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New Perspectives on Race and Slavery in America

New Perspectives on Race and Slavery in America: Essays in Honor of Kenneth M. Stampp

Robert H. Abzug
Stephen E. Maizlish
Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    New Perspectives on Race and Slavery in America
    Book Description:

    For more than three decades race relations have been at the forefront of historical research in America. These new essays on race and slavery -- some by highly regarded, award-winning veterans in the field and others by talented newcomers -- point in fresh directions. They address specific areas of contention even as together they survey important questions across four centuries of social, cultural, and political history.Looking at the institution itself, Robert McColley reconsiders the origins of black slavery in America, while William W. Freehling presents a striking interpretation of the Denmark Vesey slave conspiracy of 1822. In the political arena, William E. Gienapp and Stephen E. Maizlish assess the power of race and slave issues in, respectively, the Republican and Democratic parties of the 1850s.

    For the Civil War and Reconstruction eras, Reid Mitchell profiles the consciousness of the average Confederate soldier, while Leon F. Litwack explores the tasks facing freed slaves. Arthur Zilversmit switches the perspective to Washington with a reevaluation of Grant's commitments to the freedmen.

    Essays on the twentieth century focus on the South. James Oakes traces the rising fortunes of the supposedly vanquished planter class as it entered this century. Moving to more recent times, John G. Sproat looks at the role of South Carolina's white moderates during the struggle over segregation in the late 1950s and early 1960s and their failure at Orangeburg in 1968. Finally, Joel Williamson assesses what the loss of slavery has meant to southern culture in the 120 years since the end of the Civil War.

    A wide-ranging yet cohesive exploration,New Perspectives on Race and Slaveryin America takes on added significance as a volume that honors Kenneth M. Stampp, the mentor of all the authors and long considered one of the great modern pioneers in the history of slavery and the Civil War.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6182-2
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Robert H. Abzug and Stephen E. Maizlish
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    The titleNew Perspectives on Race and Slavery in Americaaccurately reflects the breadth and limits of the essays presented in this volume, but certainly not of the historian they honor. Kenneth M. Stampp, it is true, remains best known as one of the great historians of slavery. The publication in 1956 ofThe Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum Southhas been justly credited as a landmark in the rewriting of Afro-American and race relations history. Yet in over forty years of contributions to scholarship, Stampp has ranged over the entire Civil War era. Only by considering the broad...

  5. 1 Slavery in Virginia, 1619-1660: A Reexamination
    (pp. 11-24)

    Most accounts of the beginnings of black servitude in Virginia (and therefore in British North America) are still remarkably like this one published in 1979: “The first 20 Negroes in the English mainland colonies arrived at Jamestown, Virginia in 1619 aboard a Dutch frigate and were sold to the colonists as indentured labor, not as slaves.”¹ Such accounts then skip to 1660 or beyond, leaving the question vague as to when the institution of slavery started in Virginia. It will be maintained here that the familiar account just cited does not correspond to the known facts and that the records...

  6. 2 Denmark Vesey’s Peculiar Reality
    (pp. 25-48)

    The title posed the puzzle. North American slaveholders entitled slavery the Peculiar Institution. They also denied that slaveholding was peculiar. Bondage, they boasted, was omnipresent throughout western history.

    Then why was the Peculiar Institution peculiar?

    An examination of moments of crisis helps answer that question. Insurrection scares were among the South’s gravest traumas. Charleston, South Carolina’s Denmark Vesey Conspiracy of 1822 was the severest antebellum scare. Both Charlestonians’ explanations of why the Peculiar Institution momentarily shattered and their efforts to make the peculiar normal again illuminate how that mysterious title captured reality.

    Denmark Vesey’s Conspiracy, we have lately been told,...

  7. 3 The Republican Party and the Slave Power
    (pp. 51-78)

    InHome as Found,James Fenimore Cooper presents a biting commentary on American society and values before the Civil War. At one point in the book, Aristabulus Bragg, the archetypal democratic politician always out to curry popular favor while looking out for his own interests, has the unpleasant duty of inducing some apprentices to stop playing ball on his client’s properity. Afraid to oppose the majority on any question, this self-proclaimed champion of the sovereignty of the multitude is rudely rebuffed when he tries to convince them to play in the street. Frustrated, he hits upon the clever strategy of...

