Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts

« Cabins

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Laura Plantation, Vacherie, LA

“Two Family Units Per Cabin” Imagine, for a moment, living in a 10-foot by 12-foot room. Three to six people share your space, sleeping on bare floors, with the barest of furnishings – a table, a chair, maybe two. On the other side of a thin wall lives another, similar-sized family group. Two family units per cabin. Your home is a simple roofed box that benefited from none of the construction techniques that may have helped temper the heat of Louisiana’s tropical climate. Thirty to forty feet on either side are more than 60 neighboring cabins, built in an arrow-straight row, stretching almost a mile in either direction. Each was a mirror of the next, and each was shared by a similar number of enslaved persons. A year ago, I considered spending a night in an empty slave cabin at a nearby plantation. I wanted to know what the experience was like. But after sitting through a rainy afternoon in the quarters, I realized it was an impossible experience to recreate. I knew that when sunrise came, my one uncomfortable night would be over. But for a slave, there was no such morning to look forward to.

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