The Old Plantation
A late eighteenth-century watercolor titled The Old Plantation portrays enslaved men and women during a moment of leisure. At right, musicians play a four-stringed banjo, perhaps made from a hollowed gourd, and a makeshift drum that might be an overturned pot or pan. The figures at the center of the painting are dancing. The man holds a stick, which was frequently used in African dances; the women dancers are holding a kind of rattle known as a shegureh. Shells or bones are woven into fabric that encases a gourd; when shaken, the instrument creates a percussive sound. This painting, described by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation as "arguably the best-known depiction of slaves in America," has been attributed to John Rose of Beaufort County, South Carolina, who painted a scene that probably took place on his plantation.
Citation: Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, Acc. No. 1935.301.3, A&B, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation