Posted in 17th century America, African Americans, gender studies, marginalization, material culture, Native Americans, racism, religion, resistance, slavery, violence

The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast

Lipman, Andrew. The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015.

Merrell, James H. “Second Thoughts on Colonial Historians and American Indians.” The William and Mary Quarterly. 69, no. 3 (2012): 451-512.

 

James Merrell presents evidence in his article “Second Thoughts on Colonial Historians and American Indians” that shows how many historians continue to propagate a flawed lexicon that impedes understanding of early American history. He points out that “early Americanists are still shackled to a lexicon crafted by the victors in the contest for America, one fashioned to explain, even justify, how things turned out (Merrell 2012, 458).  Merrell urges historians to find new ways to explore this history. Andrew Lipman’s book, The Saltwater Frontier, has been lauded for its new and insightful narrative that refocuses American Indian history away from the land towards the sea. Lipman’s intention was to do just that as evidenced by remarks in his introduction, “By looking towards the sea rather than the land, this book offers a new way of thinking about Indian history and a new way of understanding this all-too familiar region” (Lipman 2015, 4). In order to evaluate this claim, I contemplated what a new way of talking about early America might look like. I also considered places where Lipman succeeded and where he missed the mark.

Lipman asserts that “viewing saltwater as the primary stage of cultural encounters changes our simple narratives of colonization” (7). He acquaints readers with several simplified stories in the book’s introduction and discusses ways that many historians already have successfully challenged pervasive myths of the Great Frontier (8-13). Lipton’s work is built upon the work of other historians, so in many ways, Saltwater Frontier is a continuation rather than a new way of thinking about the frontier. In a particularly telling example, Lipman credits Olivia Bush-Banks and her poem “Driftwood” (1916) as his inspiration for reimagining America’s embattled territory as a sea story: “Her verses articulated the idea that the ocean was a frontier” (12). Poetry and metaphor are extraordinary tools for rupturing closed systems of thought. Unfortunately, most of Lipman’s prose remains within the limits of traditional historical writing, even though he has reimagined contested territory to include the ocean. In order to devise a truly new way of talking about early American history, Lipman could have infused his historical writing with meaningful creative insights such as his “Driftwood” example. Instead, his work is bounded within the academic norms of his genre.

Saltwater Frontier is “primarily about how three things—seafaring, violence, and Atlantic geopolitics—shaped one place” (14). All three of these topics are endemic to a male worldview. Lipman offers an extensive reading list for those interested in learning more about this time period through the lens of gender, slavery, religion, etc. Indeed, authors must select which information to include and leave out in order to create a coherent narrative; however, some of the particular choices Lipman made relegated his narrative to sit within the hegemonic ranks. Why show preferential treatment for the male propensity for conquest and domination? Of course, writing a book about “Indians and the Contest for the American Coast” would be near impossible without such a focus. So the question becomes, if Lipman wanted to meet Merrell’s challenge to talk about early American history in a new way, why did he choose to write a book that remains rooted in a dominant perspective? The answer to this question may be tied to another of Merrell’s insights.

Merrell referred to something that he called “cartographic mind games.” In essence, maps are tools of the elite that help to control how people view the world. Quoting Gregory H. Nobles and others, Merrell asserts that maps “often represented the world not as it really was but as the mapmaker (or, more to the point, the mapmaker’s sponsor) wanted it to be. Thus maps became important instruments of imperial policy” (Merrell 2012, 483). Maps and language are tools used to represent reality. Most academics are severely restricted within the confines of their professional fields (especially newly minted academics, such as Lipman). I would not go so far as to assert that historians at the top of the field and academic publishers intentionally manipulate the field. Nevertheless, they are the driving force as well as a part of the academic history apparatus. Academics have been trained to think and speak about the world in particular ways and are censured or rewarded accordingly. Perhaps, someday, Lipman will return to his “Driftwood” inspiration and find new ways to explore the territory.

Posted in 18th century America, 19th century America, African Americans, assimilation, capitalism, gender studies, historiography, imperialism, marginalization, material culture, Native Americans, paternalism, racial cleansing, racism, resistance, slavery, violence

American Slavery, American Freedom

The ‘Origins Debate’; Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom; and Thavolia Glymph’s Out of the House of Bondage

Glymph, Thavolia. Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Morgan, Edmund S. American Slavery, American Freedom. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2003 [1975].

(Cheating a little. This paper discussed two books, so I am posting the same paper under both titles.)

During the 1960s, distinguished scholars engaged in an “origins debate” that explored how and why a slave society in North America rose to such prominence. Initial questions had focused on when and why “Virginians first began enslaving blacks (and whether racism prompted or followed their decision).” [1] Eventually, historians expanded their research to encompass capitalist concerns, specifically questioning when and why plantation owners turned to slavery as the primary form of bound labor.  Later studies placed domestic slavery within a global context where it was foregrounded as the Civil War’s inevitable cause.[2] The “origins debate” was part of a longer conversation by scholars trying to make sense of the Civil War and developed alongside a larger debate over American exceptionalism in a war-torn world.[3]  This scholarship goes far beyond proving that slavery was the primary cause for secession. As Frank Towers points out, “Slavery now seems more integral to antebellum society, and secession looks more like other episodes in the creation of nineteenth-century nation-states.”[4] This paper examines the “origins debate,” Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom (1975) as the embodiment of this debate, and argues that Thavolia Glymph’s Out of the House of Bondage (2008) embodies a literature that now transcends the once pivotal “origins” question that runs through Morgan’s work.

