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Teaching Slavery Beyond the Textbook

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1 Teaching Slavery Beyond the Textbook
Dr. Yohuru Williams, Fairfield University

2 Correlating with your CT Content Standards
K-4 CT Standards Content Standard 1: Historical Thinking Students will develop historical thinking skills, including chronological thinking and recognizing change over time; contextualizing, comprehending and analyzing historical literature; researching historical sources; understanding the concept of historical causation; understanding competing narratives and interpretation; and constructing narratives and interpretation. gather historical data from multiple sources engage in reading challenging primary and secondary historical source materials, some of which is contradictory and requires questioning of validity describe sources of historical information identify the main idea in a source of historical information identify ways different cultures record their histories, compare past and present situations and events, and present findings in appropriate oral, written and visual ways create timelines which sequence events and peoples, using days, weeks, months, years, decades and centuries write short narratives and statements of historical ideas and create other appropriate presentations from investigations of source materials

3 Standard 1 – Content Knowledge
Knowledge of concepts and information from history and social studies is necessary to promote understanding of our nation and our world. 1.1 – Demonstrate an understanding of significant events and themes in United States history. Grade 8 Describe examples of conflicts that have been resolved through compromise (compromises over slavery, social reforms). High School Describe the forces of migration within the United States (e.g., westward movement, African-American Diaspora, urbanization, suburbanization). Trace the evolving nature of citizens’ rights (e.g., Alien and Sedition Acts, civil rights laws, women’s suffrage/rights). Assess the influence of geography on the development of the United States (e.g., settlement patterns, natural disasters, resources). Compare and contrast various American beliefs, values and political ideologies (e.g., political parties, nativism, Manifest Destiny).

4 Methods we will cover today . . .
ESP & Historiography Historical Fingerprinting The Intersection

5 Historiography

6 The Historical Dialectic: History as a debate
“Dialectic” is a Greek word that means “conversation.” Philosophers use the term to describe the way thinkers look for truth by exchanging differing points of view. Historians typically utilize such comparisons of opposites to shape arguments about the past. Significantly, the dialectic or conversation between historians is what most distinguishes what historian Zachary M. Schrag calls, a “mere recitation of facts from interpretive claims about the past.”

7 The Historical Dialectic
In the next hour or so I would like to explore some of the dialectics used by historians as outline by Professor Schrag as means of showing students how narratives are constructed and how their study of the past has real value in the present and for the future.

8 The Historical Dialectic
Schrag postulates, “The value of dialectics are that they force a critical perspective. Comparing a source from 1919 to one from 1936 by definition requires the historian to see things in a way that the creator of the 1919 source could not. Comparing the viewpoints of two historical actors demands a perspective distinct from those of either actor. The magic of historical scholarship is that the historian can know more about an event than did the participants themselves. What power!”

9 Opposing forces According to Schrag, “One common type of comparison juxtaposes the words and deeds of two or more actors or groups of actors who disagreed about some point.” Schrag provides a useful example of opposing forces at work using historian Alan Taylor’s Liberty Men and the Great Proprietors. Taylor argues that the tensions that developed in the new Republic in the years after the Revolution, revolved around two competing interests. On one side were the “gentlemen of property and standing” who sought to exercise control over the new nation by concentrating wealth and power in the hands of the few. Their challengers were the small yeoman farmers, who sought a more equitable distribution of land ownership and power.

10 Opposing forces Schrag further notes, “Another common use of the opposing-forces comparison is in the history of technology. Historians often list the pros and cons of two competing technologies or systems, to explain why people chose one over the other. Sacks of grain or grain elevators, wooden airplanes or metal airplanes, and septic tanks or sewer systems—all were debates demanding resolution.”

11 Opposing forces For Schrag, “A thesis concerning two opposing forces should explain why people disagreed about an issue and, ideally, how they resolved their disagreement. Taylor, of example, argues that, faced with the conflict between agrarians and elites, “Jeffersonian politicians reframed political ideology in a manner that permitted compromise legislation and defused the confrontation.” Keep in mind that that resolution may have been amicable—compromise or persuasion—or coercive, with one side driven into bankruptcy, chased out of office, or defeated in the courts or on the battlefield.

