Creative Commons License

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


This project is a landscape study that examines how different members of the antebellum and postbellum community in Arkansas and Louisiana perceived and used the swamplands, and how this changed over time. This project suggests that the swamps played an absolutely crucial role for individual slaves and free blacks both before and after the Civil War. Unlike Europeans and the white community who viewed the swamps as static, physical spaces on the plantation without value, African-Americans viewed them as fluid places filled with value. Religious practices were often performed near swamps, and even so-called aberrant religions practices, like voodoo, happened in the swamps. Slaves and free African-Americans contributed to a small slave-based economy by trading and selling items from the swamps, such as moss, hides, and nuts. After the Civil War, freed African-Americans garnered more economic stability by buying swamplands and exploiting their rich, fertile nature and planting crops. The swamps offered slaves spaces to perform small, everyday acts of resistance, which did not completely undermine planter control, but helped to did help to contribute to an African American culture and enabled them to enrich their everyday lives, despite their status as enslaved.

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