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In Their Own Words

March 01, 1839

Fanny Kemble Journal Entry on Slave Housing

From St. Simons Island, Fanny Kemble Butler wrote in her journal about the housing afforded her husband’s slaves:

“… All the slaves’ huts on St. Simons are far less solid, comfortable, and habitable than those at the rice island [Butler Island]. I do not know whether the laborer’s habitation bespeaks the alteration in the present relative importance of the crops, but certainly the cultivators of the once far-famed long-staple, sea-island cotton of St. Simons are far more miserably housed than the rice raisers of the other plantation. These ruinous shielings [shepherd’s huts], that hardly keep out wind or weather, are deplorable homes for young or aged people, and poor shelters for the hard-working men and women who cultivate the fields in which they stand.

“… Captain F[raser] told me that at Sinclair General Oglethorpe, the good and brave English governor of the State of Georgia in its colonial days, had his residence, and that among the magnificent live oaks which surround the site of the former settlement, there was one especially venerable and picturesque, which in his recollection always went by the name of General Oglethorpe’s Oak. If you remember the history of the colony under his benevolent rule, you must recollect how absolutely he and his friend and counselor, Wesley, opposed the introduction of slavery in the colony. How wrathfully the old soldier’s spirit ought to haunt these cotton fields and rice swamps of his old domain, with their population of wretched slaves! I will ride to Sinclair and see his oak; if I should see him, he cannot have much to say to me on the subject that I should not cry amen to… .”

Source: John A. Scott (ed.), Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839 by Frances Anne Kemble (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984), pp. 219-221.