This Species of Property: Slave Life and Culture in the Old South

By Leslie Howard Owens | Go to book overview

Preface

The black experience in slavery is one of the most poignant in American and world history. And anyone who sets out to investigate that experience quickly sees that there is a great deal to learn about the human behavior of slavery's participants and also about himself or herself. The task, though certainly never dull, is often frustrating and perplexing. The available evidence, even in its most varied forms, is at best fragmentary and often difficult to utilize. Slaves have left us with few written records, though the results of their labors and cultural creations are very helpful in understanding their side of bondage's story.

The question any non-participant in slavery would like to answer is, how did it feel to be a slave? In truth, we can never know this even when we try to see bondage from the slave's viewpoint. My hope has been to try to get inside the slave's experience as much as possible, to convey a mood as well as offer an analysis of slave life. I hope that for most of my readers mood and analysis are inseparable as they began to be for me after a time. For the slave one mood, arising from the sense of his existence as property, seemed to dominate all others, and I have tried to capture this both in the title of my study and the pages that follow. The ex-

-vii-

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This Species of Property: Slave Life and Culture in the Old South
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Drawing the Color Line 7
  • 2 - into the Fields-- Life, Disease, and Labor in the Old South 19
  • 3 - Blackstrap Molasses and Cornbread--Diet and Its Impact on Behavior 50
  • 4 - The Logic of Resistance 70
  • 5 - The Household Slave 106
  • 6 - The Black Slave Driver 121
  • 7 - The Shadow of the Slave Quarters 136
  • 8 - The Rhythm of Culture 164
  • 9 - A Family Folk 182
  • 10 - This Property is Condemned 214
  • Manuscript Sources 227
  • Notes 237
  • Index 285
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