.99

    A final act of reconstruction undertaken by
    the Company of Merchants was the extensive
    expansion of the castle at Cape Coast, especially
    the construction of a new set of slave prisons; no

    longer warehouses, these spaces were purpose-
    built, more closely aligned with the prisons of
    England and Europe than with the warehouses
    and quarry spaces of the earlier castles. Designs
    for the new set of prisons in a defensive spur were
    prepared in 1768, and construction was com-
    pleted soon thereafter. Five vaulted chambers
    were built into the large new double bastion that
    overlooked the sea (Figure 13).100 As evident in the
    section through the bastion, the five chambers
    were stepped to accommodate a central brick
    gutter that encouraged human waste to flow
    down and out through the exterior wall of the
    lowest chambers. Presumably, the gutter would
    also drain washing water, although there is no
    evidence that the spaces were regularly cleaned.
    A parade ground door opened into a tunnel that

    Figure 10. Plan of Dixcove
    Fort as it appeared in
    1756. Notice the “slave
    room,” labeled 1, in the
    upper bastion. Drawing
    by Jason Truesdale
    based on original plan
    published in Arnold
    Walker Lawrence,
    Fortif ied Trade-Posts: The
    English in West Africa,
    1645–1822 (London: Cape
    Publishers, 1969), 198.

    104 |   BUILDINGS & LANDSCAPES  21,  no.  1 ,  SPRING 2014

    led down into the chambers, connecting with
    the second chamber in the sequence of five (Fig-
    ure 14). A 1972 archaeological excavation of the
    prison chambers unearthed food debris, body or-
    naments, and other evidence that demonstrated
    that all five chambers were used for human con-
    tainment.101 The first chamber was structurally
    isolated from the rest by a small opening that
    originally had a lockable door. Unlike all the
    others, that chamber had a brick-laid floor and
    a much more sophisticated drainage system
    for more effective cleaning out of waste (Figure
    15).102 The last of the chambers has evidence of a
    lockable iron gate and evidence for shelving; the
    three middle chambers were all open, one to the
    next. Through the sequence of the final four, the
    packed earthen floor sloped from either side to-
    ward a single gutter that ran down the spine of
    the rooms.

    These five chambers were designed to intro-
    duce more daylight and air to the Africans con-
    tained therein than were the earlier quarry cells.
    The last three chambers had large openings near
    the crest of the roof vault—presumably with iron
    bars limiting human passage—that would have
    once allowed for ventilation and light from above.
    These openings are now blocked up, creating an
    even darker experience of the interior. The first

    chamber has a curious shaft leading from the
    entrance passage into the chamber, presumably
    intended to filter some natural light from the en-
    trance tunnel into this space. In all five, small
    ventilators on the walls opposite the windows
    were intended to allow some airflow through the
    chambers. Much larger than the previous cham-
    bers, far better lighted and with far greater ca-
    pacity for airflow, more easily accessed and more
    easily cleaned than the former site, the new pris-
    ons were—according to contemporary descrip-
    tions—capable of holding upwards of two thou-
    sand people, doubling the capacity of the earlier
    chambers.103

    Yet the claimed capacity of the prison was far
    higher than the reality of persons held in these
    spaces at any moment in time. The launch of the
    massive NEH-funded Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic
    Slave Trade Database by David Eltis and Martin
    Halbert has made available an extraordinary
    body of numeric information about the slave
    trade. A recent query of the database uncovered
    data about every slaver voyage that departed from
    Cape Coast Castle from 1685 to 1807.104 Data
    from the Voyages records make clear that the re-
    construction of the prisons by the Company of
    Merchants was in clear response to the increased
    demand on the castle. Under the Royal African

    Figure 11. The Castle
    at Anomabo, Ghana.
    Photograph by Louis P.
    Nelson, July 2012.

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 105

    Company, from 1685 to 1749, Cape Coast Castle
    provided an average of 517 enslaved Africans per
    year. Those shipments increased rapidly under
    the Company of Merchants, who supplied from
    Cape Coast an average of 842 slaves per year
    in the 1750s and then a sharp increase to 1,514
    slaves per year in the 1760s, an almost threefold
    increase over the average annual rate under the
    Royal African Company. Clearly in the face of
    that sharp increase in the 1760s, the Company
    of Merchants felt the need to outfit the castle by
    building enlarged prisons in the late 1760s in
    response to the heavier demand and to better in-
    sure the health (i.e., value) of their investments.
    And they were right. The average number of en-
    slaved Africans departing from Cape Coast each
    year jumped to 1,847 in the 1780s and peaked in
    the 1790s at 1,998 per year, a fourfold increase
    over the rates of exportation under the Royal Af-
    rican Company. It is important to note, however,
    that these rates are averages over the decade, and

    as such they mask the remarkable variation by
    year; trade in one individual year could be as
    much as double the average rate.

    Even so, thousands of people were never held
    in these prisons at any one point in time. The
    castle’s busiest year for export was 1785, in which
    Cape Coast provided an astonishing 4,118 Afri-
    cans to twelve slaver ships—nine of which were
    scheduled for Jamaica. But these 4,118 individu-
    als were loaded onto ships that left in seasonal
    clusters, with 790, 580, and 1,095 in March,
    April, and May, respectively, and 650, 400, and
    470 in August, September, and October, respec-
    tively. May 1785 was the heaviest month of supply,
    possibly the heaviest month in the fort’s entire
    250 years of slave trading, and only in that month
    did the total number of enslaved crest 1,000. But
    that does not mean that on any given day there
    were actually 1,000 Africans in captivity in the
    prison. These 1,095 departed in two waves over
    the course of the month: 320 departed on a ship

    Figure 12. Interior
    of the slave hole,
    Anomabo Castle, Ghana.
    Photograph by Louis P.
    Nelson, July 2012.

    106 |   BUILDINGS & LANDSCAPES  21,  no.  1 ,  SPRING 2014

    on May 2, and the other 775 were on two ships
    that both departed on May 9. And enslaved Af-
    ricans arrived in the castle in small lots of ten
    and twenty. Ship captains were usually eager to
    purchase slaves as quickly as possible, especially
    if there were competitors. Ship logs make clear
    that captains moved recently purchased slaves
    onto their ships soon after purchase to avoid hav-
    ing to pay the castle to house and feed slaves now
    owned by the captain. As a result, in the heavi-
    est month of supply, the prison of Cape Coast
    Castle contained a few hundred individuals at
    any one point in time—more than could fit in
    a single chamber, but far fewer than would fill
    all five—never coming close to the proclaimed
    2,000-person capacity.

    Even so, these roomier chambers, with better

    light and air, were still miserable. Accounts sug-
    gest that upon arrival at the fort Africans were
    “struck into chains,” meaning bound by chains
    into gangs of ten to twenty. Individuals so struck
    remained in their gang until sold to a ship.105
    Cugoano’s account of his own capture in 1770 is
    the sole known account of the experience of con-
    tainment in Cape Coast’s prison. He was kept in
    the hole “for three days, where I heard the groans
    and cries of many, and saw some of my fellow
    captives.” The separation from and then reunion
    with his friends betrays the reality of multiple
    African traders and multiple routes to this single
    prison space. Describing a still, dark, and likely
    very damp cavernous space, his account reports
    more on what he heard than what he saw: “When
    a vessel arrived to conduct us away to the ship,
    it was a most horrible scene; there was nothing
    to be heard but the rattling of chains, smacking
    of whips, and the groans and cries of our fel-
    low men. Some would not stir from the ground,
    when they were lashed and beat in the most hor-
    rible manner.”106 The sharp sounds of whips and
    the low groans or loud cries certainly echoed
    through the cavernous chambers of Cape Coast’s
    slave prison.

    Contrary to Cugoano’s account, which reports
    that his coterie of slaves remained in the prisons
    for the three days of his containment, other re-
    cords suggest that by the second half of the eigh-
    teenth century enslaved Africans were spending
    the majority of their days not in the chambers
    but in the courtyard or parade ground of Cape
    Coast and other castles.107 Like the drive to build

    Figure 13. Still image
    from a three-dimensional
    model of the 1768
    dungeons at Cape Coast
    Castle, Cape Coast,
    Ghana. See the online
    version of this article at
    JSTOR (www.jstor.org)
    for the three-dimensional
    model from which this
    is taken. Model by Jason
    Truesdale, 2013.

    Figure 14. Entrance
    tunnel leading down
    into the 1768 dungeons
    of Cape Coast Castle.
    Photograph by Louis P.
    Nelson, July 2012.

