chapter  1
Everyday Slave Life in the United States
WithEileen Southern, Josephine Wright
Pages 23

Little is known about “The Old Plantation”, the earliest genre painting in United States history to depict African-American culture, except that this watercolor was discovered in Columbia, South Carolina, and is believed to have originated on a plantation situated between Charleston and Orangeburg, South Carolina. Though the slave revelers wear American colonial-style dress, their dancing and musical performance point to an African origin; indeed, it is possible that the slaves themselves were born in Africa, and that their performance represents a continuation of the practices of their homeland in the new South Carolina home. In several respects the action taking place in the second group is similar to that in “The Old Plantation.” The artist has given the ex-slaves of the second group their own miniature social world, which excludes whites, allowing them the opportunity to celebrate their emancipation in their own way.