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William Kauffman Scarborough has produced a work of incomparable scope and depth, offering the challenge to see afresh one of the most powerful groups in American history -- the wealthiest southern planters who owned 250 or more slaves in the census years of 1850 and 1860. The identification and tabulation in every slaveholding state of these lords of economic, social, and political influence reveals a highly learned class of men who set the tone for southern society while also involving themselves in the wider world of capitalism. Scarborough examines the demographics of elite families, the educational philosophy and religiosity of the nabobs, gender relations in the Big House, slave management methods, responses to secession, and adjustment to the travails of Reconstruction and an alien postwar world.
This volume of The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture offers a timely, authoritative, and interdisciplinary exploration of issues related to social class in the South from the colonial era to the present. With introductory essays by J. Wayne Flynt and by editors Larry J. Griffin and Peggy G. Hargis, the volume is a comprehensive, stand-alone reference to this complex subject, which underpins the history of the region and shapes its future. In 58 thematic essays and 103 topical entries, the contributors explore the effects of class on all aspects of life in the South--its role in Indian removal, the Civil War, the New Deal, and the civil rights movement, for example, and how it has been manifested in religion, sports, country and gospel music, and matters of gender. Artisans and the working class, indentured workers and steelworkers, the Freedmen's Bureau and the Knights of Labor are all examined. This volume provides a full investigation of social class in the region and situates class concerns at the center of our understanding of Southern culture.
The Old South has traditionally been portrayed as an insular and backward-looking society. The Old South's Modern Worlds looks beyond this myth to identify some of the many ways that antebellum southerners were enmeshed in the modernizing trends of their time. The essays gathered in this volume not only tell unexpected narratives of the Old South, they also explore the compatibility of slavery-the defining feature of antebellum southern life-with cultural and material markers of modernity such as moral reform, cities, and industry. Considered as proponents of American manifest destiny, for example, antebellum southern politicians look more like nationalists and less like separatists. Though situated within distinct communities, Southerners'-white, black, and red-participated in and responded to movements global in scope and transformative in effect. The turmoil that changes in Asian and European agriculture wrought among southern staple producers shows the interconnections between seemingly isolated southern farms and markets in distant lands. Deprovincializing the antebellum South, The Old South's Modern Worlds illuminates a diverse region both shaped by and contributing to the complex transformations of the nineteenth-century world.
Focusing on the master-slave relationship in Louisiana's antebellum sugarcane country, The Sugar Masters explores how a modern, capitalist mind-set among planters meshed with old-style paternalistic attitudes to create one of the South's most insidiously oppressive labor systems. As author Richard Follett vividly demonstrates, the agricultural paradise of Louisiana's thriving sugarcane fields came at an unconscionable cost to slaves. Thanks to technological and business innovations, sugar planters stood as models of capitalist entrepreneurship by midcentury. But above all, labor management was the secret to their impressive success. Follett explains how in exchange for increased productivity and efficiency they offered their slaves a range of incentives, such as greater autonomy, improved accommodations, and even financial remuneration. These material gains, however, were only short term. According to Follett, many of Louisiana's sugar elite presented their incentives with a "facade of paternal reciprocity" that seemingly bound the slaves' interests to the apparent goodwill of the masters, but in fact, the owners sought to control every aspect of the slaves's lives, from reproduction to discretionary income. Slaves responded to this display of paternalism by trying to enhance their rights under bondage, but the constant bargaining process invariably led to compromises on their part, and the grueling production pace never relented. The only respite from their masters' demands lay in fashioning their own society, including outlets for religion, leisure, and trade. Until recently, scholars have viewed planters as either paternalistic lords who eschewed marketplace values or as entrepreneurs driven to business success. Follett offers a new view of the sugar masters as embracing both the capitalist market and a social ideology based on hierarchy, honor, and paternalism. His stunning synthesis of empirical research, demographics study, and social and cultural history sets a new standard for this subject.