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 107

    healthier slave prisons, this decision was likely
    motivated by the drive to preserve the health of
    the enslaved as a means of sustaining their re-
    sale value. A 1756 plan of Cape Coast demarcates
    the newly established yard for enslaved women,
    just above the large bastion called Greenhill’s
    Point. Records show that the large parade ground
    dominating the rest of the castle’s open interior
    was used as a yard for male slaves, although they
    remained bound in lots of ten or twenty. These
    yards created an outdoor space for slaves to take
    in some fresh air and exercise. Accounts also
    suggest that the enslaved were driven down to
    the ocean once or twice daily for washing.108

    The sights and sounds of everyday life occa-
    sionally interrupted long days in the courtyard.
    The records of Cape Coast Castle report an as-
    sortment of tropical animals kept in the castle
    as pets, from chimpanzees to parrots and, once,
    even a leopard called Sai.109 This menagerie
    only added variety to the sounds of violence that

    marked the soundscape. Vultures, circling to col-
    lect scraps from butchering, frequented the cas-
    tle, as did voracious biting red ants.110 The regular
    ringing of the castle bell marked the hours.111 In
    the evenings, after the return of the enslaved to
    the subterranean chambers, the rattle of chains
    was a constant sound that echoed enough to be
    heard consistently throughout the apartments
    above.112 The hourly bells were occasionally bro-
    ken by the fife-and-drum corps, who played for
    newly arrived visitors, at special events in the
    governor’s hall, and at the many funerals for sail-
    ors and officers alike.113 Screams also punctuated
    the day—from newly arrived coffles, from castle
    slaves, regularly flogged, and from the slaves of
    merchants in town, frequently sent to the castle
    for whippings.114

    The announcement of the arrival of a ship’s
    captain by the fife-and-drum corps meant the
    likelihood of a sale. In preparation the castle
    slaves would wash and oil the bodies of Africans

    Figure 15. Interior of
    chamber 4, Cape Coast
    Castle. The end wall
    window to the courtyard
    has been closed in. The
    sewage gutter runs left
    to right from chamber
    to chamber down the
    spine of the prisons.
    Photograph by Louis P.
    Nelson, July 2012.

    108 |   BUILDINGS & LANDSCAPES  21,  no.  1 ,  SPRING 2014

    to be sold. This event took place in the courtyard,
    with slaves “either chained or loose, so that they
    form a circle.” The buyers then undertook a thor-
    ough examination of the bodies of those offered
    for sale: “The slave must open his mouth wide,
    show his teeth; they smell in his mouth, and look
    very carefully into his eyes; he must perform all
    manner of movements with his arms and legs;
    the secret parts are examined, during which
    I have seen many, especially young, Negresses
    crying.” Not all submitted to inspections. A 1767
    account from the Dutch castle of Elmina reports
    that when the slaves were ordered from the pris-
    ons into the yards, they “cut their own throats:
    one Negroe even cut the throat of his wife and
    then his own; the yard of the noble company’s
    chief castle was thus turned into a bloodbath.”115

    Barring such violent resistance, slaves se-
    lected for sale were physically marked as human
    property. After the inspection the buyer initially
    “marks those slaves he has chosen with a piece

    of white chalk right across the head.”116 After
    the sale victims were frequently branded “as the
    seller often sees a chance to exchange the sold
    slave for one of inferior quality.”117 Those so se-
    lected and then branded were then sent out of the
    castle to canoes waiting on the shores.

    The process of moving those recently sold to
    the canoes was entirely restructured by a second
    major construction in the later eighteenth cen-
    tury, a new set of warehouses completed in 1777
    (Figure 16).118 Letters from the governor to the
    Company of Merchants in London make it clear
    that the company prepared designs for the new
    construction but that the governor rejected them,
    preferring to build them to his own design. “I am
    now erecting a fortification in the form of a horn
    work,” he wrote to the company, describing a type
    of fortification with two adjacent bastions extend-
    ing from the body of a castle. He hoped that they
    would “not blame me for deviating from Mr. Hip-
    perley’s design, and be enabled at the same time

    Figure 16. Plan of Cape
    Coast Castle. The
    hatching indicates the
    extent of late eighteenth-
    century additions.
    1 indicates the air vents
    into the seventeenth-
    century dungeon;
    2 points to the 1768
    dungeons; 3 indicates
    the 1777 hornwork and
    warehouses. Drawn by
    Jason Truesdale based on
    1944 drawings produced
    by the University of
    Ghana and fieldwork
    undertaken by the author
    in July 2012.

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 109

    to see the impropriety of Mr. Oxbridge’s plan.”
    He was quite pleased with the new construction,
    given that the “old warehouses are likely to fall
    soon.” He continued that the new warehouses
    within the hornwork bastions could “contain all
    that used to be put in the old warehouse,” includ-
    ing “all the liquors, provisions, and store that will
    ever be in the castle at one time.”119 These new
    warehouses, in the form of a hornwork, were in
    fact also a new channel by which the recently
    sold could be safely marched out of  the castle
    and toward the canoes waiting outside the castle
    walls. The new construction included a taper-
    ing (and thereby increasingly constrained) pas-
    sage that gently sloped down from the height of
    the parade ground to an exterior platform only
    a few steps above the beach. In addition to its
    gradual constriction—limiting the damage pos-
    sible from the press of panicked Africans—there
    was a sentry box immediately above with a clear
    view over the passageway (Figure 17). From this
    position a guard had easy surveillance over the
    stream of enslaved and could shoot if necessary.
    The investment of so much attention to a pas-
    sage out to the sea clearly suggests that these few
    minutes were fraught with anxiety for both cap-
    tor and captive.

    The prisons added to Cape Coast Castle in the
    late eighteenth century were part of the broader
    discourse on contemporary European institu-
    tions of containment and reform so eloquently
    discussed by Michel Foucault. In Discipline and
    Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Foucault contrasts
    these institutions as distinct from sites of slav-
    ery.120 I disagree. The commodification process
    of slave making diminished acts of punishment
    in an attempt to preserve the value of the slave—
    flogging in the castle was usually reserved for
    laboring slaves not intended for resale—but
    many dimensions of the discipline that shaped
    prisons, military installations, and schools were
    readily apparent in these slave forts. Emergent
    mechanisms of time discipline and the mak-
    ing of docile bodies were central to the work-
    ings of both African prisons and European in-
    stitutions of reform. Surveillance and organized/
    specialized containment, if not simultaneously
    universal and individual as in the Panopticon,

    were both in evidence in the castle in nascent
    form. Furthermore, the processes of inspection
    by potential purchasers certainly engaged in the
    classification and objectification processes so
    clearly articulated by Foucault.121 Those spaces
    called “slave holes” in the middle decades of the
    eighteenth century were by the 1790s commonly
    called slave “prisons,” mapping directly onto the
    institutional use of this term in Britain in these
    same years.122

    As imagined by their builders, late eighteenth-
    century British slave castles in West Africa were

    Figure 17. View from
    the sentry box over the
    passage to the ocean
    gate, Cape Coast Castle.
    Photograph by Louis P.
    Nelson, July 2012.

    110 |   BUILDINGS & LANDSCAPES  21,  no.  1 ,  SPRING 2014

    prisons, commercial machines dedicated to the
    production of slaves, just as their counterparts in
    Britain were dedicated to the social (re)making of
    the inmate. One space within the late eighteenth-
    century castle, a single cell labeled the “Black
    Hole” on early plans, more than any other dem-
    onstrates the discipline uniting the two. Its stone
    floor is still today inscribed with deep circular
    scars cut by shackles, anger, and long days of iso-
    lation (Figure 18).123 Whether for soldiers or slaves,
    or both, this space manifests most acutely the
    emerging mechanism for correction: isolation.124
    Through time discipline, compartmentali zation,
    isolation, and the systematic production of doc-
    ile bodies, African castles were not distinct from
    prisons and schools in Europe. In fact, African
    prisons were loci of experimentation, at the very
    least contingent with the development of English
    and European institutions of reform and correc-
    tion. In this way, the castles of Africa’s coast stand
    at the front edge of modernity.

    Ship Trade
    The slave castles along the coast loom large in the
    historical imagination of the transatlantic slave
    trade. Yet the vast majority of Africans traded by
    English and American slavers never saw a fort.
    Modern histories of the transatlantic African
    slave trade break the west coast of Africa into six
    regions running from northwest to southeast:
    Senegambia; Sierra Leone, also called the Wind-
    ward Coast; the Gold Coast; the Bight of Benin;
    the Bight of Biafra; and West-Central Africa. In
    the broadest terms, the European trade slowly
    moved down the coast from Senegambia through
    the Gold Coast in the seventeenth century to
    West-Central Africa by the early nineteenth cen-
    tury. The English and American slave trade fol-
    lowed suit, strongly centered in the Windward
    and Gold Coasts in the seventeenth and early
    eighteenth centuries and in the Bight of Benin
    and West-Central Africa from the middle of the
    eighteenth century into the nineteenth century.
    Although the English built substantial slaving
    castles all along the Gold Coast, only one in five
    Africans sold into slavery—approximately 22
    percent—passed through the castles of the Gold
    Coast, most now in modern Ghana. The records

    of the Royal African Company make clear that
    even in the earliest decades a substantial percent-
    age of Africans taken into the slave trade were
    driven by African traders along the coast and
    sold to English slavers, bypassing the European
    castles altogether.125 The greatest concentration,
    approximately 860,000, or 29 percent, came
    from the Bight of Biafra, most of those during
    the second half of the eighteenth century. At the
    heart of the Bight of Biafra was Old Calabar, the
    greatest supplier of enslaved labor to the British
    Caribbean and the primary source of Africans
    for Jamaica in the 1790s, its decade of greatest
    consumption.126 The remaining came from the
    coastal factories of African and European trad-
    ers scattered all along the west coast. This dis-
    tribution meant that the majority of purchases
    by slaver captains were not from “fort-trade”—
    conducted in the massive slaving castles along
    the Gold Coast—but from “ship-trade.” This is
    where slaver captains negotiated with traders
    right from the decks of their own ships, leading
    one sailor to describe his ship as “a floating fac-
    tory.” Slaver ships were simply an extension of
    the coastal castles, spaces framed around con-
    tainment, correction, and discipline.127

