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Still Back of the Big House: Slave Cabins and Slavery in Southern Heritage Tourism

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A massive tourist infrastructure on southern heritage extends across the US South and a significant component of it focuses on nineteenth-century slavery. Southern heritage tourism reveals irrepressible dimensions of racialization, inextricably mediated by gender and class, and highlights the primary influence of the state. Many tourist sites are housed in former slave plantations and some contain the remains, restorations, reconstructions or replicas of antebellum slave cabins and slave quarters. This article describes and evaluates evidence collected from site observations carried out between 1995 and 2011, on the nature, role and functioning of slave cabins incorporated into these sites. It identifies three strategies for presenting slave cabins as part of heritage tourism—relative incorporation, marginalization and symbolic annihilation—each of which relegates slave cabins to the shadows of the big house. These representations reflect divergent heritage goals and continuing unequal access to resources on the part of different social groups.
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Keywords: Tourism; public history; slave cabins; slavery

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of African American Studies, University of California, Berkeley, CA, 94720-2572, USA

Publication date: 2013-08-01

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