What is the value of The Kitchen House for classrooms?
The Kitchen House should be read in classrooms because it adds nuances to the study of slavery.
The book describes the life of a white indentured servant who lives with black slaves on a plantation, and then moves into the big house to live among the whites. We think we know the story of slavery, but this book has us explore another side of it.
When Lavinia, a seven year old Irish girl, arrives at the plantation her parents are dead and she has been sick. She barely knows her name, and she can’t eat or remember her parents.
Uncle Jacob spoke. “The cap’n send this chil’ to you. He say she for the kitchen house.”
“What’s that man thinking? Can’t he see she’s white?” (ch 1, p. 4)
The distinction between an indentured servant and a slave is minimal. As a kitchen servant, Lavinia had more privileges and a better life than the other slaves. She still was a slave of sorts.
This book is good for the classroom because it can bring out interesting questions and discussions about race, slavery, treatment of slaves, indentured servitude, and the colonies and the new country they became.