On Slavery's Border is a bottom-up examination of how
slavery and slaveholding were influenced by both the geography and
the scale of the slaveholding enterprise. Missouri's strategic
access to important waterways made it a key site at the periphery
of the Atlantic world. By the time of statehood in 1821, people
were moving there in large numbers, especially from the upper
South, hoping to replicate the slave society they'd left
Diane Mutti Burke focuses on the Missouri counties located
along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to investigate
small-scale slavery at the level of the household and neighborhood.
She examines such topics as small slaveholders' child-rearing and
fiscal strategies, the economics of slavery, relations between
slaves and owners, the challenges faced by slave families,
sociability among enslaved and free Missourians within rural
neighborhoods, and the disintegration of slavery during the Civil
War. Mutti Burke argues that economic and social factors gave
Missouri slavery an especially intimate quality. Owners directly
oversaw their slaves and lived in close proximity with them,
sometimes in the same building. White Missourians believed this
made for a milder version of bondage. Some slaves, who expressed
fear of being sold further south, seemed to agree.
Mutti Burke reveals, however, that while small slaveholding
created some advantages for slaves, it also made them more
vulnerable to abuse and interference in their personal lives. In a
region with easy access to the free states, the perception that
slavery was threatened spawned white anxiety, which frequently led
to violent reassertions of supremacy.
Subjects: History, Sociology
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