Cultivating Race: The Expansion of Slavery in Georgia, 1750-1860

Cultivating Race: The Expansion of Slavery in Georgia, 1750-1860

Cultivating Race: The Expansion of Slavery in Georgia, 1750-1860

Cultivating Race: The Expansion of Slavery in Georgia, 1750-1860

Synopsis

From the eighteenth century to the eve of the Civil War, Georgia's racial order shifted from the somewhat fluid conception of race prevalent in the colonial era to the harsher understanding of racial difference prevalent in the antebellum era. In Cultivating Race: The Expansion of Slavery in Georgia, 1750--1860, Watson W. Jennison explores the centrality of race in the development of Georgia, arguing that long-term structural and demographic changes account for this transformation. Jennison traces the rise of rice cultivation and the plantation complex in low country Georgia in the mid-eighteenth century and charts the spread of slavery into the up country in the decades that followed. Cultivating Race examines the "cultivation" of race on two levels: race as a concept and reality that was created, and race as a distinct social order that emerged because of the specifics of crop cultivation. Using a variety of primary documents including newspapers, diaries, correspondence, and plantation records, Jennison offers an in-depth examination of the evolution of racism and racial ideology in the lower South.

Excerpt

Austin Dabney was unique among Georgia’s Revolutionary War heroes. He was black. One of the original settlers of the upcountry, Dabney came to Georgia from North Carolina in the early 1770s. He accompanied a white man named Captain Richard Aycock, reputedly his father, and moved onto the land ceded by the Creeks in 1773 in what would become Wilkes County. When the War of Independence broke out, Aycock offered Dabney as his substitute. Dabney performed bravely, fighting alongside General Elijah Clark and his band of upcountry Patriots. As one contemporary commentator noted, “No soldier under Clark was braver or did better service during the revolutionary struggle.” Dabney fought in several major engagements, including the Battle of Kettle Creek in 1779. In 1782, during a skirmish near Augusta, he suffered a wound—a ball through the thigh— that would hobble him for the rest of his life. For his service during the war, Dabney received an annuity and a 250-acre parcel of land from the state authorities as well as a pension from the federal government.

Throughout his life, Dabney enjoyed cordial relations with whites. When he was wounded at the Battle of Augusta, a fellow soldier named Giles Harris came to his aid and brought him to his home in Wilkes County to recover. After he recuperated, Dabney stayed with the Harris clan and later moved with them when they relocated to Madison County. After Harris died, Dabney supported the family financially and paid for the eldest son, William, to attend Franklin College and afterward arranged for him to study law with Stephen Upson, a prominent upcountry attorney and politician. In the years after the war, Dabney was a successful jockey and traveled throughout the region racing. He made quite a bit of money and became acquainted with many wealthy whites. Some of these men held prominent positions, men such as Judge John H. Dooly, whose father Dabney served with during the Revolution. Judge Dooly presided over Walton County’s first superior court, and whenever he came to Mad-

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