In Samantha’s Secret, Samantha has a slave woman as a patient. I drew upon my visit to Drayton Hall and the slave quarters there as inspiration for the description of Lydia’s home and situation. Not that it’s exactly the same in the story as what I experienced, but it’s similar.
One of the first surprises was that the plantation manor house wasn’t as large as I’d thought it might be. Impressive, but not as sprawling as I had anticipated. The interior made up for the slight sense of disappointment I felt as we drove up to the long straight, tree-lined drive.
I’d never been in slave quarters before, so I was particularly curious about how they were built and what they had inside. The guide told us that the quarters at this plantation outside of Charleston were actually nicer than usual, since they were made from brick and stone.
I stepped inside trying to imagine a family or group of people living within the four walls, literally. It’s not easy to do, given our current experience with houses and apartments with many bedrooms and bathrooms and a kitchen, perhaps a game room, or formal dining room even.
No separate rooms at all, inside. That means several people probably shared the bed, or slept on the floor wrapped in a thin blanket perhaps.
Then I tried to imagine making meals at the cook fire, with a minimum of pots and utensils. Now, I love to cook, so this attempt proved difficult indeed.
Life as a slave, even one in a “fine” home such as these, had to be physically difficult as well as emotionally. We do have to keep in mind that most houses of the 18th century were not as refined as the manor houses, but were still more comfortable and spacious than the slave quarters.
Given my experience at Drayton Hall, I tried to convey the sense of bleak and Spartan furnishings within the character’s home in my story. To show what slaves may have faced and endured.
Did I succeed? I believe so, but ultimately it’s up to my readers to decide. If you’ve read Samantha’s story, how did you feel about where Lydia and her family lived?
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