Learning Objectives:

Discuss the similarities/differences between the North and South.
Discuss the lives of planters. Explain their value system and their attitudes toward slavery, blacks, and women.
Explain the conditions under which slaves lived their lives.
How did slaves learn to cope with their bondage?

African Societies

Map: Trade Routes in Africa

Slavery. An internal traffic in slaves had existed long before European contact.

Trading factories:

Europeans restricted to trading posts on the coast.

Europeans did not venture far inland

Strength of African military groups

Death of Europeans from African diseases [reverse of pattern with Indians]

Crash Course #13: Slavery

Africans in America (PBS)
See my Website Spotlight blog post

Rise and Fall of Jim Crow (PBS)
See my Website Spotlight blog post

African American Christianity (National Humanities Center)

Enslavement (National Humanities Center)

Check out this map on where slaves came from and to where they were sold:

North American slave trade

Slavery and sugar shifted focus of world economy from Asia and the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.
Being black did not initially mean being a slave.
By the 1670s, mainland colonists imported large numbers of Africans
Only a few Quakers had any moral problem with using slaves.
Slave trade made many merchants wealthy.

The middle passage: voyage from Africa to America.

Amazing Grace

In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience
See my Website Spotlight blog post

Captive Passage (Mariner's Museum)
See my Website Spotlight blog post

Slavery in the South

By 1720, Africans were 20% of overall population.
Autobiography of Olaudah Equiano gives details of slave life.
Relationship between the large number of slaves in South Carolina and the survival of African culture.

Gospel According to Gullah (Los Angeles Times)

New Testament Translated into the Gullah language.

Slavery in the north

North had fewer slaves (personal servants; dock workers)
In some cities, slaves 10 % of population.
Low northern slave population accentuated differences with South

Description of the South

Old South or Antebellum South (before the Civil War) (1800-1860)

North grew and changed

South just grew
  • Remained a rural, agrarian society
  • Thin population distribution
  • Few cities
  • Small number of factories

Rise of the Cotton South

Slave concentrations 1820

Slave concentrations 1860.

Several factors increased the growth of slave–supplied cotton plantations:

1. Cotton gin [before gin:10 hours for 1 pound; after: 1000 pounds/day]

Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin (Africans in America)

Eli Whitney (PBS)

2. Short–staple cotton

3. English and northern U.S. textile factories need for cotton

Southern society

Remember: Some 75% of white southern families owned NO slaves at all.
But the slave society influenced all aspects of southern culture.
Planters. Most planters owned fewer than 10 slaves. Big planters set the tone for southern society.

Planter paternalism

Life on a plantation (Slavery and the Making of America)

A Year in the Life: Pages from a Plantation Account Book (Slavery and the Making of America)

Controversy Over Mascots at Ole Miss (New York Times)

Men treated both women and slaves in a domineering manner
Racism in the master–slave relationship
Sexism in the male–female relationship

Women raised to be wife, mother, and subordinate companion to men
Wives helped oversee the plantation household

Wives had to tolerate husbands' sexual infidelities with female slaves

Check out this diary entry from a woman slaveholder (New York Times)

Black codes

Slaveholders saw free blacks as potential instigators of rebellion
Southern states wanted free blacks to move away to the North

Black codes regulated free blacks who remained in the South

Black codes required
  • Black skilled laborers to be licensed
  • Banned blacks form specific jobs (such as river boat captains)
  • Forbade blacks to assemble in public
  • Prohibited teaching blacks to read and write

Slave life

Food generally adequate, but plain and monotonous
Slaves owned few clothes and lived in small, one–room cabins

Slave quarters on St. Georges Island

Slaves worth more healthy than sick
Women as child bearers were particularly valuable to owner

Slaves treated as property:
Pledged for a debt
Gambled away in a card game

White crimes against slaves went unpunished
Slaves could not testify against whites

Enslavement (The Making of African-American Identity, National Humanities Center)

Slave work routine

The Varieties of Slave Labor (National Humanities Center)

1. House slaves

2. Field slaves
Most field slaves worked in the gang system
White overseer: compensated on how much he produced
Black slave drivers: foremen to keep down dissension

3. Some slaves worked the task system
In urban settings and on some rice plantations
Assigned daily tasks to complete at their own pace
Remainder of the time was their own

4. Slave hire system
Some skilled slaves were able to hire themselves out
They could keep most of their wages
Often used proceeds to purchase their freedom

Slave religion

The Secret Religion of the Slaves (Albert Raboteau, Christianity Today)

Slave Religion (Slavery and the Making of America)

Religion of the South and Slavery (National Humanities Center)

Most white southerners were religious
Most believed they should help slaves become Christians
[I wonder how prevalent Islam was among slaves.]

But they did so on their own terms
Whites used religion as a form of control:
God commanded slaves to serve and obey their masters

Slaves felt there must be a real Bible somewhere
One not written by their white owners

Many whites unwilling to accept slaves as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Christianity helped slaves cope with bondage
Slaves used religion as a refuge
Inner sense of personal worth and dignity
Slaves hoped for deliverance from bondage
Surely in heaven but hopefully in this lifetime

Slave family life

How Slavery Affected African American Families (National Humanities Center)

Slaves tried to be monogamous
Slave marriages had no legal basis
Slaves still had marriage ceremonies
Vows were changed to "till death or distance do us part"

Family was central to slave life
Worst fear was family separation by sale
At any moment, the master could
a. Sell a slave husband or wife
b. Die in debt, forcing a division of his property
c. Give a slave child away as a wedding present

Husbands tried to provide for their wife and children
Could not protect the females from sexual exploitation by the master

Sorrow Songs

Slave attitudes toward whites

Most slaves suspicious of white motives
Slaves hated their oppression
Whites stereotyped slaves as docile Sambos

To keep from being whipped
Slaves learned to act subservient
Slaves spoke respectfully to their masters

Slave resistance

Slave Resistance (National Humanities Center)

Few violent rebellions
Whites had firepower, slave patrols, militia, and federal troops

Slaves tried to preserve mental independence and self–respect

The Trickster in African American Literature (National Humanities Center)

Coping mechanisms
  • Trickster tales
  • Nonviolent forms of resistance
  • Stealing food
  • Temporarily running away
  • Slacking off at work

Nat Turner slave rebellion in Virginia (1831)

Nat Turner

Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (video)

Nat Turner (Encyclopedia of Virginia)
[slavery modulr]

Nat Turner's Rebellion (On This Day, Finding Dulcinea)

Nat Turner's Rebellion (Africans in America)

Turner an educated black lay preacher
Key slave rebellion—a violent one
Caused an intense white reaction in the south

"The Confessions of Nat Turner" (Africans in America)

Virginia legislature slavery debate (1832)

White advocates of gradual abolition of slavery forced a debate
Arguing that slavery was injurious to Virginia's modernization
Motion favoring abolition lost
Last public debate on slavery in the antebellum South