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Hist 110 American Civilization I Instructor: Dr. Donald R. Shaffer Upper Iowa University.

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Presentation on theme: "Hist 110 American Civilization I Instructor: Dr. Donald R. Shaffer Upper Iowa University."— Presentation transcript:

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2 Hist 110 American Civilization I Instructor: Dr. Donald R. Shaffer Upper Iowa University

3 Lecture 8 Rise of the Cotton South (1) Slavery in the United States was an endangered institution immediately following the American Revolution Low tobacco prices and revolutionary ideology led to making it easier in the Upper South for owners to free their slaves legally Only the fear of a race war, which many slaveholders believed to be the inevitable consequence of general emancipation, kept the institution alive Cotton It was the advent of widespread cotton cultivation that revitalized slavery by making it enormously profitable Cotton did not become an important crop until the 19 th century because it was difficult and expensive to process Sticky seeds imbedded in the fiber of short staple cotton could only be removed laboriously by hand Thomas Jefferson, himself a slaveholder, summed up the their dilemma best in 1820: “We have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him nor safely let him go”

4 Lecture 8 Rise of the Cotton South (2) Cotton Gin What caused the explosion in cotton cultivation was the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 by Eli Whitney The cotton gin mechanized the separating seeds from cotton fiber, vastly reducing costs and speeding processing This change made slaves and slavery much more valuable than before the invention of the cotton gin Realities of cotton cultivation Cotton was a hard crop on the soil, quickly exhausting it This fact and the growing demand for cotton in British and American textile mills led to the rapid spread of cotton plantations west Indeed, by the eve of the Civil War (see map opposite) one of the biggest concentrations of cotton plantations was in the Mississippi Valley

5 Lecture 8 The Internal Slave Trade Vast numbers of slaves were needed on cotton plantations With the end of American participation in the international slave trade in 1808 slaves could no longer be supplied legally from abroad The result was the development of an internal market, in which slaves were bought from slaveholders in the old slave states unsuited for cotton cultivation and sold to planters further southwest growing cotton The result was a massive forced migration of African Americans that shifted populations concentrations west Sometimes planters simply left the old slave states taking their slaves with them More often slaves were bought piecemeal by slave traders in the old slave states and transported to frontier plantations The result was often slave families being broken up, children being separated from their parents or husbands and wives being sold away from each other Images of the internal slave trade

6 There existed in the antebellum South two distinct planter cultures Eastern patrician An older planter culture based in the old slave states (Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas) Aristocratic and genteel in nature and distrustful of ordinary people and democracy, seeing hierarchy as natural Increasingly, they saw slavery not as a necessary evil, but a positive good for both slave and slaveholder Western cotton A newer planter elite grew up in the West in the decades before the Civil War They were market-driven entrepreneurs, more interested in building their wealth than showing it These planters pushed their overseers and slaves relentlessly to grow as much cotton as possible Lecture 8 Cultures of the Planter Elite Which picture represents which group of planters?

7 Lecture 8 Yeoman and Tenants Three quarters of white southern families owned no slaves Many of these yeoman lived a hardscrabble existence, struggling to make ends meet either as small landowners or as tenants They were proud though of their self- reliance, especially those yeoman who owned a bit of land They lived lives though shaped by the dominance of the planter elite over southern society Yeoman families followed the example of planters in their patriarchal system of family relations—with the oldest male (paterfamilias) firmly in charge They also suffered from the fact that the planter elite refused to pay taxes to support public education—creating a legacy of illiteracy and ignorance Yeoman family

8 The planter elite, in the era of rising democracy, found that it had to reckon with ordinary white Southerners at election time Many legislators owned slaves, but the very wealthiest planters held only about 10 percent of the seats and tended to be distrusted The antebellum South was a “Herrenvolk Democracy” in which political rights were widespread but limited to whites Still, while ordinary whites had to be appeased, with the presence of so many slaveholders among politicians, legislatures tended to adopt policies favorable to the slaveholding class Indeed, prior to the Civil War there was a constant tension between slaveholders and non-slaveholders in most southern states Lecture 8 Herrenvolk Democracy Events such as 1831 Nat Turner’s Rebellion and the fear of further slave revolts united southern whites in their Herrenvolk Democracy

9 Lecture 8 Religion and Black Culture Slaves developed their own culture in the decades before the Civil War which was a complex blend of Euro-American and African influences Slave religion exemplified this cultural mixture Many slaves were converted to evangelical Protestantism during the 2 nd Great Awakening Christianity appealed to slaves because of its emphasis on the equality of human beings before God Old Testament figures like Moses also inspired the slaves to hope for their own liberation as a people African-American religiosity Even as they adopted the religion of their owners, the slaves brought their own more emotional style of worship to it, leaving a permanent influence on evangelical Protestantism in America Black preacher addressing a group of slaves—note the presence of the slave owner and his wife (why are they there?)

10 Lecture 8 The Family and Black Culture Family was another important institution of slave culture, reflecting both Euro-American and African influences For example, slaves followed the African practice of not marrying first cousins, unlike their owners among whom first cousin marriages were common Family was an important in perpetuating slave culture, teaching the young how to cope with the dehumanizing aspects of bondage Slaves families were constantly under pressures by slaveholders undermining parental authority, the sexual exploitation of slave women, but especially by families being broken up by sale, inheritance, renting, etc Fictive kin: slaves adapted to the pressures through granting family status and roles to unrelated slaves Extended slave family in South Carolina around the time of the Civil War

11 Lecture 8 Coercion and Resistance (1) Slavery was ultimately a way of organizing labor While theoretically the power of slaveholders over the slaves was absolute in reality it was limited by practical considerations For example, in South Carolina’s rice plantations owners found it advantageous to give their slaves considerable control over their own work as long as daily work quotas were achieved The gang labor system used in cotton plantations required the constant threat of the lash to operate Slaveholders also had to deal with the threat of passive and active resistance Slaves feigned illness, slowed down the pace of work as much as they cold get away with, stole or destroyed property, poisoned their owner’s food, etc There was also the constant possibility of slave revolt Illustration presenting slavery as a benign institution in which the slaves were happy and content

12 Lecture 8 Coercion and Resistance (2) Slave revolts were uncommon Most slave revolts, with the exception of Nat Turner’s rebellion, were uncovered before they started Yet it was the fear of them that was the key, especially the successful slave revolt that created Haiti in the 1790s In the short run it led to repression, in long run it made slaveholders more careful in how they treated their slaves Slaves trying to escape slavery were more common The slaves with the best chance of escaping slavery lived in the Upper South and near the Florida border when it still belonged to the Spanish The Underground Railroad really did exist, but most slaves had to escape without its assistance and most were recaptured Slaves that were recaptured were punished, but again the threat made slaveholders act more carefully Photograph of scars from whippings on a slaves back

13 Lecture 8 Free Blacks Not every African American before the Civil War was a slave Just under 500,000 African Americans were free on the eve of the Civil War About half of those lived in the North, and the rest lived in the South In the North free blacks were marginalized, in most states not allowed to vote and relegated to menial employment In the South, most free blacks in the Lower South lived in cities, in the Upper South most free blacks could be found in the countryside One historian has described them as “slaves without masters” Meaning they live very restricted lives always facing the threat of re- enslavement Free black man being expelled from a northern railway car before the Civil War


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