Harriet E. Amos Doss
Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, a Georgian born in 1877 as Reconstruction ended, set the tone of scholarship on slavery for the first half of the twentieth century.1 Based on detailed research in plantation records, travelers' accounts, newspapers, and public documents, Phillips's work portrayed slavery as a benign institution fostering a paternalistic relationship between whites and blacks. James Benson Sellers, an Alabamian born a dozen years after Phillips, shared Phillips's interpretation of the "peculiar institution" in his impressionistic study of slavery in Alabama, originally published in 1950. He too used official records of federal, state, county, and local governments, private manuscripts, scattered church records, and newspapers. Among slaveholders' accounts, planters' records predominated.
A native of Camden in Wilcox County, Sellers came from a family that had settled in Alabama early in its statehood and entered the planter class. His great-great-grandfather and his great-grandfather, both of whom were named Calvin Cook Sellers, migrated from the Chesterfield District of South Carolina about 1830 to Wilcox County. Calvin Cook Sellers II married Eliza Howell, a native of Mississippi who had moved to Wilcox County, and they became the parents of eight children.2 Sellers prospered as an attorney and a planter, owning $13,000 of real estate and forty-one slaves in 1850. A popular and respected resident, he served in the Alabama Senate in the 1844-45 term. In 1852 he died at his home one mile west of Camden and was buried by the Masons at his