The National Park Service (NPS) has awarded the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) $50,000 in support of the Natchez Outbuilding Survey, a study of nineteenth-century structures built adjacent to antebellum houses in the Natchez area. Of particular focus are the living quarters of enslaved persons and the kitchens, smokehouses, and agricultural buildings where they labored.
The Natchez Outbuilding Survey is a partnership between MDAH and the Historic Natchez Foundation. The money from the NPS Underrepresented Communities Grant will be used to hire a consultant to prepare a National Register of Historic Places nomination. MDAH will issue a request for proposals for the project this month, and the work is expected to be completed in 2023.
“The information gathered through the Natchez Outbuilding Survey has deepened our understanding of nineteenth-century life in Mississippi and the architecture of slavery in the Natchez region,” said MDAH director Katie Blount. “We are especially grateful for our partnership with the Historic Natchez Foundation, and we are thankful to the National Park Service for funding this initiative.”
“The Historic Natchez Foundation is thrilled that MDAH has received an Underrepresented Community Grant from the National Park Service for the Natchez Outbuilding project,” said Carter Burns, executive director of the Historic Natchez Foundation. “We are proud to partner with MDAH on this important endeavor to document and study more than 150 of these structures, which are closely associated with the lives of enslaved African Americans. This grant recognizes the importance of these sites by enabling their nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.”
The Natchez Outbuilding Survey has uncovered information about how enslaved people moved within their environments through examinations of slave outbuildings floorplans, the location of windows and doors, circulation patterns between the outbuildings and the main house, and lines of sight between buildings.
“This thematic nomination will place the important collection of Natchez outbuildings into a national conversation about the landscapes of slavery and servitude,” said MDAH chief architectural historian Jennifer Baughn. “We can see how owners designed control mechanisms for supervision, but also how enslaved people could carve out spaces where they had some agency.”
Natchez was the location of the Forks of the Road, one of the largest slave markets in the United States. Wealthy planters, who accumulated their wealth through slave labor, built what architectural historians have termed “suburban villas” in the town. Enslaved people lived in housing detached from the villas. Researchers estimate Natchez has the largest concentration of slave-related sites in the nation.
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