Cathy Matson notes in her essay, “The Early Modern Chesapeake Redux–Again,” (2013) that scholars are indebted to a “long line of distinguished historians in the Chesapeake School” whose research provided the foundations for this field. Recent scholarship reveals the continued benefits of revisiting slave society localities from new vantage points with fresh sources.[5]  Matson revisited the long historiography in her 2013 essay, noting that some historians had subscribed to Winthrop Jordan’s “unthinking decision” thesis about the relationship between slavery and racism.  In his Bancroft Prize-winning book, White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812 (1968), Jordan argued that English and Anglo-American perceptions about difference were used to justify race-based slavery, and liberty and justice for whites only. While other scholars “boldly reconceptualized” political and social history by integrating “religion, slavery, tobacco economies, and elite power.”[6]

In 2011, Frank Towers offered a historiographical review that outlined how historians attempted to make sense of the Civil War era. He noted that even as late as the 1970s, a grand narrative still told the story of America’s transition from “small-scale, agrarian communities with unfree labor to large-scale, industrial cities without it.”[7] Leading the way, Eugene Genovese had emphasized the role that Southern paternalism played. In this view, planters worked to maintain traditional order through master-slave relationships and proslavery Christianity.[8]

Also published in 2011 were two works by John C. Coombs: “Beyond the ‘Origins Debate’: Rethinking the Rise of Virginia Slavery” and Early Modern Virginia: Reconsidering the Old Dominion, which he co-edited with Douglas Bradburn. In both works, Coombs reconsiders the “origins debate” and challenges conclusions asserted by several leading scholars, including Edmund Morgan.

In 1975, Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia not only embodied this debate, it became the “most authoritative argument about the ‘paradox of slavery and freedom’ for the next thirty years.”[9] Morgan selected Virginia as the surest place to illustrate the “American paradox” of the “marriage of slavery and freedom.”[10] He shows that as the colony progressed, the elite landowners shifted their reliance on the labor of servants to slaves in order to demarcate and maintain their higher status and to increase production.[11] Converting enslavement into a permanent condition also helped to significantly reduce the growing number of impoverished freedmen in a society “where opportunities for advancement were limited.”[12]

Morgan asserts that white elites developed a racially-based slave system in the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 as a way to control lower-class whites: “Resentment of an alien race might be more powerful than resentment of an upper class. For men bent on the maximum exploitation of labor the implication should have been clear.”[13] But Coombs challenges Morgan’s argument by insisting that African slavery already existed by the late seventeenth century, “These [elites] were not men on the verge of turning to slavery; they already had. And neither Bacon’s Rebellion nor the steep decline in the availability of white servants that occurred in the years after the revolt had anything to do with it.”[14]

Morgan presents a convincing argument that illuminates the progression from temporary servitude to lifetime slavery for nonwhites. He also offers strong evidence of white racism (upper and lower class) towards both Indians and Negroes. Some of the most revealing evidence of changing attitudes presented by Morgan involves the shift away from wanting to Christianize and civilize nonwhites because of a “lingering uneasiness about holding Christians in slavery.”[15]  As slavery became more profitable, laws were enacted to protect masters’ monetary investments by “building a wall between conversion and emancipation.”[16] Baptism no longer could be used to release Negroes or Indians from bondage.[17]

Morgan explains a similar “unthinking” transition from servant to slave labor as Winthrop Jordan argued in White over Black. For example, he writes, “The planters who bought slaves instead of servants did not do so with any apparent consciousness of the social stability to be gained thereby.”[18] However, Morgan concentrated extensive attention on Anglo-American/Native American race relations in the first half of the book in order to establish his argument. He conveyed these relationships as historically contingent processes rather than portraying them as inevitable nemeses.

Morgan concludes that elite white Virginians devised a system of slavery built on racism in order to focus lower-class white workers’ attentions on racial differences, away from the economic disparities between themselves and the elite. Yet, if Morgan’s assertion is correct, that elite white (male) planters further developed an already existing culture of racism in order to exert social control over poor white people, we need to carefully examine white women’s investment in racism and slavery. As noted historian Kathleen Brown points out in her review of American Slavery, American Freedom, “Only if white women actively promoted and reproduced the cultural values supporting slavery out of their own self-interest can we make sense of the deep and rapid proliferation of the racism.”[19] Thavolia Glymph’s Out of the House of Bondage (2008) makes great strides addressing this gap by revealing the power dynamics between black and white women in plantation households and uncovering the small acts of resistance that were central to enslaved women’s sense of self and dignity.

Glymph notes that many historians have questioned the power relations between slaves and slaveholders and between women and men; however, few historians have focused on the power relations solely between women. In Out of the House of Bondage, Glymph concentrates on the relationship dynamics between women of different races, rather than following in the footsteps of prior gendered discourse that examined men and women in opposition. Key to Glymph’s argument is her focus on “relations of power between women, and contests over that power.”[20] Although previous historians have recognized white slaveholding women’s privileges, they also treated these women as “suffering under the weight of the same patriarchal authority to which slaves were subjected.”[21] Glymph argues that presumptions about relationships between black and white women in these paternalistic households, “rest ultimately on uncritical acceptance of a huge assumption: that a gentle and noble white womanhood had once existed in fact, together with a cult of domesticity to which enslaved and free women mutually ascribed.”[22]

She reconstructs the daily practices of domination and defiance within the antebellum, wartime, and postbellum plantation households, while ceaselessly emphasizing that plantation mistresses were slaveholders who quite literally held the power over the life and death of enslaved people.[23] According to their diaries and letters, plantation mistresses considered themselves to be on a mission to civilize slave women. But, as Glymph reveals, enslaved women were notorious for not complying with their mistresses’ vision: “Slave women did not so much resist slavery as they resisted its supposed civilizing mission, no matter that slaveholders believed their status as slaves made them ineligible candidates for civilizing.”[24]

Parts of Glymph’s arguments are not new. Even Edmund Morgan described Virginians’ early attempts at civilizing Indians and Negroes. Glymph, however, refocuses attention within the “private” realm of the plantation household to expose its inherent violence and to demonstrate how myths of domesticity developed. She believes that when mistresses wrote about their attempts at civilizing their servants, they were actually trying to cover-up their own inadequacies and frustrations about slave resistance within the household.

Household slaves were restricted to the plantation, and were therefore severely limited in their ability to partake in violent rebellion.[25] Instead, they opted for subtle types of resistance, such as feigned illness, or stealing food or clothing. Many historians, even those who concentrate on gender studies, have overlooked these small acts of rebelliousness and the inter-female dynamics within the plantation household. Glymph underscores the importance of slave women’s small, ongoing acts of insubordination: “Resistance of this sort did not break the back of slavery, but it made the job of maintaining slavery more difficult and was central to black women’s sense of self and dignity.”[26] The agency of black women is visible in their daily defiance of white women’s demands for obedience.

