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.
Lawrence W. Levine, Black Culture
and Black Consciousness: Afro-American
Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom
( New York, 1977), 114.
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).
For a fuller discussion of this
point, see below 134-136.
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).
James Oakes, The Ruling Race: A
History of American Slaveholders ( New
York, 1982), 196-201.
For full references to the works of
these and other leading historians of slavery, see the bibliographical essay, 167- 188.
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).
Kenneth M. Stampp, The Peculiar
Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum
South ( New York, 1956).
Stanley M. Elkins, Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life, third ed. ( Chicago, 1959;
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).