New Directions in Slavery Studies: Commodification, Community, and Comparison
Jeff Forret, Christine E. Sears
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
In this landmark essay collection, twelve contributors chart the contours of current scholarship in the field of slavery studies, highlighting three of the discipline s major themes commodification, community, and comparison and indicating paths for future inquiry.
New Directions in Slavery Studies addresses the various ways in which the institution of slavery reduced human beings to a form of property. From the coastwise domestic slave trade in international context to the practice of slave mortgaging to the issuing of insurance policies on slaves, several essays reveal how southern whites treated slaves as a form of capital to be transferred or protected. An additional piece in this section contemplates the historian s role in translating the fraught history of slavery into film.
Other essays examine the idea of the slave community, an increasingly embattled concept born of revisionist scholarship in the 1970s. This section s contributors examine the process of community formation for black foreigners, the crucial role of violence in the negotiation of slaves sense of community, and the effect of the Civil War on slave society. A final essay asks readers to reassess the long-standing revisionist emphasis on slave agency and the ideological burdens it carries with it.
Essays in the final section discuss scholarship on comparative slavery, contrasting American slavery with similar, less restrictive practices in Brazil and North Africa. One essay negotiates a complicated tripartite comparison of secession in the United States, Brazil, and Cuba, while another uncovers subtle differences in slavery in separate regions of the American South, demonstrating that comparative slavery studies need not be transnational.
New Directions in Slavery Studies provides new examinations of the lives and histories of enslaved people in the United States.
descent placed on slave ownership has been observed in other societies in the Americas. See Edward L. Cox, Free Coloreds in the Slave Societies of St. Kitts and Grenada, 1763–1833 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984), 72–75; Michael P. Johnson and James L. Roark, Black Masters: A Free Family of Color in the Old South (New York: Norton, 1984), 203–6; and Kimberly S. Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places: Free Black Society in Colonial New Orleans, 1769–1803 (Durham, NC: Duke University
were, however, divided by nationality, work assignments, rank, status, and access to money. Easing the severity of their bondage, they maintained connections to and communication with distant countrymen and kinsmen and received news and funds from outside Algiers. The absence of a freed slave or European population and the presence of impediments to escape or maroonage also contributed to the system’s success. Most importantly, Christian slaves counted on redemption. As redemption held forth the
nature of family contact throughout the South. These factors are given due consideration in recent localized studies by historians such as Emily West and Wilma Dunaway, but as yet few if any historians have approached the issue of permanent forced separation from an intraregional comparative perspective.2 A closer inspection of various southern communities reveals that families in certain agricultural regions were more at risk than others. Time and place mattered; the specific labor demands and
mortgage contracts supported by collateral. FIGURE 1. The Commodification of Celina, Sith, Tom, and Charles by Nicholas Green and John Green, Virginia, 1772 KNOW all men by these presents that Nicholas Green of Culpeper County for the ~Consideration of two Hundred pounds Current Money to me in hand paid by John Green Gent of the said County the receipt whereof I do hereby acknowledge thereof Acquit and discharge the said John Green Have Bargained and sold and by these presents do Bargain and
preconditions for autonomy were so sorely lacking. Mill’s expansive conception of autonomy, with its correspondingly exacting preconditions and his frank statements about the despotism of slavery, suggest why revisionist historians prefer not to write much about slaveholders. A robust concept of autonomy would not bear up well to a straightforward reckoning with the slaveholders’ onslaught. Although historians of the slave community have been accused of romanticizing slave society, they are no