Out of the House of Bondage transcends the origins debate in part by offering readers a glimpse of the politics of memory and the experience of the once enslaved. Along with the voices of ex-slaves gathered through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) slave narratives project, Glymph discloses the details of notes written by interviewers, which illuminate social undercurrents not otherwise seen. For the most part, local white women interviewed former slaves who brazenly exposed a “nongenteel white womanhood that was at odds with the Lost Cause propaganda” that permeated the North as well as the South.[27] These women actively challenged the symbolic and ideological apparatus of southern racism. Glymph asserts that by accusing former mistresses with “violent, unladylike conduct, with manufacturing dehumanizing spectacles for sadistic pleasure,” these former slaves intentionally violated the South’s racial creed. Making these accusations to other white women “added to the aggravation.”[28]

These personal notes shine a light on the enduring racism former slaves experienced long after the war, even within the realm of well-intentioned conversations. During one interview, George King recounted his memory of the “she-devil Mistress whipping his mammy.”[29] The interviewer seemed to be undisturbed by the nature of the punishment and simply concluded that the mistress “was a great believer in the power of punishment.”[30] Glymph notes that, for King, his mistress’ brutal actions and her ability to “walk away, laughing” prompted a different assessment of the event. “It fixed in his mind a portrait of southern white womanliness cropped of the metaphor of religiously sanctioned parental chastisement.”[31] These revelations also disclose the callous obliviousness of at least some of the WPA interviewers towards the former slaves they interviewed.

Like Steven Hahn’s A Nation under Our Feet, Glymph recognizes the Civil War as an episode in a much longer battle for black freedom.[32] In this view, the origins of slavery are a mere footnote to an epochal history of slavery and freedom. Hahn’s argument stressed the “national protections for slavery and the ‘revolutionary’ effort required to end the institution.”[33] However, this “institution” did not end with emancipation or the Civil War. Quoting Harold D. Woodman, Glymph emphasizes that “slavery was ‘more than a legal relationship; it had social and psychological dimensions that did not disappear with the passage of a law or a constitutional amendment.’”[34] She shows throughout her book that “the victories black women won in the first years of freedom, however, were not to last. Poverty, landlessness, peonage, discrimination, and violence forced them back to the fields and white homes on a full-time basis.”[35]

Glymph has offered a unique contribution to historical studies on slavery and the Civil War by reinterpreting plantation life and its aftermath through the lens of black women’s labor relations in white people’s homes. She highlights African American women’s political consciousness and agency by focusing on the small acts of defiance in which female slaves, and later freed women, engaged.  She also demonstrates that “white women’s agency has been profoundly underestimated.”[36] Although historians have not been clear about the role mistresses played in the construction of the social values of the Old South and in disciplining slaves, Glymph has thoroughly addressed these issues and set the bar for future scholarship.

[1] John C. Coombs, “Beyond the ‘Origins Debate’: Rethinking the Rise of Virginia Slavery,” in Early Modern Virginia: Reconsidering the Old Dominion (University of Virginia Press: Charlottesville, 2011), 239.

[2] Frank Towers, “Partisans, New History, and Modernization: The Historiography of the Civil War’s Causes, 1861-2011,” The Journal of the Civil War Era 1, no. 2 (2011): 245.

[3] Ibid., 238.

[4] Ibid., 256.

[5] Cathy D. Matson, “The Early Modern Chesapeake Redux–Again,” Reviews in American History 41, no. 2 (2013): 190.

[6] Ibid., 181.

[7] Towers,  247.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Matson,  181.

[10] Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2003 [1975]), 6.

[11] Ibid., 307-09.

[12] Ibid., 308.

[13] Ibid., 269-70.

[14] Coombs,  in Early Modern Virginia: Reconsidering the Old Dominion, 249.

[15] Morgan, 332.

[16] Ibid., 331.

[17] Ibid., 332.

[18] Ibid., 308.

[19] Kathleen Brown, “Review: American Slavery, American Freedom,” Common-place: The Interactive Journal of Early American Life 1, 4 (July 2001), accessed December 8, 2016, http://www.common-place-archives.org/vol-01/no-04/reviews/brown.shtml.

[20] Thavolia Glymph, Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 235.

[21] Ibid., 23.

[22] Ibid., 135.

[23] Ibid., 2, 227.

[24] Ibid., 66.

[25] Historian Stephanie Camp refers to this restricted and surveilled space as a “geography of containment” in her book Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South (2004).

[26] Glymph, 72.

[27] Ibid., 12.

[28] Ibid., 14.

[29] Ibid., 39.

[30] Ibid., 40.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Towers,  255-56. This refers to Hahn’s A Nation under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration (2004).

[33] Ibid.

[34] Glymph, 136.

[35] Ibid., 11.

[36] Ibid., 31.

Posted in 19th century America, African Americans, assimilation, capitalism, class, gender studies, historiography, imperialism, labor, marginalization, material culture, Native Americans, paternalism, racial cleansing, racism, resistance, slavery, violence

Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household

The ‘Origins Debate’; Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom; and Thavolia Glymph’s Out of the House of Bondage

Glymph, Thavolia. Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Morgan, Edmund S. American Slavery, American Freedom. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2003 [1975].

(Cheating a little. This paper discussed two books, so I am posting the same paper under both titles.)

During the 1960s, distinguished scholars engaged in an “origins debate” that explored how and why a slave society in North America rose to such prominence. Initial questions had focused on when and why “Virginians first began enslaving blacks (and whether racism prompted or followed their decision).” [1] Eventually, historians expanded their research to encompass capitalist concerns, specifically questioning when and why plantation owners turned to slavery as the primary form of bound labor.  Later studies placed domestic slavery within a global context where it was foregrounded as the Civil War’s inevitable cause.[2] The “origins debate” was part of a longer conversation by scholars trying to make sense of the Civil War and developed alongside a larger debate over American exceptionalism in a war-torn world.[3]  This scholarship goes far beyond proving that slavery was the primary cause for secession. As Frank Towers points out, “Slavery now seems more integral to antebellum society, and secession looks more like other episodes in the creation of nineteenth-century nation-states.”[4] This paper examines the “origins debate,” Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom (1975) as the embodiment of this debate, and argues that Thavolia Glymph’s Out of the House of Bondage (2008) embodies a literature that now transcends the once pivotal “origins” question that runs through Morgan’s work.

