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Manhood Enslaved

Manhood Enslaved: Bondmen in Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century New Jersey

Kenneth E. Marshall
Volume: 2
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Manhood Enslaved
    Book Description:

    ‘Manhood Enslaved’ reconstructs the lives of three male captives to bring greater intellectual and historical clarity to the muted lives of enslaved peoples in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century central New Jersey, where blacks were held in bondage for nearly two centuries. The book contributes to an evolving body of historical scholarship arguing that the lives of bondpeople in America were shaped not only by the powerful forces of racial oppression, but also by their own notions of gender. The book uses previously understudied, white-authored, nineteenth-century literature about central New Jersey slaves as a point of departure. Reading beyond the racist assumptions of the authors, it contends that the precarious day-to-day existence of the three protagonists - Yombo Melick, Dick Melick, and Quamino Buccau (Smock) - provides revealing evidence about the various elements of "slave manhood" that gave real meaning to their oppressed lives. Kenneth E. Marshall is assistant professor of history at the State University of New York at Oswego.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-740-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction: “Ain’t No Account”
    (pp. 1-14)

    By 1800 New Jersey boasted the second largest enslaved population in the northeastern United States.¹ Yet, because of the paucity of useful published sources in which African Americans discuss their lives under New Jersey bondage—an undeniably brutal, as well as important economic and social system—former enslaved blacks there are virtually mute. Consequently, when Silvia Dubois (1788/89–1889), a former central New Jersey slave, was asked by a certain white man, in 1883, if he could publish her life story, which was part of local legend, the free black woman bluntly retorted, “Most of folks think that niggers ain’t...

  6. Chapter 1 Black Images in White Minds
    (pp. 15-41)

    This study of slave manhood in the rural North begins with an analysis of William Allinson’s and Andrew Mellick’s racialized accounts of our three male protagonists. The purpose here is to situate their respective works, the Memoir of Quamino Buccau (1851) and The Story of an Old Farm (1889), within broader ideological and literary contexts, that is, within the larger Western (white) mind of the mid to late nineteenth century. Once contextualized, the works will comprise part of the greater hegemonic discourse on black peoples.

    Indeed, Allinson and Mellick represent white authors in the nineteenth century, the majority of whom...

  7. Chapter 2 Powerful and Righteous
    (pp. 42-63)

    Andrew Mellick’s The Story of an Old Farm is a thoroughly researched book that tells us a great deal about how enslaved blacks resisted against and survived their oppression in eighteenth-century central New Jersey.¹ And yet it fails to mention or discuss a rather sensational incident of slave resistance in the area that had great implications for Yombo’s life in bondage. Reverend John Bodine Thompson made this intriguing remark in his 1894 address commemorating the 175th anniversary of the Reformed Dutch Church of Readington Township, Hunterdon County:

    Those [slaves] who came [to New Jersey] from the coast of Guinea [i.e.,...

  8. Chapter 3 “His Disposition Was Not in Any Sense Agreeable”
    (pp. 64-85)

    There is much more to consider about Yombo, who is perhaps the most intriguing of the many personages, black and white, to appear in The Story of an Old Farm. Shortly after the death of Aaron Malick in 1809, Yombo became the property of John Hastier, who resided in Elizabethtown, and who probably, according to Andrew Mellick, “was the owner of Yombo’s wife.” As Mellick dramatically puts it, “Nothing more was heard of [Yombo] by the Bedminster people, excepting that several years afterwards word came from Elizabethtown—‘Old Yombo is dead.’”¹ This illuminating statement testifies to the life of a...

  9. Chapter 4 Threat of a (Christian) Bondman
    (pp. 86-108)

    While Yombo’s combative temperament speaks dramatically to the heroism of enslaved males, more bondmen perhaps chose Quamino’s method of diffusing white people’s endless scrutiny of their allegedly dangerous physical (sexual) presence. At first glance, the Memoir of Quamino Buccau appears to be a rather uninspiring account of Quamino’s life in slavery and freedom. Yet, upon closer examination, the Memoir, which author William Allinson composed as a romantic racialist tract, powerfully elucidates the tenuous existence of enslaved males in the eighteenth-century rural North, and how their religiosity helped to promote their day-to-day survival. Specifically, Quamino’s exploitation of and receptivity to Christianity...

  10. Chapter 5 Work, Family, and Day-to-Day Survival on an Old Farm
    (pp. 109-134)

    Much like Quamino, Dick Melick survived the hardships of eighteenth-century rural Northern slavery by navigating cautiously around whites, while at the same time embracing the perilous responsibilities of father, husband, and protector under bondage. In a manner similar to, yet different, from Quamino, Dick shows that not all bondmen embraced Yombo’s strategy of overt resistance. Still, in his own way, as the consummate family man, Dick was a strong and resilient bondman. This was no small feat when considering that he was as “dark” as Yombo (whose skin color was “coal black”), and probably had a larger physique than either...

  11. Epilogue: “Losing It”
    (pp. 135-144)

    I could have concluded this study in any number of ways. And, in fact, I considered several promising lines of thought. Eventually, however, I chose to close my discussion with an incident involving a slave who has fascinated me nearly as long as Yombo, Dick, and Quamino—the bondman York, owned by John Blanchard of Woodbridge. York’s behavior in this incident, which was both tragic and comical, underscores the anger, frustration, and alienation of enslaved males in eighteenth-century New Jersey. Indeed, it may serve as a metaphor for black men living in American society throughout the ages. The following account...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 145-184)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 185-202)
  14. Index
    (pp. 203-208)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 209-209)