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11: The South and Slavery, 1790s—1850s

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1 11: The South and Slavery, 1790s—1850s

2 Frederick Douglass,

3 “You cannot outlaw one part of the people without endangering the rights and liberties of all people. You cannot put a chain on the ankle of the bondsman without finding the other end of it about your own necks.” Frederick Douglass “This young boy [Nat Turner], by the time he was eight or nine years old, had memorized the entire Bible.” Stephen B. Oates “The mistress of a plantation was the most complete slave on it.” Susan Dabney Smedes “But southern court records, newspapers, plantation diaries, and slave memoirs reveal that sadistic slave punishments were frequent and harsh.” [text]


5 “New Orleans from the Lower Cotton Press, 1852”

6 Mobile Bay, Alabama 1842

7 Introduction Brer Rabbit and Brer Wolf
Frog and scorpion, boiled frog syndrome Maroon colonies, Los Folkloristas song 40% of free blacks were mulattos compared to 10% of slaves! drapetomania - “the disease causing Negroes to run away” Life expectancy: black / 25.5 white (1850) Gary Wills: “the slave power” politically

8 Chapter Review Questions
How did cotton production after 1793 transform the social and political history of the South? How did the rest of the nation/world benefit? What were the two key institutions of the African American slave community? How did they function, and what beliefs did they express? The circumstances of three very different groups—poor whites, educated and property-owning American Indians, and free African Americans—put them outside the dominant southern equation of white equals free and black equals slave. Analyze the difficulty each group encountered in the slave-owning South. Who were the yeoman farmers? What was their interest in slavery? Southern slaveholders claimed that their paternalism justified their ownership of slaves, but paternalism implied obligations as well as privileges. How well do you think slaveholders lived up to their paternalistic obligations? How did slave owners justify slavery? How did their defense change over time?

9 3 interpretive schools of the “peculiar institution”
1. Slavery as a relatively humane and reasonable institution helping childlike slaves 2. Slavery as a harsh and cruel system of oppressive exploitation 3. Viewed from the perspective of the slaves: brutal treatment but survived with sense of self-esteem, community and culture The first two interpretations emphasized workaday interactions, the 2nd focused on life in the slave quarters from sunup to sundown

10 Rationalizations – positive good to necessary evil. . .
Biblical Curse of Canaan Old and New Testament Historical Egypt, Greece, Rome Legal Constitution Missouri Compromise Scientific Environmental factors Created separately [polygenesis] Allston: “The educated master is the Negro’s best friend upon earth.” George Fitzhugh: “the Negro is but a grown child and must be governed as a child.”

11 Chronology 1787 Constitution with pro-slavery sections
1790s Haiti revolution 1793 Eli Whitney invents cotton gin 1800 Gabriel Prosser conspiracy in VA 1808 External slave trade prohibited by Congress 1820 South is world’s largest cotton producer 1822 Denmark Vesey’s conspiracy in SC 1830s Southern justification from “necessary evil” to “positive good” Brazilian slave revolts 1831 Nat Turner revolt in VA [Joseph Travis, 55 dead] William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator 1845 Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass 1850s Cotton boom 1851 Indiana’s constitution excludes free blacks 1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom’s Cabin 1850s Harriet Tubman, 19 trips with 300 slaves 1860 Cotton production and prices peak

12 William Lloyd Garrison, 1805 - 1879


14 Bibliography John Blasingame, The Slave Community (1979) Linda Brent, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman, Time on the Cross (1974) and Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery (1989) John Hope Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans (1947) Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household: Black and White women of the Old South (1988) Herbert Gutman, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, (1976) Ulrich Phillips, American Negro Slavery (1919) Kenneth Stampp, The Peculiar Institution (1956) Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)

15 A: Natchez Under-the-Hill
Natchez and Natchez Under-the-Hill were adjacent communities. Natchez was an elegant planter community. Natchez Under-the-Hill was a mixed community of rivermen, gamblers, Indians, and blacks that was a potential threat to racial control. Rumors of a slave insurrection plot led the planters to drive the gamblers and other undesirables away.