Cathy Matson notes in her essay, “The Early Modern Chesapeake Redux–Again,” (2013) that scholars are indebted to a “long line of distinguished historians in the Chesapeake School” whose research provided the foundations for this field. Recent scholarship reveals the continued benefits of revisiting slave society localities from new vantage points with fresh sources.[5]  Matson revisited the long historiography in her 2013 essay, noting that some historians had subscribed to Winthrop Jordan’s “unthinking decision” thesis about the relationship between slavery and racism.  In his Bancroft Prize-winning book, White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812 (1968), Jordan argued that English and Anglo-American perceptions about difference were used to justify race-based slavery, and liberty and justice for whites only. While other scholars “boldly reconceptualized” political and social history by integrating “religion, slavery, tobacco economies, and elite power.”[6]

In 2011, Frank Towers offered a historiographical review that outlined how historians attempted to make sense of the Civil War era. He noted that even as late as the 1970s, a grand narrative still told the story of America’s transition from “small-scale, agrarian communities with unfree labor to large-scale, industrial cities without it.”[7] Leading the way, Eugene Genovese had emphasized the role that Southern paternalism played. In this view, planters worked to maintain traditional order through master-slave relationships and proslavery Christianity.[8]

Also published in 2011 were two works by John C. Coombs: “Beyond the ‘Origins Debate’: Rethinking the Rise of Virginia Slavery” and Early Modern Virginia: Reconsidering the Old Dominion, which he co-edited with Douglas Bradburn. In both works, Coombs reconsiders the “origins debate” and challenges conclusions asserted by several leading scholars, including Edmund Morgan.

In 1975, Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia not only embodied this debate, it became the “most authoritative argument about the ‘paradox of slavery and freedom’ for the next thirty years.”[9] Morgan selected Virginia as the surest place to illustrate the “American paradox” of the “marriage of slavery and freedom.”[10] He shows that as the colony progressed, the elite landowners shifted their reliance on the labor of servants to slaves in order to demarcate and maintain their higher status and to increase production.[11] Converting enslavement into a permanent condition also helped to significantly reduce the growing number of impoverished freedmen in a society “where opportunities for advancement were limited.”[12]

Morgan asserts that white elites developed a racially-based slave system in the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 as a way to control lower-class whites: “Resentment of an alien race might be more powerful than resentment of an upper class. For men bent on the maximum exploitation of labor the implication should have been clear.”[13] But Coombs challenges Morgan’s argument by insisting that African slavery already existed by the late seventeenth century, “These [elites] were not men on the verge of turning to slavery; they already had. And neither Bacon’s Rebellion nor the steep decline in the availability of white servants that occurred in the years after the revolt had anything to do with it.”[14]

Morgan presents a convincing argument that illuminates the progression from temporary servitude to lifetime slavery for nonwhites. He also offers strong evidence of white racism (upper and lower class) towards both Indians and Negroes. Some of the most revealing evidence of changing attitudes presented by Morgan involves the shift away from wanting to Christianize and civilize nonwhites because of a “lingering uneasiness about holding Christians in slavery.”[15]  As slavery became more profitable, laws were enacted to protect masters’ monetary investments by “building a wall between conversion and emancipation.”[16] Baptism no longer could be used to release Negroes or Indians from bondage.[17]

Morgan explains a similar “unthinking” transition from servant to slave labor as Winthrop Jordan argued in White over Black. For example, he writes, “The planters who bought slaves instead of servants did not do so with any apparent consciousness of the social stability to be gained thereby.”[18] However, Morgan concentrated extensive attention on Anglo-American/Native American race relations in the first half of the book in order to establish his argument. He conveyed these relationships as historically contingent processes rather than portraying them as inevitable nemeses.

Morgan concludes that elite white Virginians devised a system of slavery built on racism in order to focus lower-class white workers’ attentions on racial differences, away from the economic disparities between themselves and the elite. Yet, if Morgan’s assertion is correct, that elite white (male) planters further developed an already existing culture of racism in order to exert social control over poor white people, we need to carefully examine white women’s investment in racism and slavery. As noted historian Kathleen Brown points out in her review of American Slavery, American Freedom, “Only if white women actively promoted and reproduced the cultural values supporting slavery out of their own self-interest can we make sense of the deep and rapid proliferation of the racism.”[19] Thavolia Glymph’s Out of the House of Bondage (2008) makes great strides addressing this gap by revealing the power dynamics between black and white women in plantation households and uncovering the small acts of resistance that were central to enslaved women’s sense of self and dignity.

Glymph notes that many historians have questioned the power relations between slaves and slaveholders and between women and men; however, few historians have focused on the power relations solely between women. In Out of the House of Bondage, Glymph concentrates on the relationship dynamics between women of different races, rather than following in the footsteps of prior gendered discourse that examined men and women in opposition. Key to Glymph’s argument is her focus on “relations of power between women, and contests over that power.”[20] Although previous historians have recognized white slaveholding women’s privileges, they also treated these women as “suffering under the weight of the same patriarchal authority to which slaves were subjected.”[21] Glymph argues that presumptions about relationships between black and white women in these paternalistic households, “rest ultimately on uncritical acceptance of a huge assumption: that a gentle and noble white womanhood had once existed in fact, together with a cult of domesticity to which enslaved and free women mutually ascribed.”[22]

She reconstructs the daily practices of domination and defiance within the antebellum, wartime, and postbellum plantation households, while ceaselessly emphasizing that plantation mistresses were slaveholders who quite literally held the power over the life and death of enslaved people.[23] According to their diaries and letters, plantation mistresses considered themselves to be on a mission to civilize slave women. But, as Glymph reveals, enslaved women were notorious for not complying with their mistresses’ vision: “Slave women did not so much resist slavery as they resisted its supposed civilizing mission, no matter that slaveholders believed their status as slaves made them ineligible candidates for civilizing.”[24]

Parts of Glymph’s arguments are not new. Even Edmund Morgan described Virginians’ early attempts at civilizing Indians and Negroes. Glymph, however, refocuses attention within the “private” realm of the plantation household to expose its inherent violence and to demonstrate how myths of domesticity developed. She believes that when mistresses wrote about their attempts at civilizing their servants, they were actually trying to cover-up their own inadequacies and frustrations about slave resistance within the household.

