Cultivating Race

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

Watson W. Jennison
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 440
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    Cultivating Race
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-3446-8
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    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...

  5. 1 From a Common Man’s Utopia to a Planter’s Paradise, 1732–1776
    (pp. 11-40)

    Georgia’s founders established the colony as a haven for the common man, but within a generation their vision had evaporated. The countryside, once filled with inhospitable swamplands, gradually transformed into income-producing rice plantations. The transition to slavery came quickly in Georgia, with far-reaching social, economic, and political consequences for the colony’s development. A mere twenty years elapsed between the repeal of the ban on slavery and the colony’s emergence as a mature plantation society. In that span of time, a new planter elite arose, abandoning the utopian goals of the founders in the pursuit of wealth and political power. Georgia...

  6. 2 The Contagion of Liberty, 1776–1804
    (pp. 41-88)

    Americans inaugurated the age of revolutions with their War of Independence in 1776. Patriots were not the only people who sought liberty from tyranny. Slaves took the opportunities provided by the American Revolution to escape from their plantations and seek their freedom. In the aftermath of the war, white Georgians sought to rebuild the institution. In the midst of these efforts, however, the revolutionary cycle initiated by the revolutionaries in North America came full circle, returning to its birthplace. Having spread from the United States to France to St. Domingue, becoming increasingly radical at each step of the way, the...

  7. 3 The Trans-Oconee Republic, 1794
    (pp. 89-126)

    The author who penned this poem in late 1790 expressed the resentment felt by many Revolutionary veterans in Georgia who believed that their contributions on behalf of the nation had not been rewarded. The men had received promises of land in return for their service during the Revolutionary War, but seven years after the conflict’s official end they had yet to obtain their recompense. As part of its efforts to raise troops during the Revolutionary War, Georgia had offered bounties of land to men who fought in the state militia or Continental Army. This land, however, lay beyond the colonial...

  8. 4 The State of Muskogee, 1799–1803
    (pp. 127-156)

    The short-lived State of Muskogee, in existence from 1799 to 1803, constituted a threat to the expansion of American plantation slavery. Members of the nation came primarily from the Seminoles in the Mikasuki towns situated along the Apalachee River, but also included a significant contingent of Indians from other towns as well as a sizable group of blacks and whites. They allied to resist expansion efforts by Spain and the United States and the growing centralization of power among the Creeks through the Creek national council. The State of Muskogee was a multiracial society where race played little role in...

  9. 5 Borders of Freedom, 1812–1818
    (pp. 157-188)

    John Spaniard escaped from his master in Georgia sometime in early 1812. Carrying “several kinds of clothes” and possessing the ability to speak English, Spanish, and French, Spaniard most likely hoped to remake himself into a freeman.¹ To achieve this objective, he did not have to travel far. Unlike subsequent generations of Georgia slaves who would have to cross vast distances to the northern United States or Canada in their quest for freedom, Spaniard faced a far less arduous and lengthy journey to freedom in Florida. If the escape of Spaniard had been an isolated incident, the expression of a...

  10. 6 Making Georgia Black and White, 1818–1838
    (pp. 189-224)

    The defeat of the Seminoles in 1818 brought peace to the southwestern frontier. White Georgians had long claimed the territory as their own, and now they could finally begin settling the area. Indians, however, remained on the lands white Georgians had long coveted. Although historians typically have presented white Georgians in monolithic terms, they were divided along class and regional lines and over their thoughts concerning the proper treatment of the Indians, their abilities to assimilate into American culture, the modes of their removal, and their place in society.¹ Between 1820 and 1840, the white population in Georgia exploded, doubling...

  11. 7 The Democratization of Slavery, 1820–1860
    (pp. 225-276)

    In the wake of the removal of the Creek and Cherokee Indians from Georgia, plantation slavery quickly spread throughout the interior of the state. In short order, cotton plantations emerged from the forests where Indian warriors had hunted for game not long before. The slave society that took root in Georgia’s blackbelt differed in fundamental ways from its predecessor in the lowcountry. These transformations democratized the institution of slavery. This chapter illustrates the democratization of slavery in two different but interrelated ways: first, by examining the rise of cotton as the state’s primary crop and exploring the social and economic...

  12. 8 Rewriting Georgia’s Racial Past, 1850s
    (pp. 277-320)

    By the 1850s, Georgia had become a black and white society. The state’s population had changed dramatically from its colonial beginnings. New arrivals to Georgia between 1820 and 1840 had become an important constituency and had shifted the balance of political power in the state. Driven by greed, they successfully restricted the state’s black population, both free and enslaved, and removed the state’s Indian population, both “civilized” and “uncivilized.” They tightened the racial divide by collapsing the differences among people of African descent, and they opened vast swaths of land to the expansion of slavery and plantation agriculture. White Georgians...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 321-402)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 403-416)
  15. Index
    (pp. 417-428)