12 Internal Contradictions
According to Schrag “Not all debates take place between opposing forces. Just as psychologists portray people’s minds as soups of conflicting impulses, historians have traced ways in which people have found themselves torn between contradictory goals.”

13 Internal Contradictions
Schrag notes that in his book In the Shadow of the Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare in America (1996), historian Michael Katz identifies four primary goals of U.S. social welfare policy since its inception including: “relief of misery, preservation of social order and discipline, [the] regulation of the labor market [and] political mobilization . . .” Katz then goes on to demonstrate the internal contradictions in these aims noting that they “have always been inconsistent with each other,” and how “the unresolved tensions between them have undercut virtually all attempts to formulate coherent welfare policy.” Michael B. Katz, In the Shadow of the Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare in America (New York: Basic Books, 1996), xi.

14 Internal Contradictions
In his well documented study American Slavery, American Freedom, historian Edmund Morgan purports to deal with one of these internal contradictions—American Slavery. As he conceptualized the problem how could a people “have developed the dedication to human liberty and dignity exhibited by the leaders of the American Revolution and at the same time have developed and maintained a system of labor that denied human liberty and dignity every hour of the day.” Edmund Sears Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (New York: Norton, 1975), 5.

15 The debate over slavery
Morgan’s work fits into a much larger historiography or debate over the origins of slavery in the Chesapeake. The following unit is designed to help you students uncover this dialectic and come to their own conclusions about how slavery emerged.

16 Historiography at work: The Origins of Slavery in the English Colonies
Oscar Handlin and Mary Handlin, "Origins of the Southern Labor System," William and Mary Quarterly 7 (1950), Carl N. Degler, "Slavery and the Genesis of American Race Prejudice," Comparative Studies in Society and History 2 (1959), Winthrop Jordan, White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, , chapter 2. Edmund Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom, pp & ch.15. Russell Menard, "From Servants to Slaves: The Transformation of the Chesapeake Labor System," Southern Studies 16 (1977)

17 "Did American freedom rest upon American slavery?"
This contradiction of American Slavery did not escape the notice of the Founding Fathers contemporaries. “How is it” observed Samuel Johnson, “that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?” Samuel Johnson, “Taxation Not Tyranny,” in The Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson (1775; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977), 10:454.

18 Paradox Defined How could the founding fathers who envisioned a nation where “all men are created equal” also hold other human beings in bondage and preserve the concept of slavery? This is a question that has plagued historians for decades.

19 The Paradox of American Slavery
As Lawrence Goldstone provocatively makes clear in Dark Bargain, “to a significant and disquieting degree, America’s most sacred document was molded and shaped by the most notorious institution in its history.”

20 What made the founding fathers experts on Liberty?
The great paradox of the Revolution was slavery. The Founders were aware of this. They spoke often about it, limited its extension into new territories, but paradoxically ensured its survival under the new Constitution. They also advocated for its suppression at some future date. Article 1 section 9 for instance allowed for the continuation of the slave trade for 20 years after the ratification of the new Constitution.

21 The Paradox of American Slavery
Not everyone was comfortable with this. No great admirer of slavery Benjamin Franklin, for instance became president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of Free Negros Unlawfully Held in Bondage. George Washington, in the meantime, in his will provided for the emancipation of his manservant William Lee upon his death. He further provided that his other slaves would be freed upon Martha’s death. John Adams, who was morally opposed to slavery, nevertheless shared his fear in a letter to two Quaker abolitionists how emancipation—and agitation for it—might result in violence and disorder. All three men at expressed support for African colonization during their lives.

22 The Paradox of American Slavery
And again to Jefferson, who writes in 1809 that he has come to believe that black Africans "are on a par with ourselves" and that this awareness among citizens will hasten "the day of their relief." Someday. How one judges these men is problematic; they have been lauded and condemned for their words here.