Household slaves were restricted to the plantation, and were therefore severely limited in their ability to partake in violent rebellion.[25] Instead, they opted for subtle types of resistance, such as feigned illness, or stealing food or clothing. Many historians, even those who concentrate on gender studies, have overlooked these small acts of rebelliousness and the inter-female dynamics within the plantation household. Glymph underscores the importance of slave women’s small, ongoing acts of insubordination: “Resistance of this sort did not break the back of slavery, but it made the job of maintaining slavery more difficult and was central to black women’s sense of self and dignity.”[26] The agency of black women is visible in their daily defiance of white women’s demands for obedience.

Out of the House of Bondage transcends the origins debate in part by offering readers a glimpse of the politics of memory and the experience of the once enslaved. Along with the voices of ex-slaves gathered through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) slave narratives project, Glymph discloses the details of notes written by interviewers, which illuminate social undercurrents not otherwise seen. For the most part, local white women interviewed former slaves who brazenly exposed a “nongenteel white womanhood that was at odds with the Lost Cause propaganda” that permeated the North as well as the South.[27] These women actively challenged the symbolic and ideological apparatus of southern racism. Glymph asserts that by accusing former mistresses with “violent, unladylike conduct, with manufacturing dehumanizing spectacles for sadistic pleasure,” these former slaves intentionally violated the South’s racial creed. Making these accusations to other white women “added to the aggravation.”[28]

These personal notes shine a light on the enduring racism former slaves experienced long after the war, even within the realm of well-intentioned conversations. During one interview, George King recounted his memory of the “she-devil Mistress whipping his mammy.”[29] The interviewer seemed to be undisturbed by the nature of the punishment and simply concluded that the mistress “was a great believer in the power of punishment.”[30] Glymph notes that, for King, his mistress’ brutal actions and her ability to “walk away, laughing” prompted a different assessment of the event. “It fixed in his mind a portrait of southern white womanliness cropped of the metaphor of religiously sanctioned parental chastisement.”[31] These revelations also disclose the callous obliviousness of at least some of the WPA interviewers towards the former slaves they interviewed.

Like Steven Hahn’s A Nation under Our Feet, Glymph recognizes the Civil War as an episode in a much longer battle for black freedom.[32] In this view, the origins of slavery are a mere footnote to an epochal history of slavery and freedom. Hahn’s argument stressed the “national protections for slavery and the ‘revolutionary’ effort required to end the institution.”[33] However, this “institution” did not end with emancipation or the Civil War. Quoting Harold D. Woodman, Glymph emphasizes that “slavery was ‘more than a legal relationship; it had social and psychological dimensions that did not disappear with the passage of a law or a constitutional amendment.’”[34] She shows throughout her book that “the victories black women won in the first years of freedom, however, were not to last. Poverty, landlessness, peonage, discrimination, and violence forced them back to the fields and white homes on a full-time basis.”[35]

Glymph has offered a unique contribution to historical studies on slavery and the Civil War by reinterpreting plantation life and its aftermath through the lens of black women’s labor relations in white people’s homes. She highlights African American women’s political consciousness and agency by focusing on the small acts of defiance in which female slaves, and later freed women, engaged.  She also demonstrates that “white women’s agency has been profoundly underestimated.”[36] Although historians have not been clear about the role mistresses played in the construction of the social values of the Old South and in disciplining slaves, Glymph has thoroughly addressed these issues and set the bar for future scholarship.

[1] John C. Coombs, “Beyond the ‘Origins Debate’: Rethinking the Rise of Virginia Slavery,” in Early Modern Virginia: Reconsidering the Old Dominion (University of Virginia Press: Charlottesville, 2011), 239.

[2] Frank Towers, “Partisans, New History, and Modernization: The Historiography of the Civil War’s Causes, 1861-2011,” The Journal of the Civil War Era 1, no. 2 (2011): 245.

[3] Ibid., 238.

[4] Ibid., 256.

[5] Cathy D. Matson, “The Early Modern Chesapeake Redux–Again,” Reviews in American History 41, no. 2 (2013): 190.

[6] Ibid., 181.

[7] Towers,  247.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Matson,  181.

[10] Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2003 [1975]), 6.

[11] Ibid., 307-09.

[12] Ibid., 308.

[13] Ibid., 269-70.

[14] Coombs,  in Early Modern Virginia: Reconsidering the Old Dominion, 249.

[15] Morgan, 332.

[16] Ibid., 331.

[17] Ibid., 332.

[18] Ibid., 308.

[19] Kathleen Brown, “Review: American Slavery, American Freedom,” Common-place: The Interactive Journal of Early American Life 1, 4 (July 2001), accessed December 8, 2016, http://www.common-place-archives.org/vol-01/no-04/reviews/brown.shtml.

[20] Thavolia Glymph, Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 235.

[21] Ibid., 23.

[22] Ibid., 135.

[23] Ibid., 2, 227.

[24] Ibid., 66.

[25] Historian Stephanie Camp refers to this restricted and surveilled space as a “geography of containment” in her book Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South (2004).

[26] Glymph, 72.

[27] Ibid., 12.

[28] Ibid., 14.

[29] Ibid., 39.

[30] Ibid., 40.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Towers,  255-56. This refers to Hahn’s A Nation under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration (2004).

[33] Ibid.

[34] Glymph, 136.

[35] Ibid., 11.

[36] Ibid., 31.

Posted in 19th century America, African Americans, education, Ku Klux Klan, law, marginalization, material culture, missionaries, paternalism, religion, resistance, slavery, violence

Self-Taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom

Williams, Heather Andrea. Self-Taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.