For a generation, scholarship on the Reconstruction era has rightly focused on the struggles of the recently emancipated for a meaningful freedom and defined its success or failure largely in those terms. In The Ordeal of the Reunion, Mark Wahlgren Summers goes beyond this vitally important question, focusing on Reconstruction's need to form an enduring Union without sacrificing the framework of federalism and republican democracy. Assessing the era nationally, Summers emphasizes the variety of conservative strains that confined the scope of change, highlights the war's impact and its aftermath, and brings the West and foreign policy into an integrated narrative. In sum, this book offers a fresh explanation for Reconstruction's demise and a case for its essential successes as well as its great failures. Indeed, this book demonstrates the extent to which the victors' aims in 1865 were met--and at what cost. Summers depicts not just a heroic, tragic moment with equal rights advanced and then betrayed but a time of achievement and consolidation, in which nationhood and emancipation were placed beyond repeal and the groundwork was laid for a stronger, if not better, America to come.
Though deeply entrenched in antebellum life, the artisans who lived and worked in Petersburg, Virginia, in the 1800s -- including carpenters, blacksmiths, coach makers, bakers, and other skilled craftsmen -- helped transform their planter-centered agricultural community into one of the most industrialized cities in the Upper South. These mechanics, as the artisans called themselves, successfully lobbied for new railroad lines and other amenities they needed to open their factories and shops, and turned a town whose livelihood once depended almost entirely on tobacco exports into a bustling modern city. In Artisan Workers in the Upper South, L. Diane Barnes closely examines the relationships between Petersburg's skilled white, free black, and slave mechanics and the roles they played in southern Virginia's emerging market economy. Barnes demonstrates that, despite studies that emphasize the backwardness of southern development, modern industry and the institution of slavery proved quite compatible in the Upper South. Petersburg joined the industrialized world in part because of the town's proximity to northern cities and resources, but it succeeded because its citizens capitalized on their uniquely southern resource: slaves. Petersburg artisans realized quickly that owning slaves could increase the profitability of their businesses, and these artisans -- including some free African Americans -- entered the master class when they could. Slave-owning mechanics, both white and black, gained wealth and status in society, and they soon joined an emerging middle class. Not all mechanics could afford slaves, however, and those who could not struggled to survive in the new economy. Forced to work as journeymen and face the unpleasant reality of permanent wage labor, the poorer mechanics often resented their inability to prosper like their fellow artisans. These differing levels of success, Barnes shows, created a sharp class divide that rivaled the racial divide in the artisan community. Unlike their northern counterparts, who united as a political force and organized strikes to effect change, artisans in the Upper South did not rise up in protest against the prevailing social order. Skilled white mechanics championed free manual labor -- a common refrain of northern artisans -- but they carefully limited the term "free" to whites and simultaneously sought alliances with slaveholding planters. Even those artisans who didn't own slaves, Barnes explains, rarely criticized the wealthy planters, who not only employed and traded with artisans, but also controlled both state and local politics. Planters, too, guarded against disparaging free labor too loudly, and their silence, together with that of the mechanics, helped maintain the precariously balanced social structure. Artisan Workers in the Upper South rejects the notion of the antebellum South as a semifeudal planter-centered political economy and provides abundant evidence that some areas of the South embraced industrial capitalism and economic modernity as readily as communities in the North.
In this in-depth and detailed history, Timothy J. Williams reveals that antebellum southern higher education did more than train future secessionists and proslavery ideologues. It also fostered a growing world of intellectualism flexible enough to marry the era's middle-class value system to the honor-bound worldview of the southern gentry. By focusing on the students' perspective and drawing from a rich trove of their letters, diaries, essays, speeches, and memoirs, Williams narrates the under examined story of education and manhood at the University of North Carolina, the nation's first public university. Every aspect of student life is considered, from the formal classroom and the vibrant curriculum of private literary societies to students' personal relationships with each other, their families, young women, and college slaves. In each of these areas, Williams sheds new light on the cultural and intellectual history of young southern men, and in the process dispels commonly held misunderstandings of southern history. Williams's fresh perspective reveals that students of this era produced a distinctly southern form of intellectual masculinity and maturity that laid the foundation for the formulation of the post–Civil War South.

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