Tennessee Researcher Conducts Slave Housing Study
The search for standing slave housing or “slave spaces” has Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) researcher Michael Strutt very busy these days.
An archaeologist whose professional background includes time spent at Virginia plantation sites, Strutt formally embarked upon the Slave Housing Survey in 2001 after he garnered support from the Center for Historic Preservation (CHP) at MTSU and landed grants for his study from the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts and the Tennessee Historical Commission, respectively.
Before beginning work on the slave housing project, Strutt gathered all the information he could find in Tennessee on slavery with the goal of incorporating archeology with an architectural survey. This history-gathering approach, Strutt says, is one “which has never been done in this state.
“The average slave owner in Tennessee had between five and seven slaves, as opposed to hundreds of slaves that you hear about owners having in the Deep South states, and nobody knows exactly where or how many slave houses still stand in Tennessee,” says Strutt.
Thus, as coordinator of the CHP’s Slave Housing Survey, Strutt is working to locate still-standing slave homes, as well as spaces within mansions such as attics, basements or garret rooms where slaves may have resided.
Once the survey is completed, Strutt’s findings will become available through the CHP to aid in the interpretation of slavery in Tennessee as part of the National Heritage Area undertaking, a project that was initiated by Congress.
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