Heather Andrea Williams’ study emerged from one historical question: “What did ordinary African Americans in the South do to provide education for themselves during slavery and when slavery ended?”[1] Williams dispels common myths that African Americans did little to educate themselves while enslaved and that white Northern missionaries were chiefly responsible for educating emancipated slaves. Self-Taught claims that the fight for education was inseparable from the fight against slavery. Williams shows that enslaved and free African Americans highly regarded literacy for practical purposes (e.g., recording children’s births, reading the Bible), and as a means for freedom. Both before and after enslavement, African Americans organized to educate themselves, and in the wake of their newly found freedom, collectively pursued public education as a right, which positively influenced the overall development of public schools in the South. The sight of black adults and children filling schoolhouses inspired many whites to seek an education for themselves. But many white leaders worried that blacks would ultimately surpass poor whites and upset the traditional social order.[2] By declaring their right to public education, formerly enslaved people paved the way for state-funded education for all races in the 1800s.[3]

Williams’ first book is based on her 2002 dissertation from Yale University, “Self-Taught: The Role of African Americans in Educating the Freed People, 1861—1871.”  Before returning to graduate school, she served as an Assistant Attorney General and Section Chief for the State of New York and as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice.[4]  Clearly, Williams’ legal background assisted her nuanced interpretation of evidence, which came from diverse archives, such as the Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands; U.S. Senate reports on the Ku Klux Klan; U.S. War Department 128 volume The War of Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; and the American Missionary Association Manuscripts, 1839—1882. In addition, she scoured historical newspapers and periodicals published by sources that offered first-hand accounts, such as the American Missionary Association and black presses. Through detailed biographical descriptions, Williams invites her readers to enter into the captivating details of individuals’ lives and struggles.

Williams acknowledges the research that her study was built upon, most of which she challenges. In 1941, Henry Lee Swint was the first to write a monograph on the topic, The Northern Teacher in the South, 1862-1871. The book justified white southern hostilities towards black education, focusing mostly on how northern abolitionist beliefs disregarded the southern way of life.[5] Williams values the contributions of Robert C. Morris’ Reading, ‘Riting, and Reconstruction (1981), but points out that it focuses more on missionary teachers than on freedpeople.[6] And Jaqueline Jones’ Soldiers of Light and Love (1980) showed African Americans as active participants in their education; however, the main focus of the book is on missionary teachers and their motivations for heading South to teach.[7] To balance these biased accounts, Williams crafts her narrative of the early stages of African American education from the perspective of slaves and free blacks.

The story is told in nine chapters, an epilogue, and an appendix that documents various antebellum statutes that prohibited teaching slaves and free blacks. The first three chapters are instrumental in setting the foundation for the rest of the book. Chapter 1, “In Secret Places,” explores what literacy meant to enslaved people and recounts how they achieved this goal against almost insurmountable odds. Williams mentions that many historians attribute antiliteracy legislation to Nat Turner’s Rebellion in 1831; however, she notes that it began a century earlier in 1739 in the aftermath of the Stono Rebellion.[8] Fearing insurrection, southern legislatures implemented laws to prevent people from instructing slaves or free blacks to read and write. Around 1830, as southern states “ratcheted up their efforts to sustain a way of life that depended on slavery,” northern abolitionists shifted into action prompted by a North Carolina statute that articulated the connection between slave literacy and slave control.[9] Other states soon followed suit. Williams discloses how slaves developed superior listening and memory skills, which enabled them to share news through word of mouth. Slaves observed the intense surveillance and control related to their literacy skills, and recognized them as a means to freedom. Williams explores the ways African Americans stealthily grew literate and shared their skills with one another.

Chapter 2, “A Coveted Possession: Literacy in the First Days of Freedom,” follows African Americans out of slavery into contraband camps and freedpeople’s villages. Community leaders contacted Northern missionaries requesting their assistance. Williams presents the story from the vantage point of former slaves, challenging earlier studies framed solely by missionaries’ perspectives. Earlier works promoted the notion that newly freed slaves passively accepted their education from northern missions. In contrast, Williams reveals freedpeople’s motivations and drive for obtaining an education for themselves. They built and taught within their own schools, many times facing great risk of violence from white southerners. Benevolent societies, including the Freedmen’s Bureau and the American Missionary Association, often took credit for single-handedly educating former slaves. Although the resources provided by these groups were essential, many well-meaning reformers carried their racial misconceptions with them, which in turn, colored their interactions and resulting documentation of the events.

Chapter 3, “The Men Are Actually Clamoring for Books: African American Soldiers and the Educational Mission,” also follows African Americans out of slavery, but this time, into the Union Army. Williams discusses the link between perceived manhood and soldiering. Following the Emancipation Proclamation, many African American men joined the Union Army in the hope of finding equal treatment, which they did not find. Literate men, however, were afforded elevated status within black communities. Central to Williams’ discussion are the men and women who were integral to the “teaching corps” for soldiers.[10] These soldiers helped to build and teach in schools across Arkansas, Virginia, Georgia, and other states. Additionally, these teachers contributed thousands of dollars toward the founding of the Lincoln Institute, a permanent legacy for future generations. The most notable personality was Elijar Marrs, a self-taught slave who became a sergeant in the Union Army. Following the end of war, he became a teacher in Kentucky for thirty years, modeling the highest ideals of Williams’ study.

Chapters 4-9 focus on African American schools, students, and communities. Chapter 4, “We Must Get Education for Ourselves and our Children: Advocacy for Education,” examines the political organizing of newly freed people, revealing the importance of self-help and self-determination as community values. The chapter also traces early efforts to make education a civil right. Chapter 5, “We are Striving to do Business on our own Hook: Organizing Schools on the Ground,” explores how African Americans initially implemented their schools and the resulting conflicts with white northerners over their control. Chapter 6, “We are Laboring under Many Difficulties: African American Teachers in Freedpeople’s Schools,” exposes the struggle to secure adequate physical supplies and the fight to attain suitable levels of education for teachers. African American teachers in Georgia in 1866 are the main focus of the chapter.  Chapter 7, “A Long and Tedious Road to Travel for Knowledge: Textbooks and Freedpeople’s Schools,” investigates the content and availability of textbooks for freedpeople’s schools. This chapter also examines the proslavery ideology taught to white children in Confederate States. The primary focus of chapter 8, “If Anybody Wants an Education, it is Me: Students in Freedpeople’s Schools,” is students’ motivations for attending school and their expectations of teachers. The chapter also focuses on how teachers assessed student intellect and potential. Finally, chapter 9, “First Movings of the Waters: The Creation of Common School Systems for Black and White Students,” traces how African Americans influenced white communities’ interest in education in the South.

