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The Old South 1815-1860. White Society in the Old South  The planters  Planters comprised just 4 percent of the South’s adult white male population.

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Presentation on theme: "The Old South 1815-1860. White Society in the Old South  The planters  Planters comprised just 4 percent of the South’s adult white male population."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Old South 1815-1860

2 White Society in the Old South  The planters  Planters comprised just 4 percent of the South’s adult white male population. This small but powerful group owned more than half of all the slaves and harvested most of the cotton and tobacco.  Planters were a wealthy elite who dominated southern economic and social life. The image of the paternalistic (fatherly) planter who lived in a white-columned mansion came to embody a distinctive southern way of life that valued tradition, honor, and genteel manners.

3 White Society in the Old South  Yeoman farmers  The majority of white families in the antebellum South were independent yeoman farmers who owned few, if any, slaves.  Although the South’s numerical majority, yeoman farmers did not set the region’s political and social tone. Instead, they deferred to the large planters since many aspired to become large landowners themselves.  Poor whites  As many as 25 to 40 percent of southerners were unskilled laborers who owned no land and no slaves. These “poor whites” often lived in the backwoods where they scratched out a meager living doing odd jobs.  Although they did not own slaves and frequently resented the aristocratic planters, poor whites nonetheless supported the South’s biracial social structure. The existence of slavery enabled even the most impoverished white to feel superior to black people. Poor white, yeoman farmers, and planters all shared a sense of white supremacy that softened class distinctions.

4 Key Facts About Slavery  The African slave trade was outlawed in 1808. However, as the cotton economy expanded so did the slave population. In the half century before the Civil War, the number of slaves increased from 1.2 million to just under 4 million. Most of this increase was due to the natural population increase of American-born slaves.  The spread of cotton plantations into the Deep South precipitated a major change in the movement and distribution of slavery. In 1790, planters in Virginia and Maryland owned 56 percent of all American slaves. During the 1800s, tobacco-depleted Chesapeake planters sold as many as 700,000 slaves to planters in a vast cotton belt that extended from western Georgia to eastern Texas. By 1860, just 15 percent of all slaves lived in Virginia and Maryland while over half lived in the Deep South.  The domestic slave trade uprooted countless families. Despite forced separations and harsh living conditions, slaves maintained strong kinship networks while creating a separate African American culture. Religion played a particularly important role. For example, spiritual songs enabled slaves to express their sorrows, joys, and hopes for a better life.

5 Key Facts About Slavery  With the exception of the Nat Turner insurrection in 1831, vigilant planters successfully suppressed slave rebellions. Instead of rebelling, a majority of slaves did not rebel or run away. Slaves retaliated against their masters by slowing the pace of work, damaging equipment, and feigning illness.  All blacks were not slaves. By 1860, as many as 250,000 free blacks lived in the South. Many of these “free persons of color” were the descendants of men and women who had been freed by idealistic owners following the Revolutionary War. Others successfully purchased their freedom. Free blacks occupied a precarious position in southern society. For example, they were often subject to discriminatory laws that denied them property rights and forbade them from working in certain professions, and testifying against whites in court.

6 Nat Turner’s slave insurrection: a. resulted in the death of seven whites and at least five blacks. b. was betrayed by Jehu Jones, a free black man. c. was the largest in the country. d. never passed the planning stage.

7 Changing Attitudes Towards Slavery in the South  Slavery is a “necessary evil”  During the late 1700s spokesmen for the South’s “peculiar institution” apologized for slavery as a “necessary evil” inherited from the past.  Leading southern statesmen such as Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe advocated a policy of gradually emancipating slaves while at the same time compensating their owners.  Slavery as a “positive good”  During the early 1830s slaveholders in the South worked out a systematic proslavery argument to justify their “peculiar institution.” First expressed by John C. Calhoun, the “positive good” argument dominated southern thought until the Civil War.  Proslavery advocates insisted that citations in the Bible condoned slavery. They also used “scientific” theories of their day to create a false image of blacks as inferior people who required paternal white guardianship. And finally, planters warned that abolition would ruin the South’s economy and destroy its distinctive way of life.

