Back of the Big House: The Cultural Landscape of the Plantation

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Date: 1995

Region: North America

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Photography


Plantation3.jpg

Artist: The exhibit was put together by MA state representative Byron Rushing, George Washington University professor John M. Vlach, and Library of Congress librarian James H. Billington

Confronting Bodies: Library of Congress employees, Rushing, Vlach, Library administration

Date of Action: December 1995

Location: Library of Congress, Washington D.C., The United States of America

Plantation1.jpg

Description of Artwork: A collection of rare photographs depicting slavery and plantation life in the American South before the Civil War entitled Back of the Big House: The Cultural Landscape of the Plantation. The photographs displayed home life and work in slavery - showing images of the craft skills of slaves and their personal lives. Explanations for the photographs were drawn from interviews of former slaves and the reconstruction of former slave cabins.

The Incident: The exhibit, which had been shown without controversy at five locations, was opened in the Library in the afternoon. Library employees complained, perhaps still stinging from a recent class action settlement against the library for discrimination as far back as 1971.

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Results of Incident: Five hours after opening, the exhibit was cancelled. Four other exhibitions of the show were planned following the exhibition in the Library of Congress in Maryland, Virginia and Texas.

Source: The Boston Globe, December 23, 1995