The book concludes with a short summary of a 1911 study of black Southern schools by W. E. B. Du Bois and a team of researchers at Fisk University. Du Bois concluded that most black teachers were underpaid and undertrained and school facilities were “wretched and inadequate.”[11] By this time, Jim Crow legislation had been enacted across southern and western states. The team emphasized that the educational focus on industrial training reduced the amount of time students should be spending on basic academic skills, such as reading, writing, and arithmetic.

My only disappointment with the book is that it ended too quickly. Williams’ ending leads particularly well into the “education of black people” debates that Du Bois and Booker T. Washington had during the early part of the twentieth century. There is also much to be said about Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington’s collaboration on the Rosenwald Schools of the 1920s through the 1940s, which is a topic of great interest among historic preservationists today. Hopefully, Williams will write a sequel.

[1] Heather Andrea Williams, Self-Taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005), 1.

[2] Ibid., 183.

[3] Ibid., 176.

[4] Lauren Feiner, “Historian to Join Africana Studies Department as a Presidential Professor,” The Daily Pennsylvanian, May 14, 2014, accessed January 22, 2017, http://www.thedp.com/article/2014/05/heather-andrea-williams-presidential-professor-africana-studies.

[5] Williams, 3.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., 13.

[9] Ibid., 15.

[10] Ibid., 49.

[11] Ibid., 199.

Posted in 18th century America, capitalism, Christianity, gender studies, material culture, religion, slavery

Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America

Brekus, Catherine A. Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.

University of Minnesota religious historian Kirsten Fischer originally followed in the footsteps of other historians who had written about Elihu Palmer as the “most outspoken campaigner for deism in the new United States.”[1] Yet, she realized that some of Palmer’s writings failed to support the “deist notion of a transcendent Creator God.”[2] She went back to what Palmer had studied in order to trace his ideas to their sources and concluded that he was actually promoting a vitalist cosmology, which contributed to the “most radically iconoclastic and egalitarian ideas available in the new republic.”[3]  Her July 2016 article, “Vitalism in America: Elihu Palmer’s Radical Religion in the Early Republic,” reexamines Palmer’s writings in order to help elucidate the “full spectrum of ideas that shaped the debates over religion, democracy, and the direction the new nation [took].”[4] She asks, “why should we care now about Palmer’s vitalist proselytizing when it remained a minority view, failed to start a lasting movement in America, and has been largely overlooked ever since?”[5] What can a book that focuses on a such a narrow piece of religious history and that seems to have little relevance to the current state of the world offer us? Fischer’s inquiry can be extrapolated to not only ponder the current state of religious history in general, but this week’s primary reading in particular.

On one level, Catherine A. Brekus’ Sarah Osborn’s World is a biography of an obscure eighteenth-century Rhode Island schoolteacher who narrates her struggles and triumphs through personal writings. Brekus examined Sarah’s diaries and letters that were written between 1743 and her death in 1796 to uncover how she tried to make sense of her life. In these writings, Sarah reflected upon losing her only son at the age of 11, her ongoing poverty, and the role she played as an outspoken religious leader in her community at a time when women were not allowed to preach. Yet, Brekus goes far beyond Sarah’s struggles by connecting them to key developments in eighteenth century America, which both encompassed the nascent stages of evangelical Christianity and the tenets of modern society. She asserts that “it is clear that the movement [evangelicalism] emerged in response to momentous changes in politics, economics, intellectual life, science, and technology that laid the foundations for our modern world.”[6]

Brekus offers a complex analysis about the ways Sarah’s faith and lived religion helped her find and make meaning in her life. She presented Sarah’s insights concerning slavery and discussed some of the problems with her neighbors Sarah faced due to the large interracial and interdenominational meetings she held. But Sarah’s popularity continued to grow because people were drawn to her “because of her steadfast faith in the midst of suffering.”[7] Sarah’s spiritual convictions awarded her agency to affect her community and to be a part of a religious movement that continues to reverberate today.

This work challenges current scholarship that places evangelical Christianity at odds with Enlightenment thought. Brekus explains that neither evangelicalism nor the Enlightenment was a “single, coherent movement;” rather, they each interacted and developed in tandem as a response to momentous societal conditions and changes such as the rise of merchant capitalism, slavery, technological advances, the consumer revolution, the American Revolution, and expanding personal freedom.[8] She asserts that “evangelicalism was a heart-centered, experiential, individualistic, and evangelistic form of Protestantism that was intertwined with the rise of the modern world.”[9] But the question about the importance of religion to the study of early American history remains.

During a 2013 Juntocast (podcast), several academics, Kenneth Owen, Michael Hattem, and Roy Rogers, discussed different aspects of religion in early America, recent historiographical developments, and pedagogical practices.[10] They agreed that religion is central to all types of histories. Hattem suggested that people today fail to understand how important religion was to those living during the seventeenth and eighteen centuries, “not in a theological way, but in a cultural way.”[11] He mentioned that there is currently a turn away from the secular narrative towards the role of religion within Enlightenment thought. He added that the problem with much of the current history is that religion has been treated as an isolated topic, which is the opposite of how he thinks it should be approached.[12]

Rogers noted that three key changes can be seen in the historiography of early American history over the past twenty years, which can be attributed to the great strengthening of the history of evangelicalism: focus on what Rogers termed as the “democratization thesis,” lived religion, and race.[13] He claimed that recent history of evangelicalism has affected all history focused on this time period and has successfully united all three of these main topics. Of particular importance has been recent scholarship’s attentiveness to the transformative power of evangelical conversion.[14]

Based on the assessments of Juntocast’s academics and Kirsten Fischer’s example, Sarah Osborn’s World seems to model the best types of scholarship being done in early American history today.