8 The Crusade Against Slavery 1815-1860

9 The American Colonization Society  The American Colonization Society was founded in 1817 and soon became the dominant antislavery organization of the 1820s. The ACS advocated the gradual abolition of slavery combined with the goal of returning freed slaves to Africa.  Although Society members opposed slavery, many were openly racist. Leaders of the ACS did not believe that free blacks could be integrated into American society. For example, Henry Clay argued that since an “unconquerable prejudice” would prevent free blacks from assimilating into white society, it would be better for them to emigrate to Africa.  The ACS was instrumental in founding the colony of Liberia on the west coast of Africa. However, the Society’s gradual approach could never resolve the problem of slavery. By 1860, the Society helped approximately 12,000 free blacks migrate to Liberia. At that time there were about 4 million slaves in the South.

10 The efforts of the American Colonization Society resulted in the creation of the African nation of: a. Ethiopia b. Nigera c. Liberia d. Kenya

11 Key Quote – William Lloyd Garrison’s “I will be heard” Declaration  The setting  William Lloyd Garrison began his career as a newspaper editor working with abolitionist Benjamin Lundy in Baltimore. Like Lundy, Garrison originally supported the American Colonization Society’s gradual approach to ending slavery.  Garrison soon became convinced that the ACS’s gradual approach would never end the “peculiar institution.” His contact with slavery in Baltimore transformed him into a radical abolitionist who believed that slavery was a cruel, brutal, and sinful institution that should be immediately abolished.  As Garrison’s views became more militant, he resolved to move to Boston and begin his own antislavery newspaper. On January 1, 1831 the 26-year-old Garrison began to publish The Liberator.

12 Key Quote – William Lloyd Garrison’s “I will be heard” Declaration  The quote  “Let Southern oppressors tremble…I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement…I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice…I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation – I will not excuse – I will not retreat a single inch – AND I WILL BE HEARD!”  Significance  The Liberator was actually a small newspaper with a low circulation. In its first year, the four-page weekly had only six subscribers. Its maximum circulation was never more than about 5,000.  The Liberator’s modest circulation belied (misrepresented) its significance. Garrison’s uncompromising call for immediate and uncompensated emancipation marked the beginning of radical movement to abolish slavery and transform American society. Unlike the American Colonization Society, Garrison believed that blacks and whites could live together as equals. The Liberator boldly called for biracial cooperation in the antislavery movement.  Garrison and The Liberator also played a key role in founding the American Anti-Slavery Society. Organized in 1833, the Society grew rapidly across the North. Within just five years, it claimed to have 250,000 members and 1,350 local affiliates.

13 The Abolitionist Movement Splinters  The American Anti-Slavery Society was radical, uncompromising and intensely moralistic. Garrison forcefully argued that one did not ask sinners to gradually stop sinning. He believed that slavery was a sin and that slave owners were sinners who should repent and immediately free their bondspeople.  The leaders of the American Anti-Slavery Society were predominantly religious middle-class men and women. At first they were united by their unyielding opposition to slavery. However, in 1840 two divisive issues split the organization into rival factions.  First, Garrison believed that the American Anti-Slavery Society should fully endorse women’s rights. For example, he insisted that the Grimké sisters and other feminists had a right to play an important public role in the abolitionist movement. Moderate members disagreed, arguing that women’s rights was a secondary issue that should not be allowed to distract the organization from its primary goal of abolishing slavery.  Second, Garrison opposed political action arguing that the abolitionists should rely upon moral persuasion to promote change. The moderate pragmatic (practical) majority viewed Garrison as an impractical fanatic. The politically-minded abolitionists founded the Liberty Party in 1840 and backed the Free Soil Party in 1848.


15 Frederick Douglass  Frederick Douglass was America’s foremost black abolitionist. Born a slave in Maryland, Douglass escaped from bondage in 1838 when he was just twenty-one.  Recruited by William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass became a lecturer for the American Anti-Slavery Society. Douglass was a gifted orator who enthralled his audiences with his commanding personal presence and authentic stories about the horrors of slavery. For example, he told a spellbound audience in Massachusetts, “I appear before the immense assembly this evening as a thief and a robber. I stole this head, these limbs, this body from my master, and ran off with them.”  Douglass was also a prolific (very productive) writer. In 1845 he published his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, which described his life on a Maryland plantation, brutal fight with a slave driver, and dramatic escape to the North. In 1847, he founded the Northern Star, an influential antislavery newspaper for blacks.  Douglass was a charismatic rhetorician. His speeches and writings played an important role in persuading a growing number of Northerners that slavery was evil and that its further spread into the western lands should be halted.

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