23 Imperfect gods? The Slaves also exercised agency. Despite the provision in her husband’s will, Martha Washington chose to free her slaves two years later.  According to Abigail Adams this was because Martha feared that one of the slaves might be induced to hasten their freedom by harming her. As historian Fritz Hirschfield explains, despite their wishes neither George nor Martha had the power to free the dower slaves because they were held in trust by the Custis estate.   (Fritz Hirschfield, George Washington and Slavery, University of Missouri Press, Columbia.1997, 214)

24 Dark Bargain created a fatal defect
But in failing to address the issue of slavery fully in the hopes of securing a new Constitution, the founders allowed a deadly infection to continue to breed that would eventually result in the Civil War.

25 A Crime Scene on a Global Scale
Adjusting your tool kit to deal with a large crime scene What you will need Some historiography A variety of primary sources including charts and graphs Images Some imagination

26 Showing your students the sausage being made . . .
What you will accomplish Showing your students how narratives are constructed and how history (a patterned coherent account of the past based on available evidence and intended to be true) works.

27 Lack of Freedom not Unusual
Oscar and Mary Handlin wrote their influential article in What if any can the time period in which an article or book is written tell us about the interpretation offered by the historian? Oscar Handlin and Mary Handlin, "Origins of the Southern Labor System," William and Mary Quarterly 7 (1950),

28 Broad Historigaphical Trends

29 The Consensus School Responding to Cold War politics, and the ideas of containment, the nuclear family emerged. A typical 1950s family was one in which the female stayed at home, and the male was the head of the household--the breadwinner. It was a period of economic boom. America's role as a superpower with its many available resources, made up for the previous decade of decreased production. Housewives, with saved-up money, felt the need to spend. What had been consumer durables became accessories. Now the lady of the house could have Tupperware to match her curtains. And the man of the house could match the color of his car to the paint of his garage. Source: A description of the 1950’s from

30 The Consensus School Everyone seemed to share in America's prosperity. Suburban houses offered a piece of the good life: 2.5 children, a car in every garage and a chicken in every pot--all complete with a white picket fence. The 1959 International Exhibition in New York was a celebration of American Consumerism. A replica of an American Ranch Style house symbolized the advanced life that a democracy led--it also sparked the famous Kitchen debate between Kruschev and Nixon. Source: A description of the 1950’s from

31 The New Left History from below is a form of historical narrative that emerged as a result of the Annales School. It became popular in the 1960s. A form of social history, studies in this area tend to focus on the experiences and perspectives of ordinary individuals as well as individuals and regions that were not previously considered historically significant. This includes the working class, women and African Americans and regions of the world such as Africa and India.

32 White Over Black: The Simultaneous Invention of Slavery and Racism
“Englishmen found the natives of Africa very different from themselves. Negroes looked different; their religion was un-Christian; their manner of living was anything but English; they seemed to be a particularly libidinous sort of people. All these clusters of perceptions were related to each other, though they may he spread apart for inspection, and they were related also to circumstances of contact in Africa, to previously accumulated traditions concerning that strange and distant continent, and to certain special qualities of English society on the eve of its expansion into the New World. The most arresting characteristic of the newly discovered African was his color.” Winthrop D. Jordan, White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro , (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books Inc., 1968).

33 A framework of discrimination
Prejudice against men of color, whether free or un-free, preceded the legal establishment of slavery in the 1660s, and it was this “framework of discrimination,” (Degler pg. 52) that is referred to as the leading cause behind the enslavement of African Americans specifically. Carl Degler, Neither Black Nor White: Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United States, (New York: MacMillan,1971).

34 Romantic Racialism The Black Image in the White Mind
George M. Fredrickson, The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-American Character and Destiny, (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1987).

35 The paradox of American Freedom
In American Slavery and Freedom Edmund Morgan moved the origins-of-slavery debate away from sectional differences and deep roots, relocating it in relation to the undoubted fact that late-eighteenth-century Virginia gave America its foremost exemplars of liberty. “The link between what they proclaimed and how they lived was not, he suggests, mere happenstance or a regrettable but minor contradiction. It was fundamental.” Edmund S. Morgan American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia, (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1975).

