The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography - Vol. 18

The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography - Vol. 18

The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography - Vol. 18

The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography - Vol. 18

Excerpt

Much has been written about the slavery system as an aspect of the economic order. Little as yet has been written about the system as a moral order; that is, the system in which the individual attitudes, sentiments, habits, and conduct are fashioned and channeled as one lives within that framework. It was with the idea of throwing some light on this neglected aspect of American history and social research that these documents are made available.

Slavery was first and foremost an adjustment of divergent and dissimilar individuals to an impersonal competitive process. It was, essentially, an exploitative system, in which a relatively small number of individuals, equipped with superior technology and capital, directed and controlled the energies of a numerically superior, but culturally inferior population. In the historical situation, the system took the form of white dominance over colored peoples, specifically, transplanted African Negroes, within the plantation economy. It was inevitable under the circumstances that, in the end, there would be developed a form of racial symbiosis within a single society.

The institution of slavery as it existed and functioned in the American South had within it its own political and moral super-structures. Thus, within the system, the conduct of both the slave and the master was channeled and circumscribed: that of the slave by the authority of the master; and that of the master by conventional duties and obligations toward the slave. The authority of the master was kept well within the bounds of custom and convention, and likewise within the limitations set by a body of institutional paraphernalia and functionaries. It was . . .

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