[1] Kirsten Fischer, “On (Finally) Seeing What’s Right in Front of You When It’s Not What You Expected,” Uncommon Sense – The Blog, December 2, 2015, accessed October 14, 2016, http://blog.oieahc.wm.edu/on-finally-seeing-whats-right-in-front-of-you-when-its-not-what-you-expected/.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Kirsten Fischer, “Vitalism in America: Elihu Palmer’s Radical Religion in the Early Republic,” William & Mary Quarterly 73, no. 3 (July 2016): 507.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 506.

[6] Catherine A. Brekus, Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 7.

[7] Ibid., 254.

[8] Ibid., 7-8.

[9] Ibid., 11.

[10] Kenneth Owens, Michael Hattern, and Roy Rogers, host, “A Podcast on Early American History : Ep. 4: Religion in Early America,” The JuntoCast, 2013, accessed October 14, 2016, http://thejuntocast.libsyn.com/ep-4-religion-in-early-america.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Rogers explains that “the social control” thesis argues that the “always-rising middle-class used evangelicalism to solidify their social, economic, and political position through evangelicalism’s promotion of market-friendly values, thrift, delayed gratification, temperance, etc. This middle-class evangelical benevolent empire, over time, sought to impose its values upon the classes both above and below on the antebellum social ladder.” On the flipside, the “democratization thesis” reverses the logic of arguing, that “evangelicalization was a liberating process, not a reactionary one.” Roy Rogers, “After Democratization?,” The Junto, 2013, accessed October 16, 2016, https://earlyamericanists.com/2013/03/14/after-democratization/.

[14] Owens, Hattern, and Rogers,

Posted in African Americans, capitalism, material culture, racism, slavery

River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom

Johnson, Walter. River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013.

In River of Dark Dreams, Walter Johnson presents a “materialist turn in the study of slavery” in the way that he examines how the “lives of enslaved people were limited, shaped, even determined by their enslavement–bales per acre per slave, pounds per day, lashes and rations, field and woods, solidarity and betrayal: these were the circumstances in which slaves made history.”[1] Johnson reveals slaves as historical agents within the limitations of their enslavement, furthering his ongoing project on agency.[2] Johnson’s 2003 essay, “On Agency,” admonishes social historians for trying to “give the slaves back their agency,” claiming that such attempts obscure important questions about the experience of the enslaved that need to be asked.[3]  Johnson claims that the term “agency” remains ensconced within a (white) liberal notion of self-determination that is inherently at odds with the conditions of slavery, which reduces the complexity of human agency  to just “resistance” to slavery.[4] He implores historians to “try to imagine a history of slavery which sees the lives of enslaved people as powerfully conditioned by, though not reducible to, their slavery.”[5] He asserts that a new way of thinking about slavery can evolve from  questioning the conditions of enslaved humanity, rather than searching for evidence of resistance (“humanity as indexed by the presence of acts of self-determination”).[6] Johnson proposes that to sort “humanity” from “agency” from “resistance,” historians should focus on forms of human “agency” that are not considered practices of resistance at all, specifically, collaboration and betrayal.[7] In order to correctly address human agency, Johnson prompts historians to ask how enslaved people created relationships and political movements; how they talked to one another about slavery, resistance, and revolution; and how they figured out who they could and could not trust.[8]

In River of Dark Dreams, Johnson sheds light on the love, practices of solidarity, and “ethic of care” within communities of enslaved people that took shape through sharing food, tending to the wounded, sheltering the escaped, and mourning the loss of those who had been sold.[9] In one telling example, John Parker, “whose hunger drove him to ‘desperation’” tried to steal some food, but was discovered by the cook. In that moment, he was sure that “it was all over” for him, but she recognized his situation. Parker said, “Without either of us saying a word, she went to the cupboard, took out a good-sized bowl, put it in front of me, handed me a ladle, pointed at the pot of soup, and went out of the room.”[10] This enslaved woman’s willingness to put herself at risk to help a man that she did not know hints at a “wordless affiliation among the enslaved.”[11] For Johnson, slaves cannot be reduced to the conditions of their slavery. Their actions transcended and actively reshaped their environment.[12]

Johnson’s call for historians to consider the conditions of slavery when addressing issues of agency is not meant to suggest that historians should steer clear of stories of violent resistance. In “On Agency,” he also urges historians to consider how individual acts of sabotage and subterfuge might have led to an explicit threat to slavery and to question the relationship between individual and collective acts of resistance.[13]  The Haitian Revolution, as discussed in River of Dark Dreams, is a case in point. Johnson declares that the history of the Mississippi Valley’s cotton empire, which sad come to symbolize the word “slavery,” has always been closely tied with the history of the most successful slave revolt in the world, the Haitian Revolution.[14] Johnson asserts that in Napoleon’s global vision of the French Empire, the Mississippi Valley would “provide the food that would support Haitian slaves as they cultivated sugar for European markets.”[15] The success of the Haitian Revolution diminished the value of the Mississippi Valley to Napoleon significantly, which consequently facilitated the Louisiana Purchase. The first image insert in the book notes, “The revolution in Haiti haunted Valley slaveholders all the way up until the Civil War.”[16] Throughout River of Dark Dreams, Johnson shows how the success of the world’s most successful slave revolt influenced pro-slavery discussions and decisions.[17]

Whether through simple acts of kindness or large-scale violent revolts, slaves are shown to be historical agents in River of Dark Dreams.

[1] Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013), 217, 473fn22.

[2] Ibid., 217.

[3] Walter Johnson, “On Agency,” Journal of Social History 37, no. 1 (2003): 114.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 115.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 116.

[8] Ibid., 118.

[9] Johnson, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom, 146.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., 147.

[12] Ibid., 217.

[13] Johnson, “On Agency,” 116-17. Emphasis in original.

[14] Johnson, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom, 22.

[15] Ibid., 23.

[16] Ibid., 23, 33, image insert 1.

[17] Ibid., 84, 314, 17, 21, 61-63, 405.

Image from http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324880504578297992942894884