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Slavery and the American South

Slavery and the American South

Edited by Winthrop D. Jordan
Annette Gordon-Reed
Peter S. Onuf
James Oakes
Walter Johnson
Ariela Gross
Laura F. Edwards
Norrece T. Jones
Jan Lewis
Robert Olwell
William Dusinberre
Sterling Stuckey
Roger D. Abrahams
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 224
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    Slavery and the American South
    Book Description:

    In 1900 very few historians were exploring the institution of slavery in the South. But in the next half century, the culture of slavery became a dominating theme in Southern historiography. In the 1970s it was the subject of the first Chancellor's Symposium in Southern History held at the University of Mississippi. Since then, scholarly interest in slavery has proliferated ever more widely. In fact, the editor of this retrospective volume states that since the 1970s "the expansion has resulted in a corpus that has a huge number of components-scores, even hundreds, rather than mere dozens." He states that "no such gathering could possibly summarize all the changes of those twenty-five years."

    Hence, for the Chancellor Porter L. Fortune Symposium in Southern History in the year 2000, instead of providing historiographical summary, the participants were invited to formulate thoughts arising from their own special interests and experiences. Each paper was complemented by a learned, penetrating reaction.

    "On balance," the editor avers in his introduction, "reflection about the whole can convey a further sense of the condition of this field of scholarship at the very end of the last century, which was surely an improvement over what prevailed at the beginning."

    The collection of papers includes the following: "Logic and Experience: Thomas Jefferson's Life in the Law" by Annette Gordon-Reed, with commentary by Peter S. Onuf; "The Peculiar Fate of the Bourgeois Critique of Slavery" by James Oakes, with commentary by Walter Johnson; "Reflections on Law, Culture, and Slavery" by Ariela Gross, with commentary by Laura F. Edwards; "Rape in Black and White: Sexual Violence in the Testimony of Enslaved and Free Americans" by Norrece T. Jones, Jr., with commentary by Jan Lewis; "The Long History of a Low Place: Slavery on the South Carolina Coast, 1670-1870" by Robert Olwell, with commentary by William Dusinberre; "Paul Robeson and Richard Wright on the Arts and Slave Culture" by Sterling Stuckey, with commentary by Roger D. Abrahams.

    Winthrop D. Jordan is William F. Winter Professor of History and professor of African American studies at the University of Mississippi. His previous books includeWhite Over Black: American Attitudes toward the Negro, 1550-1812andThe White Man's Burden: Historical Origins of Racism in the United States, and his work has been published in theAtlantic Monthly,Daedalus, and theJournal of Southern History, among other periodicals.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-045-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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

    The essays in this book derive from the twenty-fifth annual Porter L. Fortune, Jr. Symposium on History, held at the University of Mississippi in the fall of 2000. This particular symposium celebrated the first one, which was held in 1975. In that earlier year the History Department at the University of Mississippi offered its first national symposium, successfully gathering a small group of distinguished scholars from across the country. The Department decided to plunge directly into a topic which carried a special import at the University—slavery in the United States. It had been only a dozen years since the...

  5. Logic and Experience: Thomas Jeffersonʹs Life in the Law
    (pp. 3-28)
    Annette Gordon-Reed

    One could say that Thomas Jefferson lived a life in the law. He saw the workings of the American legal system from nearly every vantage point: as a student, a practicing attorney, a legislator, as an executive who had to enforce the law, and in later years, as a quasi-professor to young men who came to Monticello to read law in his extensive library. Jeffersonʹs outlook on life was greatly influenced by his understanding of the role law plays in the operation of any ordered society. He understood it, admired it, and lived with it.

    But like so many other...

  6. The Peculiar Fate of the Bourgeois Critique of Slavery
    (pp. 29-56)
    James Oakes

    In 1835 a young William Seward, traveling through the Shenandoah valley, was struck by the dilapidated state of the southern slave economy. ʺAn exhausted soil and decaying towns, wretchedly-neglected roads, and, in every respect, an absence of enterprise and improvement, distinguish the region,ʺ Seward wrote. ʺSuch has been the effect of slavery.ʺ¹ By the 1850s Sewardʹs long-held belief in the economic inefficiency of slavery became a central theme in the ideology of the Republican Party in the North. Slavery, Republicans argued, undermined the incentive to work by depriving all slaves of the fruits of their labor, including the prospect of...

  7. Reflections on Law, Culture, and Slavery
    (pp. 57-92)
    Ariela Gross

    When I was a graduate student trying to pursue studies in both U.S. history and law, I was keenly aware of the institutional and intellectual divide that prevailed between social and legal history. Time after time, professors asked me to choose whether I would be ʺusing legal records to study societyʺ or ʺstudying the history of lawʺ (which could have no possible interest to students of society). As I became interested in slavery, I found that while there was a rich legal history of slavery, it was primarily an intellectual and economic history; the cultural history of slavery, on the...

  8. Rape in Black and White: Sexual Violence in the Testimony of Enslaved and Free Americans
    (pp. 93-116)
    Norrece T. Jones Jr.

    In light of the culture of racism that English and European elites began to codify legally in the second half of the seventeenth century and the dominance of men both preceding and long after this, it comes as no surprise that scholars looking back at the more than two centuries of bondage in North America have seen fit only to examine at length the sexual violence for which there is the least and most exceptional evidence. That they have relied primarily on the testimony of free people with the greatest interest in upholding the vision of slavery as enslavers saw...

  9. The Long History of a Low Place: Slavery on the South Carolina Coast, 1670–1870
    (pp. 117-146)
    Robert Olwell

    Most people living in the South Carolina lowcountry today would probably agree wholeheartedly with William Faulknerʹs famous (and perhaps over-cited) aphorism that in the American South, ʺthe past is never dead, itʹs not even past.ʺ Certainly, anyone who spent time in Charleston in the last year of the twentieth century could not escape the fact that not only is the regionʹs past refusing to die; at times, it almost seems to bury the present. In the summer of 2000, lowcountry inhabitants were engaged in a heated and bitter statewide debate as to whether the Confederate battle flag should continue to...

  10. Paul Robeson and Richard Wright on the Arts and Slave Culture
    (pp. 147-176)
    Sterling Stuckey

    After escaping from slavery in North Carolina, Paul Robesonʹs father eventually moved to Princeton, New Jersey. Though illiterate at the time of his escape, by the time he arrived in Princeton, he had graduated from college with honors in Greek and Latin. Small wonder that he expected Paul, who was born in Princeton in 1898, to meet the highest standards in every field. And small wonder that he was a respected leader of the tiny black community in Princeton that covered but a handful of blocks. Many of the Robeson relatives, ex-slaves and former sharecroppers from North Carolina, lived there...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 177-212)
  12. Contributors
    (pp. 213-214)
  13. Index
    (pp. 215-224)