    Nicholas Owen was an Irish sailor working in
    Sierra Leone in 1754 as a small-scale slave trader,
    first in the employ of an Englishman and even-
    tually on his own. His surviving journal cap-
    tures a wealth of information about his day-to-
    day life. Near the end of his record, he describes
    his house, similar to the houses of many other
    smaller European slave traders in the region: “As
    our houses are not built for durance or strength,
    we can soon erect one on long sticks muded over
    and whitewash’d, having the inside lined with
    mats and well thatched aloft.” He appended to
    this description his rough sketch of the house,
    which shows an oblong house with rounded ends
    supported by earthfast posts and sheltered by a
    thatch roof. Behind the building extends an en-
    closed pen, a space surely designed to keep ani-
    mals out but also able to keep people in (Figure
    19). Built almost entirely of found natural ma-
    terials, Owen’s house differed little from those
    of the Africans with whom he frequently social-
    ized and traded, which were “built of mud and

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 111

    Figure 18. Floor of the
    “Black Hole” isolation
    chamber, Cape Coast
    Castle. The curved
    gouges in the stone floor
    are the evidence of hours
    of isolation as captives
    scraped their shackles
    back and forth around a
    central fixed point. The
    bouquet is a tribute left
    behind by one of the
    thousands of visitors to
    these spaces every year.
    Photograph by Louis P.
    Nelson, March 2011.

    112 |   BUILDINGS & LANDSCAPES  21,  no.  1 ,  SPRING 2014

    stakes drove into the ground and covered with
    long grass.” Like most traders, his settlement
    comprised his own house and that of his African
    laborers, both free and enslaved: “About twenty
    yards from my house stands that of my people,
    likewise my cookroom.” Other entries also men-
    tion a storeroom, which was surely well secured,
    as it housed all the necessaries for his trade, the
    bulk of which was iron and lead bars.128

    Owen never mentioned a dedicated space for
    the containment of his slaves, but it is likely that
    one existed. Late in his journal, he described
    being both sickly and low staffed, and in these
    instances he mentioned three or four enslaved
    Africans “I have now by me in the house,” sug-
    gesting that as something worthy of note because
    it was not his usual practice.129 The presumption
    is that his purchased Africans—never more than
    about five in number—were usually housed in
    the rear building occupied by those Africans who
    worked for him or in a small-scaled barracoon, a
    temporary pen used to house captives while trad-
    ers waited to negotiate with passing ships.130

    Sometimes, African communities on the coast
    became slaving centers. Robin Law’s excellent
    study of slaving in Benin suggests that the coastal
    town of Ouidah boasted a number of secure com-

    munal buildings, called “trunks,” where Africans
    owned by many local merchants could be stored.131
    One Dutch trader reported in 1705 that all traders
    bringing slaves to the coastal market had to pay a
    local chief for the use of the trunk, or barracoon,
    “with which they guarantee that the slaves will
    not escape.”132 Whether individual or communal,
    these barracoons differed only in scale. A Brit-
    ish naval captain described them in the 1840s
    as “sheds made of heavy piles, driven deep into
    the earth, and lashed together with bamboos,
    thatched with palm leaves.” The walls usually rose
    four to six feet, with an open space of four feet be-
    tween the wall and the roof “for the circulation of
    air.” A central range of piles that carried the ridge
    of the thatched roof supported larger barracoons.
    Along each line of piles hung a chain with “neck
    links” for securing slaves at two-foot intervals,
    and the floor was often boarded to protect slaves
    from skin-boring insects.133 An image of one such
    barracoon was published in the Illustrated London
    News in the late 1840s (Figure 20). Constructed
    of vertical posts close enough to prevent human
    passage but wide enough to allow air circulation,
    this barracoon appears to hold between twenty
    and thirty people. Barracoons could be found all
    along the African coast but were most commonly
    concentrated in Senegambia and the Windward
    Coast.

    Unlike their counterparts elsewhere along the
    African coast, chiefs in the Bight of Biafra never
    granted Europeans the right to build trading
    castles or settlements on their soil. This policy
    resulted in the development of African-operated
    trading centers along various rivers, centers that
    were connected to vast trading networks into the
    African interior. These trading centers were the
    seats of African merchants who engaged in regu-
    lar correspondence with merchants in England,
    especially in London through the seventeenth
    century, Bristol in the early eighteenth century,
    and Liverpool at the height of the trade in the
    late eighteenth century.134 The lack of a castle
    and its infrastructure as a land-based interme-
    diary space meant that much more negotiation
    took place on board the deck of the ship. Even
    so, by the end of the eighteenth century this
    mode of purchase came to dominate the traffick-

    Figure 19. Drawing of
    Owen’s house. Reprinted
    from Nicholas Owen,
    Journal of a Slave-Dealer
    (1759; repr., London:
    Routledge and Sons,
    1930).

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 113

    ing in slaves. These ships, waiting sometimes
    for months in the safe haven of the Niger and
    Cross River Deltas, collected almost one-third of
    all those slaves taken from Africa in British and
    American slaver ships, a higher percentage than
    any other region.

    One of the most intensive slaving centers
    was Old Calabar, a series of Efik trading towns
    in the estuaries of the Cross River Delta, now
    in modern Nigeria.135 The Efik had been trad-
    ing with English slaver ships since the first sus-
    tained contact in Old Calabar in the 1660s, but
    this economy grew rapidly over the course of the
    eighteenth century.136 The leading town of Old
    Calabar was Duke Town, a community of about
    two thousand residents by the early nineteenth
    century.137 Over the course of the eighteenth cen-
    tury, this region was transformed by the transat-
    lantic slave trade. By the later eighteenth century,
    Efik traders were selling between three thousand
    and five thousand Africans annually, 85 percent
    to English and American slavers. The region had
    become the nexus of the British slave trade.138 A
    large trading network in this region was respon-
    sible for the capture of Olaudah Equiano and his
    sister in 1765 (see Figure 3).139

    The vast majority of slaves made the final leg
    of their journey to Duke Town in the bottom of

    one of Calabar’s famous war canoes. Probably the
    most remarkable description was of Efik chief
    Eyamba’s war canoe:

    His great canoe was gaily decked out with several
    ensigns streaming in the wind, British ensigns,
    with his name thereon in large letters. The little
    house amidships was brilliantly painted red and
    yellow. Astride the roof thereof sat two men beat-
    ing drums with might and main. Before it stood
    Eyamba, shaded by his grand umbrella, dressed
    as usual, except in having a gold laved cocked hat
    under his arm, and a splendid sword, a present
    from the Dutch Government, at his side. In the
    bows a large gun pointed forward, and before it
    stood a man with a bundle of reeds, which he kept
    shaking at arms length to warn every obstacle and
    danger out of the way. On each side sat fifteen men
    with paddles, and between them down the center
    stood a row of men armed with cutlasses and guns.
    The king’s body-guard were immediately around
    him. A train of inferior canoes, ornamented and
    arranged in the same style, belonging to the lesser
    gentry, were in his wake.140

    As this description suggests, these great canoes
    were usually among the best of a much larger
    collection that all belonged to a canoe house,

    Figure 20. “Slave
    Barracoon,” Illustrated
    London News 14 (April 14,
    1849): 237.

    114 |   BUILDINGS & LANDSCAPES  21,  no.  1 ,  SPRING 2014

    the major organizational framework for trading
    among the Efik. Usually headed by a man of great
    charisma and talent in trade, these canoe houses
    functioned like trading companies connecting
    numerous households, often related by kinship,
    in different locations along a river system.141

    After journeys that sometimes lasted weeks or
    even months, the Calabar war canoes returned to
    Duke Town, where their captives were then dis-
    tributed among the houses of a town.142 Most of
    the Efik and other Africans in this region lived in
    wattle-and-daub houses covered in thatch. These
    buildings were usually built in clusters around a
    yard; typically, an Efik man had his own house
    and separate houses for his wives, his freemen,
    and his slaves.143 Duke Town was described in
    1805 as “composed of a number of low houses,
    supported by mangrove sticks, and covered over
    with bamboo, laid across and afterwards thatched
    with bamboo leaves.”144 A few decades later, the
    town was similarly described as filled with
    houses, “low, mud-plastered, and palm-thatched,
    without windows, but each with a capacious door,
    leading into a small court-yard. There was hardly
    anything like a street, and the passages between
    the houses were narrow, crooked, rugged.”145
    An early twentieth-century photograph of Duke
    Town, surviving on a postcard, suggests that the
    townscape had changed little over the past cen-
    tury (Figure 21). Densely constructed of one-story
    mud-walled houses, Duke Town and other Old
    Calabar villages would have seemed generally fa-
    miliar to most captive Africans.

