Presentation on theme: "Today is Veterans’ Day (formerly Armistice Day) November 11 This holiday marks the anniversary of the Armistice signed by the Allies and the Germans in."— Presentation transcript:
Today is Veterans’ Day (formerly Armistice Day) November 11 This holiday marks the anniversary of the Armistice signed by the Allies and the Germans in 1918, ending World War I.
November 11, 2003 … is also the 172 nd anniversary of the day on which Nat Turner, leader of the bloodiest slave revolt in American history, was executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Right: “Nat Turner,” by William H. Johnson, ca Courtesy of Smithsonian American Art MuseumSmithsonian American Art Museum
On the 100 th anniversary of Turner’s execution in 1931, historian Rayford W. Logan urged African-Americans to remember Nat Turner on Armistice Day (Nov. 11) “The coincidences of history afford alluring speculation. November 11 th is now an occasion for rejoicing at the conclusion, stupefaction at the beginning, of the greatest holocaust of the modern age, and preparation for the next. To 12,000,000 black folk it should be a day of pride – for on that day one hundred years ago a black man kept his ‘Rendezvous with Death’ rather than live a bondsman.” Source: Rayford W. Logan, “Nat Turner: Fiend or Martyr?” Opportunity 9 (November 1931):
What is a slave rebellion?
Genovese: “a struggle for freedom”
How did slaves “resist” their enslavement short of rising in armed rebellion?
-Sabotaging the crop -Stealing or “taking” from masters -Feigning illness -Malingering -Willful destruction of master’s property (mistreating animals, destroying tools, setting fire to plantation buildings, etc.) -Running away
Historians George Frederickson and Christopher Lasch argue that this well-documented “pattern of noncooperation” among slaves does not necessarily constitute “resistance.” For them, “resistance is a political concept,” a form of “organized collective action” aimed at “affecting the distribution of power in a community.”
Frederickson and Lasch on Resistance to Slavery (cont’d) When does “noncooperation” rise to the level of “resistance”? When there is “consciousness of collective interest, such consciousness being the prerequisite for effective action in the realm of power”
Frederickson and Lasch on Resistance to Slavery (cont’d) “Among despised and downtrodden people in general, the most rudimentary form of political action is violence; sporadic and usually short- lived outbursts of destruction, based on a common sense of outrage and sometimes inspired by millenialistic ideology. Peasant revolts, all over the world, have usually conformed to this type.”
Genovese describes various conditions favorable to slave revolt in Caribbean and Brazil.
Caribbean/Brazil 1.Depersonalization of master-slave relationship 2.Economic distress/famine 3.Large slaveholding units (avg slaves) 4.Blacks heavily outnumber whites 5.African-born slaves outnumber American-born creoles 6.Social structure permits emergence of autonomous black leadership 7.Geographical, social, and political environment provide favorable terrain for formation of colonies of runaway slaves
How does Genovese explain the relative infrequency of slave revolts in the American South?
American South 1.Closing of African slave trade in 1808 demanded improvement in material conditions of slave life (i.e., food, clothing, shelter) in order to guarantee adequate rate of reproduction. (See next slide) 2.As proportion of American-born creoles with slave population rose, cultural distance between masters and slaves narrowed. 3.No widespread famines 4.Slaveholding units much smaller than those in sugar- producing colonies 5.Blacks outnumbered by whites in all but a few areas 6.Less room for development of autonomous black leadership class 7.Runaway slaves unable to establish large “maroon” communities in swamps/mountains – problem of subsistence
Improvement in material conditions of slave life facilitated reproduction of U.S. slave population after closing of international slave trade in Genovese: “Of all the slave societies in the New World, that of the Old South alone maintained a slave force that reproduced itself. Less than 400,000 imported Africans had, by 1860, become an American black population of more than 4,000,000.”
Genovese on Paternalism “Paternalism in any historical setting defines relations of superordination and subordination. Its strength as a prevailing ethos increases as members of the community accept – or feel compelled to accept – these relations as legitimate.”
Genovese on Paternalism (cont’d) “For the slaveholders paternalism represented an attempt to overcome the contradictions inherent in a society based on racism, slavery, and class exploitation that had to depend on the willing reproduction and productivity of its victims. “Paternalism defined the involuntary labor of the slaves as a legitimate return to their masters for protection and direction. But the masters’ need to see their slaves as acquiescent human beings constituted a moral victory for the slaves themselves. Paternalism’s insistence on mutual obligations – duties, responsibilities, and ultimately even rights – implicitly recognized the slaves’ humanity.”
Genovese on Paternalism (cont’d) “Southern paternalism may have reinforced racism as well as class exploitation, but it also unwittingly invited its victims to fashion their own interpretation of the social order it was intended to justify. And the slaves, drawing on a religion that was supposed to assure their compliance and docility, rejected the essence of slavery by projecting their own rights and values as human beings.”
Why study Nat Turner’s Rebellion? What makes this event historically/culturally significant?
Southampton County, Virginia August 1831 “This will be a very noted day in Virginia. At daylight this morning the Mayor of the City put into my hands a notice to the public, written by James Trezvant of Southampton County, stating that an insurrection of the slaves in that county had taken place, that several families had been massacred and that it would take a considerable military force to put them down.” Virginia Gov. John Floyd, August 23, 1831
Sources Newspapers Public Records Private letters The Confessions of Nat Turner