Slavery: History and Historians

By Peter J. Parish | Go to book overview
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Again, there is a dichotomy. On one hand, insistence on the high degree of autonomy in the slave community can be carried to the absurd extreme of writing the master's authority almost completely out of the picture; on the other hand, it would be grossly misleading to ignore or belittle the interior life of the slave community.

In reality, the very essence of Southern slavery lay in the tension between these various conflicting forces, and many others besides. Beset on all sides by the multifarious pressures of the institution which shaped their lives, slaveholders sought to achieve the best they could from it, and slaves to avoid the worst. At the heart of all the contrasts and contradictions which surrounded slavery lay the greatest paradox of all--the existence of an expanding and deeply entrenched system of human bondage in the midst of a society which treasured freedom as its fundamental principle and its greatest glory.


NOTES
1.
Lawrence W. Levine, Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom ( New York, 1977), 114.
2.
Eugene D. Genovese, "Slavery: The World's Burden", in Harry P. Owens, ed., Perspectives and Irony in American Slavery ( Jackson, Miss., 1976), 27-50. See also Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene D. Genovese , Fruits of Merchant Capital: Slavery and Bourgeois Property in the Rise and Expansion of Capitalism ( New York, 1983).
3.
For a fuller discussion of this point, see below 134-136.
4.
Peter Kolchin, "American Historians and Antebellum Southern Slavery", in William J. Cooper, Michael F. Holt, and John McCardell, eds., A Master's Due: Essays in Honor of David Herbert Donald ( Baton Rouge, La., 1985), 109-110. For a recent general history of Southern slavery which stresses change over time, see John B. Boles , Black Southerners, 1619-1869 ( Lexington, Ky., 1983).
5.
James Oakes, The Ruling Race: A History of American Slaveholders ( New York, 1982), 196-201.
6.
For full references to the works of these and other leading historians of slavery, see the bibliographical essay, 167- 188.
7.
Ulrich B. Phillips, American Negro Slavery: A Survey of the Supply, Employment and Control of Negro Labor as Determined by the Plantation Regime ( New York, 1918; reprint, Baton Rouge, La., 1966). Among Phillips's other writings, see especially his Life and Labor in the Old South ( Boston, 1929; reprint, 1963).
8.
Kenneth M. Stampp, The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South ( New York, 1956).
9.
Stanley M. Elkins, Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life, third ed. ( Chicago, 1959; revised, 1976).
10.
Robert W. Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman , Time on the Cross: volume I, The Economics of American Negro Slavery and volume II, Evidence and Methods ( Boston, 1974).

-10-

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