Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Slavery & the Enslaved in the USA

The Transatlantic Slave Trade forcibly relocated millions of Africans against their will to the Americas, where they were required to work in plantations, mines and other industries whilst living in inhumane conditions. Enslavement played a significant role in the shaping of the United States. Although the issue of owning Slaves was the root cause of the American Civil War, a century before that, at the time of the American Revolution, slavery was legal in all 13 colonies. There are many plantations and their Slave quarters, as well as other locations where enslaved people worked and lived, open to the public. These sites provide an understanding of the lasting impact of Slavery on American society.

Enslavement Sites in the USA

Bellamy Mansion Museum

Built between 1859 and 1861, the Bellamy Mansion was created as a home for John D. Bellamy, a wealthy doctor and merchant. The architect behind the project was James F. Post, who drew upon Greek Revival, Italianate, and Neoclassical elements in designing the structure. As well as housing the Bellamy family, the mansion was also a place of work and residence for various enslaved African Americans. Their story is highlighted in particular at the brick-built slave quarters, also designed by Post, located outside the main house itself.

Belle Grove Plantation

Located in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, the Belle Grove Plantation was established by the Hite family, who had arrived in North America from Germany. The plantation house was built in the 1790s; the wider plantation then relied on a workforce of nearly 300 enslaved people. In 1851 the plantation passed from Hite family ownership and in 1864 it was caught up in the Battle of Cedar Creek. The house now forms part of the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historic Park, with much of the former plantation still used for agricultural purposes.

Belle Meade

Belle Meade Plantation was established by John Harding in the early 19th century. Here he erected a Federal Style brick plantation house, later replaced with a Greek Revival building by his son William in 1853. As well as laboring on the construction of these houses, enslaved people worked in the fields, with dedicated tours now offered on this aspect of the plantation’s history. The late 19th century saw Belle Meade become known for its involvement in horse breeding. As well as being open as a heritage attraction, Belle Meade Plantation is also active as a winery.

Boone Hall Plantation

The plantation at Boone Hall was established in 1681 by an Englishman, John Boone. In 1743 an avenue of oak trees was planted here that today makes for an impressive sight. The surviving ‘Big House’ dates from 1936, completed in the Colonial Revival style. Boone Hall also devotes attention to its former enslaved residents, preserving several late 18th or early 19th-century brick slave cabins and hosting live presentations exploring the life and culture of the Gullah people, an African American group found in Lowcountry parts of the southern states.

Drayton Hall

Built in the middle of the 18th century, the Palladian-style Drayton Hall was the creation of John Drayton Senior. It passed down the Drayton family for many generations, surviving both the American Revolutionary War and then the Civil War. Today, many of the interior furnishings and artworks reflect the changing fashions and tastes of successive residents of the property. Since the 1970s, the Hall has been open to visitors as a historic attraction. Meanwhile, archaeologists have unearthed more about the enslaved and freed African Americans who resided within the surrounding plantation.

Evergreen Plantation

One of the best-preserved plantations in Louisiana, the Evergreen Plantation still has not only its ‘Big House’ but also an orate privy, stables, a kitchen, and 22 slave cabins. The plantation house was first built in 1790 although transformed into a Greek Revival structure in 1832, subsequently undergoing considerable renovation in the 1940s. Today, Evergreen remains in private ownership and is actively used for the production of sugarcane. Its management takes particular interest in researching the lives of those who lived here, including many of its enslaved residents.

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site