Beginning in 2011, Oak Alley Foundation began a concentrated effort to better understand the lives of those who lived here in bondage. Unlike the owners of this sugar plantation, their human property did not leave elegant manuscripts or lengthy letters detailing their experience. Rather, in only what can be described as bitter irony, the same documents that legitimized their dehumanization are now all that remain to give us hints of their identity as people. These documents are inventories, sales records, deeds and successions, as well as religious documents such as sacramental records.
While material is sparse, and certainly not as rich as a personal perspective, enormous insights can be made by examining these records. With this in mind, we are pleased to announce that Oak Alley Foundation has created an internet-accessible digital archive of the information we have gleaned from these documents, and details the lives of all enslaved individuals kept at this plantation.
Assembled by our Education and Curatorial staff, the Oak Alley Slave Database brings together information from a wide variety of sources, the majority of them public repositories. It allows both browsing and advanced searching, enabling users to do comparative analysis, distinguish meaningful patterns, or simply better understand the lives of those enslaved at Oak Alley plantation. Lastly, this is a living document. As new material and discoveries are made, entries will be modified accordingly.
About this Database:
This database makes accessible to the public all available information pertaining to the enslaved men and women who built and sustained Oak Alley. It brings to light attributes of personhood including names, origins and relationships, and presents them simultaneously with the marks of slavery that dehumanized--such as appraised value. Together, it is our aim to offer a resource for students and researchers, and enable them to better understand the people of one specific sugar plantation.
Oak Alley was one of multiple plantations in St. James Parish owned by the Roman family, including the estates of Jacques E. Roman and his wife Louise Patin, as well as their children: Sosthene and Zenon (Magnolia Plantation), Andre Bienvenu (Cabanocey), Victorin, daughter Josephine (Le Petit Versailles), and J.T Roman (Oak Alley). It was an agricultural empire built on interdependence and consequently, the family`s relationships shaped all aspects of plantation life, including their enslaved populations. As a result, this database focuses on the individuals enslaved at Oak Alley, but entries often include other Roman family members and transactions that occurred on other plantations.
Oak Alley has very slim holdings pertaining to the years it operated as a slave-holding plantation. As a result, the information presented here has been culled from: The St. James Parish Courthouse, The Archdiocese of Baton Rouge Sacramental Records, Tulane University, and New Orleans Notarial Archives. Please forward any interest in document copies to the respective institution.
Development of this database was made possible by our visitors, whose attendance and support helps us further our Mission.