    Like all towns in Calabar, the center of Duke
    Town was dominated by the palaver house,
    which functioned simultaneously as a religious
    and a governmental center. The palaver house in
    nearby Creek Town was described in the 1840s as

    a large, low shed, with its end to the street, and
    quite open in front. Several immense posts of solid
    mangrove supported the ridge-pole. A broad seat
    of hard-beaten clay ran down the two sides; the
    further end was closed by a recess for Egbo mys-
    teries; in front was the great Egbo drum, fixed on
    a frame, to be beaten only on occasions of public
    importance; and before it were two upright pen-
    tagonal stones, “pillars of remembrance” of basal-

    tic appearance, which had been brought originally
    from the Camaroon country. On both these and
    the drum was the blood of sacrifices. In the center
    of the street, before the Palaver House, stood the
    figure of a man, rudely carved out of a great post,
    which also formed its pedestal. Up the front of the
    base a serpent seemed crawling, and up the back
    an alligator.

    Upon inquiry, the figure was identified as the
    devil.146 The palaver house in Duke Town, not
    visible in the postcard image, was fairly similar
    in form except that it stood on a rise in town, as-
    cended to from the road by a set of steps.147

    The palaver house functioned as the site for
    entertaining by the local chief, both on the oc-
    casion of visitors and for regular feasting and
    celebration.148 But as the site for all executions,
    the palaver house was for many a place of hor-
    ror. One early nineteenth-century visitor to the
    town noted that a man condemned to death was
    “chained to the palaver-house, with a large timber
    chain round his neck.”149 Efik practice insisted on
    executions by beheading as judgment for those
    found guilty of murder, but also as ritual: the
    decease of an important man occasioned the be-
    heading of many of his slaves so that they might
    accompany him in death.150 The diary of Antera
    Duke is replete with accounts of executions of
    enslaved Africans on such occasions. On the
    death of Duke, a local leader, in 1786, the family
    decapitated fifty enslaved Africans in one day in
    the palaver house.151 As a result, the interior of
    the palaver house was regularly stained with the
    blood of sacrifices.

    If the palaver house was a place of sociabil-
    ity but also judgment and fear, the houses of the
    major traders were surely objects of wonder. Be-
    ginning at least in the later decades of the eigh-
    teenth century, leading Efik traders began to
    import whole house frames from their English
    trading partners, most commonly those from
    Liverpool.152 A visitor to Old Calabar, one Mr.
    Nicholls, described a typical trader’s house dur-
    ing his visit in 1805:

    The principal traders’ houses are built of wood,
    brought out by the different captains from Liver-

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 115

    pool, oblong, and thatched with bamboo leaves,
    which last very well two years. The house I reside
    in was brought out by Mr. Patrick Fairweather; was
    built in the year 1785, and still remains very good.
    A description of mine will suffice for all the rest,
    as they are all built upon the same principle; the
    house is about twenty yards long and thirty feet
    high, with a ground floor, a first floor, and a kind
    of cock-loft: the first floor contains two rooms, one
    I occupy, and the other my attendants, and two
    small rooms in each wing for bedrooms. My room
    is about forty feet long, twenty-five feet wide, and
    fifteen feet high, and has been very handsomely
    finished. A covered gallery surrounds the house.

    As mentioned by Nicholls, these houses took the
    common form of a raised two-story house, with
    a gallery enclosing the whole on all sides. Below
    the main living floor were the ground-floor ser-
    vice spaces, sometimes walled, sometimes de-
    fined only by pillars carrying the upper floor.
    Such a building in Duke Town survived into
    the 1880s to be represented in a view from that
    decade (Figure 22). By the late eighteenth cen-
    tury, of course, the Efik had been trading with
    the English for generations and had managed
    to accumulate a stockpile of English material
    goods and social practices—so much so, in fact,
    that Nicholls noted that the interior of his guest-
    house put him “in mind of a drawing room in
    England.” He continued:

    I have two large pier-glasses, seven feet by four,
    elegantly gilt and ornamented; twenty five ditto,
    from two and a half to four feet; three large sophas,
    twelve chairs, two handsome escrutoire desks, six
    tables, two large garde vines, one handsome marble
    side-board, and an immense quantity of glasses,
    china, and earthen ware; six paintings, and twenty
    large engravings, five clocks, and two musical ditto;
    and a pretty jumble of furniture it is.153

    Duke and other Efik traders typically dressed in
    English clothing when entertained on a slaver
    ship by its captain.154

    Adopting select Anglo material practices was
    not unique to the Efik. As early as the 1750s, Nicho-
    las Owen reported a mulatto African trader on

    the Windward Coast who “lives after the manner
    of the English, having his house well furnish’d
    with English goods and his table tolerably well
    furnish’d with the country produce. He dresses
    gayley and commonly makes use of silver at his
    table, having a good side board of plate.”155 In
    1773 Robin John, African merchant in the Bight
    of Biafra, ordered from Ambrose Lace, merchant
    in Liverpool, a large mirror, one table, six chairs,
    two armchairs, two small writing desks, twelve
    pewter plates, four dishes, twelve knives, twelve
    forks, two large table spoons, one pair of balances,
    one case of razors for shaving, one hundred yards
    of chintz, and two coats with gold lace, one red
    and one blue all “for my Salf.”156 For newly ar-
    rived Africans, these traders’ houses, their fur-
    nishings, and certainly their dress would have
    seemed very far from familiar.

    The structure of the slave trade in Old Calabar
    eliminated the need for large barracoons. The
    greatest reason for this was the simple fact that
    slaving expeditions were usually launched once a
    ship had safely anchored in the river and an agree-
    ment had been reached between the ship’s cap-
    tain and the African merchant.157 As expeditions
    arrived, captives were stored in various houses
    in town for only a few days at most while they
    were washed and fed in preparation for sale to
    the captain. For these few days those captive Afri-
    cans were certainly in chains while they awaited
    purchase; English trading records provide ample
    evidence for the purchase by Efik traders of iron

    Figure 21. Postcard,
    “Government Hill from
    Duketown, Old Calabar,”
    Bob to J. B. Scott, Old
    Calabar, February 2,
    1903. Image courtesy
    Museum Victoria,
    Victoria, Australia.

    116 |   BUILDINGS & LANDSCAPES  21,  no.  1 ,  SPRING 2014

    manillas (shackles), often inscribed with the Af-
    rican merchant’s name.158 In 1773, for example,
    Efik trader Robin John ordered from Liverpool
    merchant Ambrose Lace “large leg manillas with
    locks, and large iron manillas” for his “Room of
    irons,” suggesting that John had a small prison
    in his courtyard house compound.159 Once sold,
    most Africans would be housed on board the
    ship—usually below deck—until the vessel was
    prepared to depart for the Caribbean.

    Shore to Ship
    The view of the ocean and the slave ship surely
    incited a range of emotions. Writing about his
    experience in the 1760s, Equiano reported: “The
    first object which saluted my eyes was the sea,
    and a slave ship, which was then riding at an-
    chor.  .  .  . These filled me with astonishment,

    which was soon converted to terror, when I was
    carried on board.”160 As the majority of people
    sold into slavery came from Africa’s interior, few
    had ever seen the ocean, a European, a sailing
    ship, or the ever-present sharks that favored fac-
    tory sites and followed slave ships.

    The first leg of the middle passage was the
    voyage from shore to ship.161 In many cases this
    passage was undertaken via canoe provided by
    African merchants and manned by free African
    “canoemen,” but sometimes slaves were trans-
    ported in the yawl or longboat carried on the
    ship.162 For the enslaved headed to those ships an-
    chored in the calmer waters of a river delta, this
    voyage was brief and generally uneventful. For
    the majority, however, the passage was harrow-
    ing and occasionally fatal. Without the protection
    of a harbor or river, ships along the Gold Coast

    Figure 22. “Old Calabar
    Factories, Near Duke
    Town.” The large
    galleried house is likely
    a manufactured house
    imported from Liverpool.
    From H. M. Stanley, The
    Congo and the Founding
    of Its Free State: A Story
    of Work and Exploration
    (New York: Harper and
    Brothers, 1885).