  8. 4 Race and Politics in the Northern Democracy: 1854-1860
    (pp. 79-90)

    In the fall of 1862, less than one month after Abraham Lincoln announced his intention to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, Cincinnati’s Democratic newspaper, theEnquirer,urged its readers to vote in the coming election for “the White Man’s Ticket-the ticket of the Union, and the Constitution as it is, and the negroes where they are.”¹ Across the North, other Democratic papers issued similar appeals. In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for example, thePatriot and Uniondeclared the electon to be “a contest between the white and black races for supremacy. President Lincoln and the Abolitionists have made it so.” “The only question...

  9. 5 The Creation of Confederate Loyalties
    (pp. 93-108)

    In April 1863, Lt. Leonidas Lafayette Polk of the 43rd North Carolina Regiment (C.S.A.) took part in an expedition into the eastern part of his home state, an area that had been held intermittently by Union forces. Elected to the state legislature as a Unionist, Polk had nonetheless volunteered very early in the war and regarded himself as a man of southern sentiments; he was a slaveholder loyal to the state of North Carolina. By spring of 1863, however, Lieutenant Polk had considerable misgivings about the Confederate war effort. Speculation and corruption were creating a “rotten aristocracy” in the South;...

  10. 6 “Blues Falling Down Like Hail”: The Ordeal of Black Freedom
    (pp. 109-127)

    With the passage of time, black men and women who had endured enslavement came to articulate a disillusionment that encompassed both their bondage and the tortured freedom they had enjoyed since emancipation. Patsy Mitchner was “’bout 12 years old” when the Union Soldiers passed through North Carolina. Taught by her master and mistress to fear the Yankees, she chose to hide. But when the other slaves left, she ran away and settled in a nearby town. “I have wurked for white folks, washin’, cookin’, an’ wurkin’ at a laundry ever since freedom come.” Some seventy years after emancipation, when interviewed...

  11. 7 Grant and the Freedmen
    (pp. 128-146)

    The eight years of Grant’s presidency were crucial years for American blacks. The election of 1866 marked the repudiation of Andrew Johnson’s efforts to restore the South with little change in racial relations; the election of 1868 gave Grant and the Republican Congress the opportunity to work together to establish a new place for the Negro in American life. Grant’s policies toward the freedmen and the South—the so-called Southern Question—earned Grant a poor reputation among contemporary intellectuals as well as historians. Early historians of Reconstruction blamed Grant for carrying out a misguided and cruel policy that subjected the...

  12. 8 The Present Becomes the Past: The Planter Class in the Postbellum South
    (pp. 149-163)

    Buried in the sixteenth chapter of Ulrich B. Phillips’s monumental study ofAmerican Negro Slaveryis an extraordinary footnote. To document his rhapsodic account of “plantation life” in the antebellum South, Phillips cited his “own observations in post-bellum times in which, despite the shifting of industrial arrangements and the decrease of wealth, these phases have remained apparent.” He bolstered his case with two additional postwar memoirs, a traveller’s account and the journal of an eighteenth-century plantation tutor. Thus Phillips violated the rule he had set down in the preface a few hundred pages earlier. “Reminiscences are. . . disregarded, for...

  13. 9 “Firm Flexibility”: Perspectives on Desegregation in South Carolina
    (pp. 164-184)

    In South Carolina, as in the other states of the Deep South, the potential for violence existed throughout the racial crisis of the 1950s and 1960s. Unlike such strife-tom states as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi, however, the Palmetto State managed to integrate its public facilities without suffering the trauma of a major confrontation between blacks and whites. Tensions ran high throughout the period and localized incidents threatened regularly to erupt into major encounters. But the one manifestly exceptional incidence of violence—the bloody clash at Orangeburg between state police and black students from South Carolina State College—took...

  14. 10 The Soul Is Fled
    (pp. 185-198)

    “The soul is fled,” declared one southerner in contemplating the passage of the world the slaveholders had made. It was after the Civil War, and he had just viewed the remains of a plantation that had once flourished.¹ All over the South, paint was peeling from plantation houses, shutters sagged, and gardens grew weeds. With emancipation, the soul had indeed fled the Old South, but the body lived on. The great fact about southern history since emancipation is that the body lived on, and the body must somehow be sustained—first with bread, and then with spirit. Bread came, but...

  15. The Contributors
    (pp. 199-200)
  16. Index
    (pp. 201-206)