Slavery and Public History at the Big House

Remembering and Forgetting at American Plantation Museums and British Country Houses

In: Journal of Global Slavery
Jessica Moody University of Bristol

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Stephen Small University of California, Berkeley

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This article considers the public history of slavery at plantation museums in the US South and at country houses in Britain. Drawing on original research, the authors critique recent and current efforts to bring connections between these “Big Houses” and the history of slavery to the fore through different methods of interpretation. These elite residences are argued to have largely obscured such connections historically through distancing, distortion, and denial. However, some notable efforts have been made in recent years to diversify public history narratives and more fully represent histories of enslavement. Comparing these American and British house museums, this article contextualizes public history work at these sites and proposes possible lessons from this research, presenting some points to be taken forward which emerge from this transatlantic comparison.

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