36 Plato and the Founding Fathers
1]The visible world is what surrounds us: what we see, what we hear, what we experience; this visible world is a world of change and uncertainty. 2]The intelligible world is made up of the unchanging products of human reason: anything arising from reason alone, such as abstract definitions or mathematics, makes up this intelligible world, which is the world of reality. The intelligible world contains the eternal "Forms" (in Greek, idea ) of things.

37 The Ancestry of Inferiority
In an article entitled, The Ancestry of Inferiority ( ),which appeared in From Shades of Freedom: Racial Politics and Presumptions of the American Legal Process Leon Higginbotham explored whether black people faced legal inferiority and legal discrimination before slavery became codified. While agreeing that the earliest black Virginians were servants, he found evidence to indicate that their the legal status of blacks and whites diverged very rapidly. A. Leon Higginbotham. Shades of Freedom: Racial Politics and Presumptions of the American Legal Process. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).

38 Supply and demand Russell Menard, "From Servants to Slaves: The Transformation of the Chesapeake Labor System," Southern Studies 16 (1977)

39 Primary Sources

40 Turning a debate into a narrative

41 The Origins of Slavery in Virginia
Here is a textbook account of the origins of slavery in the Chesapeake. See if you can find the various interpretations offered by historians we have discussed in the narrative. “The English did not immediately enslave the Native Americans when they arrived at Jamestown, nor did they bring slaves from Africa in the first years. A Dutch ship is often credited with bringing the first slaves to Virginia, in 1619 (though there is some debate about the possibility that blacks arrived earlier). The concept of slavery was not a new one to the English.”

42 The Origins of Slavery in Virginia
“The Portuguese had been importing slaves from Africa for over a century, and the Spanish had enslaved the Indians in Central and South America to work the mines and to grow crops. However, the colony lacked a legal framework for slavery until 40 years after that date, and the great increase in the slave population did not start until 1700.”

43 The Origins of Slavery in Virginia
“As plantation agriculture spread up the Potomac River, the demand for field workers exceeded the supply of people in the colonies and England willing to do such work. The economic solution was to obtain laborers from another source - slaves from Africa, imported through the Caribbean islands as well as directly from that continent.”

44 The Origins of Slavery in Virginia
“In the 1660's, the demand for labor in Virginia exceeded the supply of indentured servants from England after the end of the civil war there. The Virginia colony revised its laws in that decade to establish that blacks could be kept in slavery permanently, generation after generation. An influx of slaves was spurred at the same time by a drop in the value of sugar grown on Caribbean islands, causing the planters there to sell their "property" to the tobacco farmers in Virginia.”

45 The Origins of Slavery in Virginia
There is a continuing debate regarding whether racism against blacks preceded the adoption of a legal system supporting lifetime bondage, or whether the practice of slavery triggered the colonists' racist attitudes. Blacks were not automatically slaves in the early colonial days. Some held property, married, and raised families outside the institution of slavery.

46 The Origins of Slavery in Virginia
In the 1660's, however, the government of the colony (not the officials in London...) established the legal framework for perpetual servitude based on color. "Every year between 1667 and 1672 the General assembly enacted legislation which increasingly defined a Virginian's status by skin color. Similar laws followed in 1680, 1682, and By the final decade of the seventeenth century, those characteristics most associated with the plantation society of the eighteenth century were already evident.“ Source: The Origins of Slavery in Virginia,

47 Can you identify Oscar and Mary Handlin’s influence on this narrative. How about Carl Degler? George Frederickson and Russell Menard?

48 Bibliography - Handlin, Oscar and Mary F., "Origins of the Southern Labor System," William and Mary Quarterly, April 1950, pp - Morgan, Edmund S., "Toward Slavery," American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia - Vaughan, Alden T., "The Origins Debate: Slavery and Racism in Seventeenth-Century Virginia," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 97 (1989), pp - Walsh, Lorena S., "The Chesapeake Slave Trade: Regional Patterns, African Origins, and Some Implications," William and Mary Quarterly, January 2001

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