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 117

    and the Windward Coast typically anchored well
    past the surf in a band of the coastal waters com-
    monly called “the roads,” which at times could
    be as much as a mile off shore.163 Like the canoes
    used on Old Calabar, those used to pass through
    the surf were usually fashioned from a single
    large tree and could shuttle as many as twenty
    captives, who usually remained chained in pairs
    for the short voyage to the ship (Figure 23).164
    For the majority the ocean was both unfamiliar
    and terrifying, and reports of resistance, small-
    scale insurrection, and suicide of those boarded
    on canoes are numerous. For some their fear of
    the ocean’s mighty waves was justified, espe-
    cially in the rainy season from April to July.165

    The overloading of canoes or the violence of the
    surf sometimes resulted in an overturned canoe.
    Chained in pairs and often unable to swim, Af-
    ricans thrown from a canoe perished by drown-
    ing or were attacked by the sharks.166 Sometimes,
    they threw themselves overboard willingly. One
    English captain reported: “The Negroes are so
    willful and loth to leave their own country, that
    they have often leap’d out of canoes . . . into the
    sea, and kept underwater till they are drowned.”167

    Once on board the deck of the ship, the ar-
    riving Africans were stripped naked, if they had
    not been already, and then were inspected by
    the captain and the ship’s surgeon if the ship re-
    tained one.168 This inspection took place under a

    Figure 23. Image of canoe
    under construction,
    Elmina, Ghana. Ruins of
    a pier rise from the sand
    of the beach behind.
    Photograph by Louis P.
    Nelson, March 2011.

    118 |   BUILDINGS & LANDSCAPES  21,  no.  1 ,  SPRING 2014

    thatched roof that was built over a majority of the
    deck to provide shade during the stay along the
    African coast.169 The inspection was humiliating
    and terrifying. Equiano’s description of the expe-
    rience is a rare report:

    I was immediately handled and tossed up, to see
    if I were sound, by some of the crew, and I was
    not persuaded that I had got into a world of bad
    spirits and they were going to kill me. Their com-
    plexions, too, differing so much from ours, their
    long hair, and the language they spoke united to
    confirm in me this belief. Indeed, such were the
    horrors of views and fears at that moment that if
    ten thousand worlds had been my own, I would
    freely have parted with them all to have exchanged
    my condition with that of the meanest slave in my
    own country.170

    Those remaining on board were then usually
    shaved and sent into the secure chambers below
    deck; those rejected by the captain or the surgeon
    boarded the canoe once again for the return jour-
    ney to the shore.171

    Since Africans were usually loaded on ships
    soon after their purchase by the captain, those
    Africans purchased early in a ship’s season along
    the coast of Africa often had a long and miser-
    able waiting period before the ship departed.
    Surviving accounts suggest that ships often re-
    mained along the coast for at least three months,
    sometimes as long as a year, waiting to collect a
    full cargo of captives.172 Ship’s captains or Brit-
    ish merchants trading in Africans often wrote
    to the governor of Cape Coast Castle in advance
    of their departure for Africa requesting the gov-
    ernor begin collecting and reserving prime Af-
    ricans for their voyage in an attempt to reduce
    the wait along the coast.173 Because captains
    widely believed the newly enslaved more likely
    to engage in insurrection or suicide while the
    coastline was still in sight, captives were often
    kept below deck from the time of purchase to the
    time of departure from the coast. Most historians
    estimate that as a result of this long wait, often
    entirely below deck, just as many if not more
    Africans died while waiting to depart as dur-

    ing the middle passage itself.174 After months of
    harboring in river deltas or cruising “the roads,”
    the ship would eventually fill to capacity, and the
    captain would depart the coast. Under horrific
    conditions approximately three million enslaved
    Africans disembarked from the coast of Africa
    on English and American slavers and began the
    months-long voyage of the middle passage to the
    New World.175

    Real Spaces
    What can we learn from such a history of archi-
    tectural experiences? Understanding the archi-
    tecture of the slave trade helps to ground the
    horror and the tragedy of these events. We need
    reminders that this history did not happen in
    the abstract, that it took place in real spaces and
    times. We must also come to recognize that these
    spaces—monumental or missing—were compo-
    nents of a massive international trading scheme
    that generated enormous wealth for a few, mur-
    dered millions, and laid the foundations for early
    modern and modern international trade and
    capitalism. This is especially important because
    so many of the spaces associated with “the most
    magnificent drama in the last thousand years of
    human history,” to quote W. E. B. Du Bois, are
    now gone. The castles remain, but they are not
    the whole story.

    The transatlantic slave trade was an extra-
    ordinary machine that displaced approximately
    nine million people, incidentally killing an addi-
    tional five million. Approximately one in three of
    those enslaved in Africa perished in the process
    of capture, containment, and passage or in the
    first year of life in the Americas. Yet there are no
    marked battlefields and few sites of memory. The
    strategies of resistance survive most clearly in the
    songs and dances of village elders. Coffles con-
    structed temporary spaces—between the yoke
    and bodies that it conjoined by force. Thankfully,
    all of these spaces are now entirely gone, with the
    sole reminder being the one known surviving
    yoke in Liverpool, likely brought back as part of
    the abolitionist cause. The castles along the coast
    of Ghana have become increasingly important
    sites of heritage tourism, and that is to be cele-

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 119

    brated. But their actual functions and interrela-
    tionships remain poorly understood. Most castles
    were not major holding stations for thousands or
    even hundreds of enslaved Africans at a time but
    subsidiary providers sending small lots of five or
    eight, often by canoe, to the headquarters at Cape
    Coast. The majority of enslaved Africans never
    even saw a castle; they were held in the small
    African-built mud-walled cells of a factory or in
    open-air barracoons near the coast, waiting for
    the arrival of the next slaver ship. If some came
    from castles and others from factories, the one
    experience shared by all was the middle passage.
    Marcus Rediker’s extraordinary book on the sub-
    ject, The Slave Ship, is an excellent corrective to
    the unfeeling distance offered by too many histo-
    rians of the subject.176 In his history people have
    names, feelings. In many ways, his wonderful
    and horrible book inspired this article. Lastly, for
    architectural historians this essay reminds us of
    the importance of understanding spaces through
    the processes that generated them. Historians of
    architecture can no longer be contented solely
    with histories of making: the grand drama of real
    life, of everyday life, is just too important.

    au thor biogr aphy
    Louis P. Nelson is associate professor of archi-
    tectural history and associate dean of Research
    and International Programs in the School of Ar-
    chitecture at the University of Virginia. He is a
    former editor of Buildings & Landscapes.

    notes
    The research and writing of this article has depended
    on the support of many people. The Dean’s Office of
    the School of Architecture provided a travel grant to
    support one of the two field research trips that under-
    gird this article. Nicholas Ivor, director of the Cape
    Coast Castle, gave me permission to spend days at a
    time studying the fabric of the article’s central build-
    ing. He was also enormously helpful in providing sug-
    gestions for further research. An early version of this
    article was presented at the Shadows of Empire confer-
    ence hosted at the University of Ghana, Legon, by Kofi
    Baku and John Kwadwo Osei-Tutu. I am immensely

    grateful to them and the many other participants at
    the conference; this article incorporates many of their
    comments and suggestions. Max Edelson and Maurie
    McInnis both read early drafts of this article and pro-
    vided essential critique. I received very helpful com-
    mentary from the two blind reviewers; whoever you
    are, thank you. I am indebted to Jason Truesdale, who
    produced the plans that illustrate this printed version
    of the article and the three-dimensional model avail-
    able in the digital supplement. And last, I owe a debt
    of gratitude to Marta Gutman and Cindy Falk, B&L’s
    spectacular editors, who pushed me toward a far bet-
    ter product through two rounds of revisions.

    1. Scholarship on the internal African slave trade
    includes David Northrup, Trade without Rulers: Pre-
    colonial Economic Development in South Eastern Nige-

    ria (Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1978); B. G. Der,
    The Slave Trade in Northern Ghana (Accra, Ghana:
    Woeli Publishing, 1998); A. M. Howell, The Slave
    Trade and Reconciliation: A Northern Ghanaian Per-

    spective (Accra, Ghana: Bible Church of Africa, 1998);
    Ann Bailey, African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade:
    Beyond the Silence and the Shame (Boston: Beacon
    Press, 2006); A. B. Stahl, “Historical Process and the
    Impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade in Banda, Ghana
    c.  1800–1920,” in West Africa during the Atlantic
    Slave Trade: Archaeological Perspectives, ed. C. R. De
    Corse, 38–58 (London: Leicester University Press,
    2001); J. Boachie-Ansah, “Archaeological Research at
    Kasana: A Search for Evidence on the Historic Slave
    Trade in the Upper West Region of Ghana,” Journal
    of Environment and Culture 2, no. 1 (2005): 35–57; Joe
    Miller, “The Slave Trade in Congo and Angola,” in The
    African Diaspora: Interpretive Essays, ed. Martin Kilson
    and Robert Rotberg, 75–113 (Cambridge, Mass.: Har-
    vard University Press, 1976). The best sources on the
    slave castles of West Africa include William St. Clair,
    The Door of No Return: The History of the Cape Coast

    Castle and the Atlantic Slave Trade (New York: Blue-
    bridge, 2006); Arnold Walker Lawrence, Trade Castles
    and Forts of West Africa (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford Uni-
    versity Press, 1964); Arnold Walker Lawrence, Forti-
    fied Trade-Posts: The English in West Africa, 1645–1822
    (London: Cape, 1969); Albert Van Danzig, Forts and
    Castles of Ghana (Accra, Ghana: Sedco Publishing,
    1980). See also Ray Kea, Settlements, Trade, and Poli-
    ties in the Seventeenth-Century Gold Coast (Baltimore,

    120 |   BUILDINGS & LANDSCAPES  21,  no.  1 ,  SPRING 2014

    Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982). The con-
    nections between slaving in Africa and plantations in
    the Caribbean are hard to ignore. The English settled
    St. Kitts in 1623 and Barbados two years later. In 1630
    the English acquired their first permanent castle site
    in Africa at Cormantin. Similarly, the Danes built Fort
    Fredensborg only three years after their purchase of
    the island of St. Croix.