16 B: King Cotton and Southern Expansion


18 A tobacco plantation

19 The Cotton Gin and Southern Expansion
Eli Whitney’s and Catherine Greene’s cotton gin made cultivating short-staple cotton profitable, revolutionizing the Southern economy. After the War of 1812 Southerners expanded into Western Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, driving out the Indians who already lived there, A generation later they poured into Louisiana and Texas. Each surge of expansion ignited a speculative frenzy. Click on title to view Adobe Acrobat map.



22 The Expansion of the Slavery
Between 1790 and 1860, the slave population grew from 700,000 to four million. Click on title to view Adobe Acrobat map.



25 The Expansion of Cotton
The expansion of cotton was concentrated in the rich soil sections of the South known as the black belt Click on title to view Adobe Acrobat map.




29 Changing Attitudes toward Slavery
The growth of the cotton economy committed the South to slavery. In other parts of the nation, attitudes toward slavery were changing. Congress banned the slave trade in 1808 so the South relied on natural increase and the internal slave trade.

30 The Internal Slave Trade
Planter migration stimulated the slave trade. Slaves were gathered in pens before moving south by train or boat. On foot, slaves moved on land in coffles. The size of the slave trade made a mockery of Southern claims of benevolence. Refer to “Slave Coffles,” p. 312

31 A coffle of slaves sold west from South Carolina

32 The Economics of Slavery
Cotton helped finance northern industry and trade. Cotton and slavery tied up capital leaving the South lagging behind the North in urban population, industrialization, canals, and railroads. Cotton created a distinctive regional culture. Refer to “Cotton Exports as a Percentage of All Exports,” p. 313




36 The Precarious Slave Existence
The slaves’ first challenge was to survive because: they lived in one-room cabins with dirt floors and a few furnishings neither their food and clothing was adequate and were frequently supplemented by the slaves’ own efforts To survive, slaves learned how to avoid punishments and to flatter whites. Refer to “South Carolina Slave Houses,” p. 321

37 Slave Labor Some slaves worked as house servants.
Some slaves were skilled workers. Seventy-five percent of slaves worked as field hands, from sunup to sundown, performing the heavy labor needed for getting out a cotton crop. Not surprisingly, many suffered from poor health.


39 Sold “Down the River” The opening of western lands contributed to the instability of slave life. Many slaves were separated from their families by sale or migration and faced new hardships in the West. Refer to “Slave Sale,” p. 320

40 C: The African American Community

41 Building the African American Community
Slaves created a community where an indigenous culture developed, influencing all aspects of Southern life. Masters had to learn to live with the two key institutions of African American community life: the family and the church.

42 Slave Families Slave marriages were:
not recognized by law frequently not respected by masters a haven of love and intimacy for the slaves Parents gave children a supportive and protective kinship network. Slave families were often split up. Separated children drew upon supportive networks of family and friends.

43 Hermitage plantation slave cabins, Savannah, GA - each 2 rooms, bedroom & kitchen

44 “The Kitchen Ball at White Sulphur Springs” 1838 [after-hour slaves in VA]

45 African American Religion
Slaves were not permitted to practice African religions, though numerous survivals did work their way into the slaves’ folk culture. The first and second Great Awakenings introduced Christianity to many slaves. In the 1790s, African American churches began emerging. Whites hoped religion would make the slaves obedient. Slaves found a liberating message that strengthened their sense of community and offered them spiritual freedom. Refer to “Negro Burial,” p. 323

46 An 1860 slave burial “drawn from life” at the plantation of LA Gov
An 1860 slave burial “drawn from life” at the plantation of LA Gov. Tucker

47 Freedom and Resistance
Most slaves understood that they could not escape bondage. About 1,000 per year escaped, mostly from the upper South. Running away and hiding in the swamps or woods for about a week and then returning was more common. Refer to “Harriet Tubman,” p. 324

48 Slave Revolts A few slaves organized revolts.
Gabriel Prosser and Denmark Vesey organized large-scale conspiracies to attack whites in Richmond and Charleston that failed. Nat Turner led the most famous slave revolt in Southampton County, Virginia in 1831. Turner used religious imagery to lead slaves as they killed 55 whites. After Turner’s revolt, white southerners continually were reminded by the threat of slave insurrection. Refer to “Nat Turner,” p. 325

49 Nat Turner’s Rebellion 1831

50 The death of Captain Ferrer on the Amistad – July 1839

51 Free African Americans
By 1860, there were nearly 250,000 free African Americans, mainly working as tenants or farm laborers. In cities, free African American communities flourished but had a precarious position as their members lacked basic civil rights. Refer to “Badges,” p. 325

