ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Review: Erskine Clarke's "Dwelling Place: A Plantation Epic"

Updated on December 28, 2016
J Schatzel profile image

J. Schatzel works in healthcare administration in rural upstate New York and has a master's degree in history.

Dwelling Place: A Plantation Epic

In a narrative of the parallel lives of the Lizzie Jones family and the Charles Colcock Jones family, Dwelling Place: A Plantation Epic (hereafter referred to as Dwelling Place), Erskine Clarke details the parallel histories of blacks and whites at Liberty Hall to define the complexity of the relationship between masters and slaves. Clarke contrasts the white Jones family’s oppressive behavior with the enslaved Jones family’s struggles through the oppressive deprivation of the socially constructed and race-based hierarchies of the slave system. Through Clarke’s depiction of both the enslaved and the masters’ perceptions of events, the author attempts to instill a sense of the intricacy of the slave system in the six decades preceding abolition, and beyond into the years immediately following emancipation. Both brought to America as “pawns of the slave trade” and born in a land that denied them recognition of citizenship, the enslaved Jones family lives in close proximity to their white Jones neighbors, yet as shown through Clarke’s depiction, in a completely different world.[1]

Clarke resourcefully bases her narrative of the lives of the interdependent Jones families upon primary source documentation, such as the Jones family papers and correspondence (510-576), epitaphs on family graves (277,464), the writings of Charles Colcock Jones such as “A Catechism for Colored Persons”(132), records of slave auctions (16), auction advertisements (13), and church records (8), as well as hundreds of other documents of the Charles Colcock Jones collection of the Tulane University Manuscript Department. Clarke’s chronological narrative of the lives of a complex ancestral line of two separate families is heavily based on primary source evidence, and her accompaniment of excerpts of the documents spanning multiple generations of the Jones family upon which she bases her account with visual material such as photos of the people and places Clarke discusses contribute to the readers’ (whether historian or non-historian) interpretation of the Jones families’ histories.

Clarke illustrates the interdependence of the Jones families through such examples as Jupiter’s service to the Jones family as a slave driver to maintain the profitability and manageability of the Jones Family plantation, Liberty Hall, through his implementation of the task system.[2] In an exploration of the irony of the plantation’s name “Liberty Hall,”[3] Clarke examines Jones family practices such as mortgaging off slaves to settle debts as if the people being mortgaged were property, the antithesis of liberty. As shown through the writings of Charles, he believed the mortgaging of slaves to simply be a “change of investment.”[4]

Heavily focused on the religious undertones of life in the Jones family between 1805 and 1869, specifically the Presbyterian denomination the Jones family identified themselves with, Dwelling Place juxtaposes the lives of the two Jones families in coastal Antebellum, wartime, and postwar Georgia (and later Louisiana) as one family works for the other; even as Mary considered herself to be “an unprofitable servant to the great master who appointed my work and way on earth”[5] despite the clearly evident differences between southern white planter society and the subordinate Gullah slave culture on the plantations.

[1] Erskine Clarke. Dwelling Place, a Plantation Epic. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005) p.3

[2] Ibid., 4.

[3] Ibid., 14.

[4] Ibid., 352.

[5] Ibid., 462.

Special Thanks

Special thanks to the State University of NY at Oswego, for the use of their amazing library! As well as for their beautiful campus filled with scenic places to settle down with a good book and read.
Special thanks to the State University of NY at Oswego, for the use of their amazing library! As well as for their beautiful campus filled with scenic places to settle down with a good book and read.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)