    2. The term slave hole was used in the middle of
    the eighteenth century to refer specifically to a cham-
    ber within the strong walls of a bastion used to con-
    tain slaves. These were often ventilated by holes in
    the paved surface of the bastion. By the 1790s these
    spaces were commonly referred to as prisons. See Law-
    rence, Fortified Trade-Posts, 181, 223 (for slave hole);
    69, 70, 148, 168 (for slave prison).

    3. Cugoano tells his story in Thoughts and Senti-
    ments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and

    Commerce of the Human Species (London, 1791), 7–9.
    4. Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans.

    Donald Nicholson-Smith (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell,
    1991).

    5. I undertook fieldwork in Ghana in the spring
    of 2011 and again in the summer of 2012. Over the
    course of those trips, I examined eight different cas-
    tles and completed measured drawings of one, Cape
    Coast Castle.

    6. Many historical issues do not concern me here.
    The economic implications of changes in markets or
    the preferences of planters for Africans from different
    regions, for example, are both important components
    of the historiography, but as they do not directly im-
    plicate the experience of the enslaved in space, they
    play no role in this telling. For discussion, see David
    Galenson, Traders, Planters, and Slaves: Market Behav-
    ior in Early English America (New York: Cambridge
    University Press, 1986); and Daniel Littlefield, Rice
    and Slaves: Ethnicity and Slave Trade in Colonial South

    Carolina (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University
    Press, 1981), chap. 2.

    7. K. G. Davies, The Emergence of International
    Business, 1200–1800: The Royal African Company, vol.
    5 (London: Taylor and Francis, 1957).

    8. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The
    Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York:
    Pantheon Books/Random House, 1977).

    9. On the recognition of humanity in criminals,
    see Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 74, 125.

    10. Barbot quoted in Akosua Perbi, A History of In-
    digenous Slavery in Ghana (Accra, Ghana: Sub-Saharan
    Publishers, 2004), 29. See J. Barbot, Description of the
    Coasts of North and South Guinea, 5 vols. (London, 1732).

    11. Northrup, Trade without Rulers, 68–80.
    12. Both Bowman and Owen quotes cited in

    Thorkild Hansen, Coast of Slaves, trans. Kari Dako
    (Accra, Ghana: Sub-Saharan Publishers, 2002), 48.

    13. Another account was written by Louis Asa-Asa,
    quoted in Mark Rediker, The Slave Ship (London: John
    Murray, 2007), 102.

    14. Cugoano, Thoughts and Sentiments, 7–9.
    15. Transcribed from Asa-Asa’s telling and printed

    in The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave
    (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997), 51.

    16. Northrup, Trade without Rulers, 66, 78.
    17. For recent work on the internal slave trade and

    the impact of European involvement, see “African
    Paths to the Middle Passage,” chap. 3 in Rediker, The
    Slave Ship.

    18. S. A. Diouf, ed., Fighting the Slave Trade: West Af-
    rican Strategies (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2003).
    See Hilary Beckles, “African Resistance to the Trans-
    atlantic Slave Trade,” in The Transatlantic Slave Trade:
    Landmarks, Legacies, Expectations, ed. James Kwesi An-
    quandah, 81–91 (Accra, Ghana: Sub-Saharan Publish-
    ers, 2007); Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, “Living the
    Experience of the Slave Trade in Sankana and Gwollu:
    Implications for Tourism,” in Transatlantic Slave Trade,
    210–24.

    19. A. M. Howell, “Showers of Arrows: The Reac-
    tions and Resistance of the Kasana to Slave Raids in
    the 18th and 19th Centuries,” in Transatlantic Slave
    Trade, 189–209.

    20. Opoku-Agyemang, “The Living Experience of
    the Slave Trade,” 214.

    21. The use of caves as refuge appears elsewhere in
    West Africa. See Thiero Mouctar Bah, “Slave-Raiding
    and Defensive Systems South of Lake Chad from the
    Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Centuries,” in Fighting
    the Slave Trade: West African Strategies, ed. Sylviane A.
    Diouf, 15–30 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2003).

    22. Opoku-Agyemang, “The Living Experience of
    the Slave Trade,” 216–17.

    23. Opoku-Agyemang, “The Living Experience of
    the Slave Trade,” 218–20. Very similar strategies were
    implemented farther east. See Bah, “Slave-Raiding and
    Defensive Systems South of Lake Chad,” 15–30; Martin

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 121

    Klein, “Defensive Strategies: Wasulu, Masina, and the
    Slave Trade,” in Fighting the Slave Trade, 62–78.

    24. Elisee Soumonni, “Lacustrine Villages in South
    Benin as Refuges from the Slave Trade,” in Diouf,
    Fighting the Slave Trade, 3–14.

    25. See Bruce L. Mouser, A Slaving Voyage to Africa
    and Jamaica: the Log of the Sandown, 1793–94 (Bloom-
    ington: Indiana University Press, 2002).

    26. Thomas Clarkson, Letters on the Slave Trade
    (London, 1791), 34–37.

    27. H. C. Monrad, Description of the Guinea Coast
    and Its Inhabitants (Accra, Ghana: Sub-Saharan Pub-
    lishers, 2010), 219.

    28. Cited in Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade: The
    Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440–1870 (New York:
    Simon and Schuster, 1999), 381.

    29. Estimates of mortality before even boarding the
    slave ship range from highs of 25 percent to lows of 5
    percent. For more, see Joseph Miller, Way of Death, Mer-
    chant Capitalism, and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730–1830
    (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988); Pat-
    rick Manning, The African Diaspora: A History through
    Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008).

    30. Thomas, The Slave Trade, 381.
    31. For a useful discussion of the internal trade in

    those areas, see Miller, “The Slave Trade in Congo and
    Angola,” in Kilson and Rotberg, The African Diaspora.

    32. Perbi, History of Indigenous Slavery, 40.
    33. Perbi, History of Indigenous Slavery, 37–38; See

    also S. N. Nkumbaan, “Historical Archaeology of
    Slave Route Case Study of Kasana and Sankana” (mas-
    ter’s thesis, University of Ghana, Legon, 2003).

    34. Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince (1831;
    repr., New York: Pandora Press, 1987), 52.

    35. On Salaga, see Perbi, History of Indigenous Slav-
    ery, 44–47.

    36. On the importance of the Asante to the inter-
    nal slave trade, see Perbi, History of Indigenous Slavery,
    20–23.

    37. J. A. Okoro, “Indigenous Water Management,
    Slavery and Slave Trade in Salaga” (unpublished
    paper, Department of Archaeology, Legon, 2003).

    38. See the 1705 account reprinted in James An-
    quandah, “Researching the Historic Slave Trade in
    Ghana: An Overview,” in Transatlantic Slave Trade,
    23–56; quote on 28–29.

    39. On slave camps, see Akosua Perbi and Yaw
    Bredwa-Mensah, “Slave Camps in Pre-colonial Ghana:

    The Case of Jenini in the Brong Ahafo Region,” in
    Transatlantic Slave Trade, 138–47.

    40. Stephen Behrendt, A. J. H. Latham, and David
    Northrup, The Diary of Antera Duke, an Eighteenth-
    Century African Slave Trader (New York: Oxford Uni-
    versity Press, with the assistance of the International
    African Institute, 2010), 110–13.

    41. Northrup, Trade without Rulers, 64.
    42. Northrup, Trade without Rulers, 101.
    43. Randy Sparks, The Two Princes of Calabar:

    An Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Odyssey (Cambridge,
    Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004), 49. For a
    broad study of the African canoe, see Robert Smith,
    “The Canoe in West African History,” Journal of Afri-
    can History 11, no. 4 (1970): 515–33.

    44. Account of Isaac Parker appears in Sheila
    Lambert, ed., House of Commons Sessional Papers of
    the Eighteenth Century, vol. 73 (London: Scholarly Re-
    sources Incorporated, 1975), 126.

    45. Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of
    Olaudah Equiano, ed. Vincent Carretta (1789; repr.
    Penguin, 2003), 32.

    46. The account of David Henderson appears in
    Sheila Lambert, ed., House of Commons Sessional Pa-
    pers of the Eighteenth Century, vol. 69 (London: Schol-
    arly Resources Incorporated, 1975), 13.

    47. Johannes Rask, A Brief and Truthful Descrip-
    tion of a Journey to and from Guinea (1754; repr., Accra,
    Ghana: Sub-Saharan Publishers, 2008), 156–57.

