Humanizing HABS: Rethinking the Historic American Buildings Survey's Role in Interpreting Antebellum Slave Houses
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The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and the Federal Writers' Project were two government survey programs from the 1930s that, in part, documented slavery in America. Historically stakeholders utilized these resources in isolation of one another. Coordination between the two programs in this study has identified five documented slave houses from the HABS collection that are directly linked to a slave narrative recorded by the Writers' Project. The slave narrative brings to life the spatial density, degree of accommodations, nature of the facilities, and attitudes of those who inhabited the slave house. The relationship between the historical record and the stories of the inhabitants is crucial to our understanding and interpretation of the lifeways and settings of enslaved African Americans in the Antebellum South. Historic preservationists now have five personal accounts of the historic plantation landscape upon which to build future interdisciplinary appreciation and research.