The Logic of Resistance
The patterns of resistance and non-resistance that characterized the slave's adjustment to bondage have been more disputed by scholars than almost any other issue relating to slaves. Yet such disputes have frequently been rather narrowly focused, treating bondsmen as members of an oppressed group who accommodated to their fortunes as best they could, manifesting a high level of docility and lack of initiative. In this view, slaveholders are of primary importance because they held the reins of authority and thus could greatly influence behavior. But bow much influence could they exert? Mrs. Isaac H. Hilliard of Arkansas bad some ideas. "I believe it . . . to be my duty," she wrote, "so long as I own slaves, to keep them in proper subjection and well employed."1 The bondsman Henry Bibb was to observe later that this meant the frequent use of that well-known enforcer, the lash, which was intended "to degrade and keep me in subordination." 2 His observation bad much to back it up, and, as a contemporary sociologist points out, "the use of violence (or what is known as 'power')"--by masters, in this case--"is an indispensable condition for attaining the condition of accommodation. . . ." 3
Slave society tried to dictate those actions by slaves that were
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Publication information: Book title: This Species of Property:Slave Life and Culture in the Old South. Contributors: Leslie Howard Owens - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1977. Page number: 70.