    48. St. Clair, The Door of No Return, chap. 5.
    49. This complexity is made clear in “Soldiers and

    Workers,” chap. 5 in St. Clair, Door of No Return.
    50. Monrad, A Description of the Guinea Coast, 258.
    51. Monrad, A Description of the Guinea Coast, 216.
    52. Monrad, A Description of the Guinea Coast, 220.
    53. Monrad, A Description of the Guinea Coast, 221.
    54. Davies, Emergence of International Business, 5:9.
    55. A great summary of this history appears in

    Davies, Emergence of International Business, 5:12–15,
    41–44, 213.

    56. Barbot quoted in Lawrence, Fortified Trade-
    Posts, 184.

    57. The best assessment of the physical develop-
    ment of Cape Coast and other West African castles is
    in Lawrence, Trade Castles and Forts of West Africa.

    58. St. Clair, The Door of No Return, 45–46.
    59. Davies, Emergence of International Business,

    5:241–43.

    122 |   BUILDINGS & LANDSCAPES  21,  no.  1 ,  SPRING 2014

    60. Eveline Martin, British West African Settle-
    ments, 1750–1820 (New York: Longmans, 1927), 7. For
    a full account of the financial management of the Brit-
    ish West African castles, see also Davies, Emergence of
    International Business.

    61. For an excellent summary of the development
    of these early castles, see Davies, Emergence of Interna-
    tional Business, 5:243–49.

    62. “James Nightingale to Cape Coast Castle, Feb
    15 1681,” MS Rawl C. 745, “Copies of Letters sent by the
    Out Factors Of the Royal African Company of England
    to the Chief Agents at Cape Coast Castle, Jan 27, 1680
    to June 8, 1681,” Letterbooks of the Royal African Com-
    pany, Bodelian, Special Collections Library, Oxford.

    63. “James Nightingale, Feb 20 1681,” MS Rawl
    C. 745, “Copies of Letters sent by the Out Factors Of
    the Royal African Company of England to the Chief
    Agents at Cape Coast Castle, Jan 27, 1680 to June 8,
    1681,” Letterbooks of the Royal African Company,
    Bodelian, Special Collections Library, Oxford.

    64. “1682: from Ralph Hassell,” MS Rawl C. 745,
    “Copies of Letters sent by the Out Factors Of the Royal
    African Company of England to the Chief Agents at
    Cape Coast Castle, Jan 27, 1680 to June 8, 1681,” Let-
    terbooks of the Royal African Company, Bodelian,
    Special Collections Library, Oxford.

    65. For more on this, see Davies, Emergence of In-
    ternational Business.

    66. St. Clair, Door of No Return, esp. chap. 8.
    67. Monrad, A Description of the Guinea Coast, 212.

    The records of the Company of Merchants offer a very
    similar list. See Martin, British West African Settle-
    ments, 45.

    68. As scholars of early West African history and of
    the slave trade have come to argue, the internal African
    slave trade was much exacerbated by European involve-
    ment, especially through the introduction of guns—
    the most highly desired trade good. On this, see Jo-
    seph Inikori, “Changing Commodity Composition of
    Imports into West Africa, 1650–1850: A Window into
    the Impact of the Transatlantic Slave Trade on African
    Societies,” in Transatlantic Slave Trade, 57–80.

    69. Martin, British West African Settlements, 50.
    70. See Lawrence, Fortified Trade-Posts, 157. See

    also Rask, A Brief and Truthful Description, 58.
    71. Davies, Emergence of International Business,

    5:226.
    72. Davies, Emergence of International Business,

    5:188; see also Door of No Return, chap. 8. For numer-
    ous examples of this, see John Newton, The Journal
    of a Slave Trader, 1750–1754, ed. Bernard Martin and
    Mark Spurrell (London: Epworth Press, 1962).

    73. Davies, Emergence of International Business,
    5:222, 262.

    74. Lawrence, Fortified Trade-Posts, 292.
    75. Lawrence, Fortified Trade-Posts, 187.
    76. Lawrence, Fortified Trade-Posts, 298.
    77. Lawrence, Trade Castles and Forts of West Africa,

    190.
    78. Davies, Emergence of International Business,

    5:226.
    79. Cape Coast is described in 1710 as having “re-

    positories for one thousand slaves.” Davies, Emergence
    of International Business, 5:241.

    80. St. Clair, Door of No Return, 77.
    81. Barbot quoted in Lawrence, Trade Castles and

    Forts of West Africa, 166.
    82. St. Clair, Door of No Return, 223.
    83. Davies, Emergence of International Business,

    5:241.
    84. Davies, Emergence of International Business,

    5:242.
    85. For a full account, see David Richardson, Bristol,

    Africa, and the Eighteenth-Century Slave Trade to Amer-

    ica, 3 vols. (Bristol: Bristol Record Society, 1986–90).
    86. “London, May 28, 1756,” “Letterbook of the

    Company of Merchants Trading to Africa, 1751–1769,”
    GB 0402 SSC/22, 2 vols., vol. 1, “Letters from the Com-
    pany to the Governor and Council of Cape Coast Castle,
    1751–68,” The Royal Geographical Society, London.

    87. “Letterbook of the Company of Merchants Trad-
    ing to Africa, 1751–1769,” GB 0402 SSC/22, 2 vols.,
    vol. 1, “Letters from the Company to the Governor and
    Council of Cape Coast Castle, 1751–68,” p. 24, n.d., The
    Royal Geographical Society, London.

    88. “London, June 24, 1761,” “Letterbook of the
    Company of Merchants Trading to Africa, 1751–1769,”
    GB 0402 SSC/22, 2 vols., vol. 1, “Letters from the
    Company to the Governor and Council of Cape Coast
    Castle, 1751–68,” p. 141, The Royal Geographical So-
    ciety, London.

    89. “Sept 5, 1760,” “Letterbook of the Company of
    Merchants Trading to Africa, 1751–1769,” GB 0402
    SSC/22, 2 vols., vol. 1, “Letters from the Company to the
    Governor and Council of Cape Coast Castle, 1751–68,”
    p. 135, The Royal Geographical Society, London.

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 123

    90. See Lawrence, Fortified Trade-Posts, 123. See
    also Thorkild Hansen, Coast of Slaves, trans. Kari Dako
    (Accra, Ghana: Sub-Saharan Publishers, 2002), 50.

    91. See the Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., s.v.
    “hole.”

    92. St. Clair, Door of No Return, 220.
    93. Lawrence, Fortified Trade-Posts, 302–4.
    94. Monrad, A Description of the Guinea Coast,

    221–22.
    95. An excellent history of the castle at Anomabo

    appears in St. Clair, Door of No Return, chap. 2. See
    also Lawrence, Trade Castles and Forts of West Africa,
    349–55.

    96. Stephen Behrendt, “‘Journal of an African
    Slaver,’ 1789–1792, and the Gold Coast Slave Trade of
    William Callow,” History in Africa 22 (1995): 61–71.

    97. Martin, British West African Settlements, 17–18.
    98. Martin, British West African Settlements, 49.
    99. On the shipment of materials from England,

    see “Letterbook of the Company of Merchants Trad-
    ing to Africa, 1751–1769,” GB 0402 SSC/22, 2 vols.,
    vol. 1, “Letters from the Company to the Governor and
    Council of Cape Coast Castle, 1751–68,” The Royal
    Geographical Society, London.

    100. Readers are encouraged to view the full three-
    dimensional model posted on Buildings & Landscape’s
    digital edition hosted by JSTOR (www.jstor.org).

    101. D. Simmonds, “A Note on the Excavations in
    Cape Coast Castle,” Transactions of the Historical Soci-
    ety of Ghana 14, no. 2 (1973): 267–69.

    102. St. Clair, Door of No Return, 212–13.
    103. St. Clair, Door of No Return, 80.
    104. This data was collected by the author from the

    Voyages project for the specific purpose of interrogat-
    ing the volume of slaves departing from various cas-
    tles over the course of the period in question. These
    queries were undertaken in the spring of 2013.

    105. Monrad, A Description of the Guinea Coast, 221.
    106. Cugoano, Thoughts and Sentiments, 9.
    107. Monrad, A Description of the Guinea Coast,

    222. See also Hansen, Coast of Slaves, 82, 171.
    108. St. Clair, Door of No Return, 81. Monrad sug-

    gests only once a day; see Monrad, A Description of the
    Guinea Coast, 222.

    109. St. Clair, Door of No Return, 72–73.
    110. St. Clair, Door of No Return, 75.
    111. St. Clair, Door of No Return, 63.
    112. Monrad, A Description of the Guinea Coast, 266.

    113. St. Clair, Door of No Return, 129.
    114. Monrad, A Description of the Guinea Coast,

    228.
    115. Quoted in Beckles, “African Resistance to the

    Transatlantic Slave Trade,” 81–91.
    116. Monrad, A Description of the Guinea Coast,

    222. A very similar description from the 1690s sug-
    gests that this was common practice throughout the
    period of the slave trade; see Hansen, Coast of Slaves,
    29–30.

    117. John Barbot in 1746, as cited in Hansen, Coast
    of Slaves, 31.

    118. St. Clair, Door of No Return, 78; Lawrence,
    Trade Castles and Forts of West Africa, 190.

    119. “Letterbook of the Company of Merchants
    Trading to Africa, 1751–1769,” GB 0402 SSC/22, 2
    vols., vol. 2, “Letters from the Agent at Cape Coast
    Castle to the Royal African Company, 1767–69,” pp.
    96–97, November 6, 1767, The Royal Geographical
    Society, London.

