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Gleanings of Freedom

Gleanings of Freedom: Free and Slave Labor along the Mason-Dixon Line, 1790-1860

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Gleanings of Freedom
    Book Description:

    In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, farmers and planters in the hinterlands of Baltimore, Maryland, cobbled together workforces from a diverse labor population of black and white apprentices, indentured servants, slaves, and hired workers. The Upper South during this period presents a unique perspective on how free and slave labor systems coexisted and interacted during a time when slavery and free labor were moving apart both geographically and ideologically. Gleanings of Freedom examines the intertwined lives of the poor whites, slaves, and free blacks who lived and worked along the Mason-Dixon Line in the decades preceding the Civil War._x000B__x000B_Max Grivno closely examines a handful of counties in northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania to illustrate how these rural local communities represented issues of national historical significance, including the dynamic, multifaceted relationship between slave and free labor, the lives of free black and white farmhands, the domestic slave trade's impact on the people of the Upper South, and the struggles of enslaved and free blacks to liberate themselves and their families from bondage through immediate and delayed manumissions. Grivno reconstructs the economy of this wheat-producing region to illustrate how the erratic demand for labor shaped negotiations between employers and their workers. Gleanings of Freedom illuminates the ties between the economies of the Upper and Lower South, showing how the insatiable demand for labor on the cotton and sugar plantations of the Deep South drew thousands of slaves southward and drove those who remained on the sectional border to fight for their freedom through shrewd negotiations and violent resistance._x000B__x000B_Deftly drawing from court records, the diaries, letters, and ledgers of farmers and small planters, travelers' accounts, and testimonies of slaves and their masters, Gleanings of Freedom reconstructs how these poorest of southerners eked out their livings and struggled to maintain their families and their freedom in the often unforgiving rural economy.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09356-2
    Subjects: Political Science, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Sharpsburg, Maryland, 1803
    (pp. 1-22)

    On 17 September 1862, the Union’s Army of the Potomac and the Confederacy’s Army of Northern Virginia clashed on the corn and wheat fields, pastures, and woodlots surrounding Sharpsburg, Maryland. When the smoke cleared, upward of twenty-three thousand men had been killed or wounded and the “irrepressible conflict” between societies built on slavery and free labor had taken a radical turn.¹ Emboldened by the triumph of northern arms, President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation that transformed the war into a crusade against slavery. In so doing, he etched Sharpsburg and the Battle of Antietam into the nation’s historical...

  6. 1. “The Land Flows with Milk and Honey”: Agriculture and Labor in the Early Republic
    (pp. 23-63)

    Northern Maryland’s landscape was inspiring. In 1776, traveler John F. D. Smyth found that “the land around Frederick-Town is heavy, strong, and rich, well calculated for wheat, with which it abounds.” It was, he believed, “as pleasant a country as any in the world.” To Polish nobleman Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, the counties on the Mason-Dixon Line seemed less like the heart of Baltimore’s hinterlands and more like a vision of the biblical Canaan. “There is nothing more fertile than this land,” he exclaimed as his stagecoach rattled toward Frederick. The fields “groan under the weight of indian corn, wheat, [and]...

  7. 2. “A Strange Reverse of Fortune”: Panic, Depression, and the Transformation of Labor
    (pp. 64-90)

    In 1831, John P. Thompson of the Frederick-Town Herald climbed the “High Knob” of Catoctin Mountain. There, he was confronted with a glorious vision. “I have stood upon the mountain high in the air, and witnessed on all sides, as far as the eye can reach, an almost unbroken line of yellow grain, which reflected in the sun, like the shining bed of Paetolus.”¹ Thompson’s appreciation was shared by other commentators, including the acerbic travel writer Anne Royall, who toured Maryland in the 1820s. Although she spared few criticisms in her description of the Middle Atlantic, Royall was enthralled by...

  8. 3. “There Are Objections to Black and White, but One Must Be Chosen”: Managing Farms and Farmhands in Antebellum Maryland
    (pp. 91-114)

    Between 1845 and 1847, Arthur W. Machen, a slaveholder in Fairfax County, Virginia, peppered his father with questions about the composition of his workforce. Like other landowners in this northern Virginia county, Machen was reeling from economic reverses. Soil exhaustion, languishing commodity markets, and increased competition from western wheat producers had reduced many area farmers to a hardscrabble existence. Amid these catastrophes, Machen attempted to salvage his fortunes by restructuring his labor force. His growing family and five slaves could handle some of the routine chores, he reckoned, but he worried about the additional hands that would be needed over...

  9. 4. “… How Much of Oursels We Owned”: Finding Freedom along the Mason-Dixon Line
    (pp. 115-151)

    The image still haunted her. In the spring of 1820, Eliza Thomas had witnessed her master, Colonel James Samuel Hook, being “caught in a sawmill, and drawn out like a plank…. [Y]ou could n’t tell he’d ever been a man.” Decades later, she remembered that the colonel’s death was the beginning of “awful times” for his enslaved men and women. All slaves dreaded their owners’ deaths, which often heralded the dissolution of the estate and the destruction of fragile slave communities. Hook’s unexpected demise must have been especially bitter for Thomas and many others on his Frederick County plantation, for...

  10. 5. “Chased Out on the Slippery Ice”: Rural Wage Laborers in Antebellum Maryland
    (pp. 152-194)

    In July 1861, a white farmhand identified only as Grimes and several free black harvesters left the Carroll County store of C. S. Snouffer, where they had spent the evening drinking. As they milled outside the store “talking about the nearest road to the place they were at work,” a Mr. Drum “took the idea that it was a squad of Negroes” and accosted the farmworkers. A local newspaper reported that “the darkies left (being afraid)” but that Grimes, who carried a pistol, took umbrage and challenged Drum. Outraged at the “black” man’s impudence, Drum sprinted across the road and...

  11. CONCLUSION: Sharpsburg, Maryland, 1862
    (pp. 195-200)

    The fires that engulfed the barns and stables of George Carey and the Mumma family were distant memories on 17 September 1862, when once again the farms outside Sharpsburg were embroiled in fire and smoke. Most people in the neighborhood had forgotten “Negro Anthony” and his desperate flights to avoid being sold south for conspiring to torch Carey’s outbuildings. Harry, the slave who stood trial for setting fire to the Mumma barn in 1822, probably did not live to see soldiers of the Third North Carolina infantry finish his work by torching the Mumma house and outbuildings during the battle.¹...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 201-256)
  13. Index
    (pp. 257-270)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 271-281)