52 D: The White Majority

53 The Middle Class A commercial middle class of merchants, bankers, factors, and lawyers: arose to sell southern crops on the world market lived in cities that acted as shipping centers for agricultural goods

54 Yeomen Two-thirds of all southern whites lived in nonslaveholding families. Most yeomen were self-sufficient farmers. The strong sense of community was reinforced by close kin connections and bartering. Refer to “Yeomen Farms,” p. 327

55 Poor White People Between 30 to 50 percent of southern whites were landless. These poor whites lived a marginal existence as laborers and tenants. They engaged in complex and sometimes clandestine relations with slaves. Some yeomen hoped to acquire slaves themselves, but many were content with self sufficient non-market agriculture. Yeomen supported slavery because they believed that it brought them higher status. Refer to “Slaveholding and Class Structure,” p. 329

56 E: Planters

57 Small Slave Owners Most slaveholders owned only a few slaves.
Bad crops or high prices that curtailed or increased income affected slave-holding status Middle class professionals had an easier time climbing the ladder of success. Andrew Jackson used his legal and political position to rise in Southern society. Beginning as a landless prosecutor, Jackson died a plantation owner with over 200 slaves.

58 The Planter Elite Most slaveholders inherited their wealth but sought to expand it. As slavery spread so did the slave-owning elite The extraordinary concentration of wealth created an elite lifestyle. Most wealthy planters lived fairly isolated lives. Some planters cultivated an image of gracious living in the style of English aristocrats, but plantations were large enterprises that required much attention to a variety of tasks. Plantations aimed to be self-sufficient.

59 Robert Barnwell Rhett, Sr.’s home at Beaufort, S.C.

60 Charlestown, South Carolina 1838

61 “Friends and Amateurs in Music” by Thomas Middleton [between 1835 and 1840]

62 Masters and Mistresses
Following southern paternalism, in theory, each plantation was a family with the white master at its head. The plantation mistress ran her own household but did not challenge her husband’s authority. With slaves to do much of the labor conventionally assigned to women, it is no surprise that plantation mistresses accepted the system.

63 Coercion and Violence The slave system rested on coercion and violence. Slave women were vulnerable to sexual exploitation, though long-term relationships developed. Children of master-slave relationships seldom were publicly acknowledged and often remained in bondage Refer to “Gordon,” p. 332

64 Abolitionist engraving by Alex Lawson: “Barbarity committed on a free African, who was found on the ensuing morning, by the side of the road, dead!”

65 The slave deck of Wildfire, 1860

66 The death of Elijah P. Lovejoy in Alton, Illinois in 1837 after 4th printing press destroyed

67 F: The Defense of Slavery

68 Proslavery Arguments Slavery gave rise to various pro-slavery arguments including: in the post-Revolution era, Southern whites found justifications in the Bible or classical Greece and Rome the Constitution recognized slavery and that they were defending property rights by the 1830s arguments developed that slavery was good for the slaves. George Fitzhugh contrasted slavery, which created a community of interests, with the heartless individualism that ruled the lives of northern factory workers.

69 Southern Antislavery Arguments
Despite efforts to stifle debate, some southern whites objected to slavery. The growing cost of slaves meant that the percentage of slaveholders was declining and class divisions widening. Hinton Rowan Helper denounced the institution.

70 Free Black Jehu Jones’ Charleston hotel

71 Population Patterns in the South, 1850
In six southern states, slaves comprised over 40 percent of the total population. Click on title to view Adobe Acrobat map.

72 Theodore Dwight Weld, 1803 – 1895 – he attempted to radicalize Lane Theological Seminary to abolitionism – formed Oberline – married Angelina Emily Grimke in 1838

73 Sarah Moore Grimke, 1792 – she and her sister Angelina left Charleston home to live in Philadelphia as abolitionists

74 Arthur Tappan – he and brother Lewis were NY evangelicals committed to abolitionism – funded Anti-Slavery Society, Oberlin College, the Liberator

75 Wendell Phillips, 1811 – 1884 --- on the Boston Common

76 Lucretia Mott,

77 Susan B. Anthony [r], 1820 – 1906 and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1815 - 1902

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