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Slavery in Antebellum America The 3 Souths

Jan 21, 2016



  • Slavery in Antebellum AmericaThe 3 Souths

  • Border South: DE, MD, KY & MO22% of families owned on average 5 slaves 1% of Souths ultra-wealthy 6% of large (20+ slaves) plantations found in region.

    Slaves made up 17% of the population; 21% of African American population free.

  • Border South: DE, MD, KY & MOLittle cotton cultivation; tobacco, grain & industrial products.

    Unionists prevailed after Lincolns election & throughout Civil War.

  • Middle South: VA, NC, TN & AR36% of families owned on average 8 slaves

    14% of Souths ultra-wealthy

    32% of large (20+ slaves) plantations found primarily in eastern VA & western TN.

    Slaves made up 30% of the population.

  • Middle South: VA, NC, TN & ARDifferent sections, some resembling Deep South, others Border South.

    Some industry: Tredegar Iron Works used slave labor.

    Unionists prevailed after Lincolns election, but Secessionists prevailed after Fort Sumter & early hostilities.

  • Deep South: SC, FL, GA, AL, MS, LA & TX43% of families owned on average 12 slaves

    85% of the Souths ultra-wealthy

    62% of large (20+ slaves) plantations

    Slaves made up 47% of the population.

  • Deep South: SC, FL, GA, AL, MS, LA & TXMost slaves concentrated in the Black Belt, especially along river valleys

    95% of the Souths cotton & almost all of its sugar, rice & indigo grown in Deep South.

    Secessionists prevailed immediately after Lincolns election.

  • HistoriographyThe Peculiar Institution in Antebellum America

  • Main Debates on History of Peculiar InstitutionWhich came first slavery or racism?Was slavery economically viable?Was it an economic system of labor exploitation or a social system for racial control?What were the tools of oppression? Centrality of violence?What were the tools of resistance? Revolts & escapes?

  • Positive PaternalismEarliest interpretation, developed by U.B. Phillips & Southern historians analyzing multi-racial communities of the SouthArgued that slaves & masters loved & respected each other.Slavery served as essential civilizing institution.Clearly racist aspects have been excised but romantic notion of the Southern Lost Cause persists.

  • Factories in the FieldsEconomic interpretation proposed by Marxist historians, such as Kenneth Stampp.Saw mode of production as the motor of history; Slaves were workers & nothing more; defined by lives in the fields.Minimized racial purpose of slavery & presented hopeful vision of post-slavery America once economic system changed.

  • American Concentration CampsHistorians led by Stanley Elkins utilized understanding of human nature based on recent history of the Holocaust.Saw absolute nature of slavery & its impact on slaves infantilization, creation of Sambo archetype.Saw little room for autonomy in slave existence.Presented pessimistic vision of post-slavery America.

  • Oppressive Cage of PaternalismPaternalism existed as a tool of oppression & survival.

    No real love & respect between slaves & masters, except in a few individual, isolated instances.

    Institutional support of systemreligion, slave culture, etc.designed to reinforce these relationships.

  • Oppressive Cage of PaternalismComplexity of social & cultural forms in slave life defined by Type of production (Gang or Task system)Regions (Tidewater, Black Belt)Different Worlds (Sunup-Sundown & Sundown-Sunup)

  • OppressionCentrality of ViolenceNeed not be everyday or extreme;Threat of violence or token violence;Women often the target of sexual violence.Absolute authority of the master is unquestionable.

    Threat of Sale & SeparationEconomic reality & necessity;Threat & use of sale as a tool of control.Perhaps more absolute than violence.

  • Oppression: The Very Nature of SlaveryIts bad to belong to folks that own you soul an body. I could tell you bout it all day, but even then you couldnt guess the awfulness of it.

    There was no such thing as being good to slaves. Many people were better than others, but a slave belonged to his master & there was no way to get out of it.

  • ResistancePlanned RebellionGabriel Prosser & Nat Turner in Virginia;Denmark Vesey in Charleston, SC.Very Rare

    Individual Violence--Frederick DouglassPerhaps more prevalentHard to quantify

  • ResistanceWeapons of the Weak:Sabotage & work slowdowns;Putdowns & snide remarks.

    Grand Theft & the General Strike--Escape

    Cultural Autonomy--The ultimate resistance?

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