    120. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 137. In mak-
    ing this argument, I am aware of the objections by
    many to Stanley Elkin’s comparison in the late 1950s
    of plantation slavery and Nazi concentration camps.
    My argument is that West African slave castles and
    European prisons emerged contemporaneously and
    participate in a shared discourse on architectures of
    correction and (re)formation. See Stanley M. Elkins,
    Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and In-

    tellectual Life (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
    1959). For objections and debate, see Ann Lane, The
    Debate over Slavery: Stanley Elkins and His Critics
    (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1971); and John
    Blassingame, The Slave Community: Plantation Life in
    the Antebellum South (New York: Oxford University
    Press, 1972).

    121. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 184–87.
    122. Lawrence, Fortified Trade-Posts, 69, 70, 148,

    168.
    123. Lawrence, Fortified Trade-Posts, 168.
    124. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 122.
    125. See Davies, Emergence of International Busi-

    ness, 5:242.
    126. There are a number of excellent works on

    the history, economics, and social structures of Old
    Calabar; for example, see Behrendt, Latham, and
    Northrup, The Diary of Antera Duke; and Sparks, The
    Two Princes of Calabar. On the importance of Calabar

    124 |   BUILDINGS & LANDSCAPES  21,  no.  1 ,  SPRING 2014

    to Jamaica, see Trevor Burnard and Kenneth Morgan,
    “The Dynamics of the Slave Market,” 208.

    127. Rediker, The Slave Ship, 44.
    128. Nicholas Owen, Journal of a Slave-Dealer (1759;

    repr., London: Routledge and Sons, 1930), 33, 85, 105.
    129. Owen, Journal of a Slave-Dealer, 100–101.
    130. These barracoons may have been similar to

    the places for the containment of slaves on Gorée Is-
    land called captiverie in the eighteenth century. See
    Lambert, House of Commons Sessional Papers, 73:25.

    131. Robin Law, Ouidah: The Social History of a West
    African Slaving Port, 1727–1892 (Athens: Ohio Univer-
    sity Press, 2004), 137.

    132. Account reprinted in James Anquandah,
    “Researching the Historic Slave Trade in Ghana: An
    Overview,” in Transatlantic Slave Trade, 23–56, quote
    on 28–29.

    133. Frederick Forbes, Six Months’ Service in the Af-
    rican Blockade (London: R. Bentley, 1849), 113.

    134. The complexity of these centers is discussed in
    detail in the introductory essays in Behrendt, Latham,
    and Northrup, The Diary of Antera Duke. On the im-
    portance of Liverpool, see 76–77.

    135. On the Efik and Old Calabar, see Behrendt,
    Latham, and Northrup, The Diary of Antera Duke; Jo
    Anne Chandler, Efik Traders of Old Calabar (London:
    Dawsons of Pall Mall, 1963). See also Two Princes of
    Calabar; for an earlier eighteenth-century history, see
    Stephen Behrendt and Eric Graham, “African Mer-
    chants, Notables, and the Slave Trade at Old Calabar,
    1720: Evidence from the National Archives in Scot-
    land,” History in Africa 30 (2003): 37–61. For a com-
    prehensive discussion of the structure of the slave
    trade in Angola, see Joseph Miller, “Some Aspects of
    the Commercial Organization of Slaving at Luanda,
    Angola, 1730–1830,” in The Uncommon Market: Essays
    in the Economic History of the Atlantic Slave Trade, ed.
    Henry Gemery and Jan Hogendorn (New York: Aca-
    demic Press, 1979). For a careful study of a slave port
    in the Bight of Benin, see Law, Ouidah.

    136. Behrendt, Latham, and Northrup, The Diary
    of Antera Duke, 49.

    137. Behrendt and Graham, “African Merchants,
    Notables, and the Slave Trade,” 50; Robin Hallett, ed.,
    Records of the African Association, 1788–1831 (London:
    Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1964), 206.

    138. Behrendt and Graham, “African Merchants,
    Notables and the Slave Trade,” 52.

    139. I am aware of the critique of Equiano’s nar-
    rative as a partial fabrication. Nonetheless, I take the
    position that even if he was American-born, he would
    have known plenty of African-born slaves and their
    own stories of capture and shipment. Equiano, Inter-
    esting Narrative, 22.

    140. Rev. Hope Masterton Waddell, Twenty-Nine
    Years in the West Indies and Central Africa, 1829–58
    (London: Frank Cass, 1970), 247–48.

    141. Northrup, Trade without Rulers, 89, 100.
    142. Lambert, House of Commons Sessional Papers,

    73:26.
    143. Behrendt, Latham, and Northrup, The Diary

    of Antera Duke, 16.
    144. Hallett, Records of the African Association,

    200.
    145. Waddell, Twenty-Nine Years, 243.
    146. Waddell, Twenty-Nine Years, 250.
    147. Donald Simmons, “An Ethnographic Sketch

    of the Efik People,” in Efik Traders of Old Calabar, ed.
    Daryll Forde (London: Oxford University Press, 1968),
    16–17.

    148. Hallett, Records of the African Association,
    200, 203.

    149. Hallett, Records of the African Association, 203.
    150. Hallett, Records of the African Association, 203.
    151. Reported by Antera Duke in his diary. See

    Forde, Efik Traders of Old Calabar, 50. For a more re-
    cent discussion, see Behrent, Latham, and Northrup,
    The Diary of Antera Duke, 36–39. Human sacrifice
    was found among a number of West African com-
    munities; see Rask, A Brief and Truthful Description,
    141–44.

    152. The earliest example thus far is Egbo Young’s
    Liverpool Hall, so named by Antera Duke, in 1785.
    Forde, Efik Traders of Old Calabar, 28. See also Wad-
    dell, Twenty-Nine Years, 244; and Simmons, “An Eth-
    nographic Sketch of the Efik People,” in Forde, Efik
    Traders of Old Calabar, 9. Such exportation of house
    frames was also presumed among the English. In his
    discourse advocating for the English colonization of
    West Africa, Wadstrom recommends that all colonists
    bring a house frame with them. See Wadstrom, Essay
    on Colonization, vol. 1 (1794), 49.

    153. Hallett, Records of the African Association,
    207–8.

    154. Behrendt, Latham, and Northrup, The Diary
    of Antera Duke, 57.

    LOUIS P.  NELSON, ARCHITECTURES OF WEST AFRICAN ENSLAVEMENT  | 125

    155. Owen, Journal of a Slave-Dealer, 76.
    156. Behrendt, Latham, and Northrup, The Diary of

    Antera Duke, 56–57.
    157. Herbert Klein, Atlantic Slave Trade (Cam-

    bridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 116–21.
    158. Behrendt, Latham, and Northrup, The Diary

    of Antera Duke, 57; Mungo Park, Travels in the Interior
    Districts of Africa (London, 1799; repr., Durham, N.C.:
    Duke University Press, 2000), 18.

    159. Behrendt, Latham, and Northrup, The Diary of
    Antera Duke, 56–57.

    160. Equiano, Interesting Narrative, 33.
    161. The most important source for accurate in-

    formation on the middle passage and shipboard ex-
    perience of the slave is Rediker, The Slave Ship. An
    interesting comparison to the transportation of slaves
    is the transportation of convicts. See Kenneth Mor-
    gan, “The Organization of the Convict Trade to Mary-
    land: Stevenson, Randolph, and Cheston, 1768–1775,”
    William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 42, no. 2 (April
    1985): 201–27.

    162. Rediker, The Slave Ship, 70.
    163. St. Clair, The Door of No Return, 14.
    164. Monrad, A Description of the Guinea Coast,

    223; St. Clair, The Door of No Return, 25.

    165. Law, Ouidah, 135.
    166. Monrad, A Description of the Guinea Coast,

    223; Rediker, The Slave Ship, 38.
    167. Cited in Thomas, The Slave Trade, 404–05.
    168. Law, Ouidah, 143.
    169. Rediker, The Slave Ship, 143, 233–34.
    170. Equiano, Interesting Narrative, 33.
    171. St. Clair, The Door of No Return, 223; see also

    Mouser, A Slaving Voyage, 104.
    172. St. Clair, The Door of No Return, 11; Rediker,

    The Slave Ship, 234; Davies, The Royal African Com-
    pany, 186.

    173. St. Clair, The Door of No Return, 220.
    174. Davies, The Royal African Company, 293.
    175. For statistical information on the slave trade,

    see Philip Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census
    (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969). For
    a detailed discussion of the conditions on slave ships,
    see Rediker, The Slave Ship; and Charles Gland and
    Herbert S. Klein, “The Allotment of Space for Slaves
    aboard Eighteenth-Century British Slave Ships,” Wil-
    liam and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 42, no. 2 (April
    1985): 238–48.

    176. Rediker, The Slave Ship.

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    Source: Review (Fernand Braudel Center), Vol. 34, No. 1/2, RETHINKING THE PLANTATION:
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