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This pathbreaking interpretation of the slaveholding South begins with the insight that slavery and freedom were not mutually exclusive but were intertwined in every dimension of life in the South. James Oakes traces the implications of this insight for relations between masters and slaves, slaveholders and non-slaveholders, and for the rise of a racist ideology.
In the antebellum South, the presence of free people of color was problematic to the white population. Not only were they possible assistants to enslaved people and potential members of the labor force; their very existence undermined popular justifications for slavery. It is no surprise that, by the end of the Civil War, nine Southern states had enacted legal provisions for the "voluntary" enslavement of free blacks. What is surprising to modern sensibilities and perplexing to scholars is that some individuals did petition to rescind their freedom. Family or Freedom investigates the incentives for free African Americans living in the antebellum South to sacrifice their liberty for a life in bondage. Author Emily West looks at the many factors influencing these dire decisions -- from desperate poverty to the threat of expulsion -- and demonstrates that the desire for family unity was the most important consideration for African Americans who submitted to voluntary enslavement. The first study of its kind to examine the phenomenon throughout the South, this meticulously researched volume offers the most thorough exploration of this complex issue to date.
A major contribution to our understanding of slavery in the early republic, Deliver Us from Evil illuminates the white South's twisted and tortured efforts to justify slavery, focusing on the period from the drafting of the federal constitution in 1787 through the age of Jackson. Drawing heavily on primary sources, including newspapers, government documents, legislative records, pamphlets, and speeches, Lacy K. Ford recaptures the varied and sometimes contradictory ideas and attitudes held by groups of white southerners as they tried to square slavery with their democratic ideals. He excels at conveying the political, intellectual, economic, and social thought of leading white southerners, vividly recreating the mental world of the varied actors and capturing the vigorous debates over slavery. He also shows that there was not one antebellum South but many, and not one southern white mindset but several, with the debates over slavery in the upper South quite different in substance from those in the deep South. In the upper South, where tobacco had fallen into comparative decline by 1800, debate often centered on how the area might reduce its dependence on slave labor and "whiten" itself, whether through gradual emancipation and colonization or the sale of slaves to the cotton South. During the same years, the lower South swirled into the vortex of the "cotton revolution," and that area's whites lost all interest in emancipation, no matter how gradual or fully compensated. An ambitious, thought-provoking, and highly insightful book, Deliver Us from Evil makes an important contribution to the history of slavery in the United States, shedding needed light on the white South's early struggle to reconcile slavery with its Revolutionary heritage.
Challenging traditional assumptions about the plantation economy's reliance on a pre-modern, nature-based conception of time, Mark M. Smith shows how and why southerners--particularly masters and their slaves--came to view the clock as a legitimate arbiter of time. Ironically, Smith shows, freedom largely consolidated the dependence of masters as well as freedpeople on the clock.
When Slavery Was Called Freedom uncovers the cultural and ideological bonds linking the combatants in the Civil War era and boldly reinterprets the intellectual foundations of secession. John Patrick Daly dissects the evangelical defense of slavery at the heart of the nineteenth century's sectional crisis. He brings a new understanding to the role of religion in the Old South and the ways in which religion was used in the Confederacy. Southern evangelicals argued that their unique region was destined for greatness, and their rhetoric gave expression and a degree of coherence to the grassroots assumptions of the South. The North and South shared assumptions about freedom, prosperity, and morality. For a hundred years after the Civil War, politicians and historians emphasized the South's alleged departures from national ideals. Recent studies have concluded, however, that the South was firmly rooted in mainstream moral, intellectual, and socio-economic developments and sought to compete with the North in a contemporary spirit. Daly argues that antislavery and proslavery emerged from the same evangelical roots; both Northerners and Southerners interpreted the Bible and Christian moral dictates in light of individualism and free market economics. When the abolitionist's moral critique of slavery arose after 1830, Southern evangelicals answered the charges with the strident self-assurance of recent converts. They went on to articulate how slavery fit into the "genius of the American system" and how slavery was only right as part of that system.
The matriarch of a remarkable African American family, Sally Thomas went from being a slave on a tobacco plantation to a "virtually free" slave who ran her own business and purchased one of her sons out of bondage. In Search of the Promised Land offers a vivid portrait of the extended Thomas-Rapier family and of slave life before the Civil War. Based on personal letters and an autobiography by one of Thomas' sons, this remarkable piece of detective work follows the family as they walk the boundary between slave and free, traveling across the country in search of a "promised land" where African Americans would be treated with respect. Their record of these journeys provides a vibrant picture of antebellum America, ranging from New Orleans to St. Louis to the Overland Trail. The authors weave a compelling narrative that illuminates the larger themes of slavery and freedom while examining the family's experiences with the California Gold Rush, Civil War battles, and steamboat adventures. The documents show how the Thomas-Rapier kin bore witness to the full gamut of slavery--from brutal punishment, runaways, and the breakup of slave families to miscegenation, insurrection panics, and slave patrols. The book also exposes the hidden lives of "virtually free" slaves, who maintained close relationships with whites, maneuvered within the system, and gained a large measure of autonomy.
The widely acclaimed inquiry into the story that inspired Toni Morrison's "Beloved"--a nuanced portrait of the not-so-genteel Southern culture that perpetuated slavery and had such destructive effects on all who lived with it and in it. 25 illustrations.

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