Introduction for the Literature of Slavery


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Introduction for the Literature of Slavery

  1. 1. African American SlaveryA Brief Introduction
  2. 2. Global Dimensions• Slavery was a “global . . .system that firstunited five continents as Europeans tradedAsian textiles. . . for African slaves who[were sent] to North and South America[and] forced to produce sugar, coffee,tobacco, rice, indigo and cotton.” DavidBrion Davis, historian
  3. 3. Forms of Servitude• Slavery- Slaves areproperty to be boughtand sold at owner’swhim--hereditary• Serfdom- Serfs arebound to the land andsold along with it--hereditary• Peonage--Peons areforced to work to payoff debts; conditionsare such that release isimpossible and itbecomes hereditary• indentured servantsmust work for a periodof time to pay debt--contractual
  4. 4. Origins of Slavery• Most ancientcivilizations practicedslavery.• Developed oncepeople began to formpermanent agriculturalsocieties.• Rationalized onceestablished.• Sources of slaves inancient civilizations– Conquest– Piracy– Purchase from“barbarians”– Natural increase aschildren of slavesinherited status
  5. 5. From Slaves to Serfs• By 4th-5th century AD serfdom had largelyreplaced slavery in Europe.• Slavery was phased out in Europe by the10th century, yet these same countrieswould in a few centuries become those thatprofited by African slave trade.• Revived in 15th century by Portuguese forplantations on West African coastal islands
  6. 6. End of Serfdom• Peasant Revolt in 1381 ended serfdom inEngland.• French Revolution in France ended thepractice in 1789.• Russian serfs were not freed until 1861.
  7. 7. Atlantic Slave Trade• Some slaves from Africa were sent to Italy,Spain and Portugal in the 1400’s but thebiggest market emerged in the New World,first in the Caribbean, when attempts toenslave natives proved futile.• In 1619 first slaves brought to Virginia.• In 1713 England won the right to supplyblack slaves to the Spanish colonies.
  8. 8. Atlantic Slave Trade• Source of slaves for revived slave trade wasAfrica, where African kings and merchants soldcaptives into slavery. The captives had beencaptured by kidnapping or won in conquest.• Slaves were traded several times within Africabefore being sold to Europeans on the coast.• They did not see themselves as selling fellowblacks but as selling strangers. Tribe, not skincolor, was the important thing.
  9. 9. Importation of Slaves• About 10 millionslaves were importedfrom Africa during the430 years of theAtlantic Slave Trade• Only about 430,000 ofthem were sent towhat would becomethe U.S.OtherU.S.
  10. 10. End of slave trade• The slave trade means buying slaves inAfrica and transporting them to theAmericas.• Denmark abolished the slave trade in 1792.• England followed in 1807 and the U.S. in1808.• A good film on the fight to end the slavetrade in England is Amazing Grace
  11. 11. End of the slave trade did notmean the end of slavery• Existing slaves and descendants could stillbe traded.• Law was ignored and flouted until 1842Webster-Ashburton treaty.• We will watch Amistad, a film about a legalcase that hinged on proving the law againstthe slave trade had been violated.
  12. 12. North American SlaveryHow Slavery Developed in theUnited States
  13. 13. Slavery in the Colonies• In 1619, first blacks were brought in asindentured servants.• Efforts to make terms of servitudepermanent began early, and chattel slaverywas legalized in Virginia by 1660.• Most colonies made slavery of Africanslegal by 1670; Georgia was the exception,but legalized it in 1749.
  14. 14. Slavery in the States• After American revolution many Northern slaveswere freed and the practice outlawed in severalNorthern states.• By 1804 all states above Pennsylvania hadabolished slavery.• Many Southern states abolished the slave trade,and made it easier to emancipate slaves.• But by mid 1830’s the tide turned in the Southaway from gradual abolition.
  15. 15. Slavery in the States continued.• Constitution of 1788 helped to entrenchslavery in the South– Recognized it by counting slaves as 3/5 of aperson for taxation and representation– Guaranteed slave trade for 20 more years– Provided for return of fugitive slaves making itdifficult to escape slavery just by going to afree state.
  16. 16. Not all whites owned slaves• 16% more than 2slaves• 9% 1-2 slaves• 75% no slaves• Approx. 2300 largeplantations with 100+slaves• 44,000 smallplantations 20-100slavesNo slaves1-2 slaves3+ slaves
  17. 17. Most southern whites supportedslavery• Plantation owners let small farmers withoutslave use their machinery or ship producewith their larger lots.• They might hire part time workers fromslaves who were hired out by their masters.• They feared competition from freed blacks.• They feared revolts against whitesupremacy if slaves were freed.
  18. 18. Slavery and the territories• Northwest Ordinance prohibited slavery in thoseterritories.• Missouri Compromise of 1820 provided foradmission of equal numbers of slave and freestates from new territories (maintain status quo).• Compromise of 1850 and Kansas Nebraska Act of1854 had the effect of making all territories opento slavery and forcing northern states to cooperatein returning runaways.
  19. 19. End of Slavery in U.S.• Abolitionist movements existed throughoutAmerican history—esp. in 19th century• Tensions increased over expansion ofslavery.• In late 1850’s Lincoln and other Northernopponents of slavery generally expectedgradual emancipation of slaves with somecompensation of owners.
  20. 20. End of Slavery cont.• However, once Southern states succeededand war began, Lincoln freed the slaves inthe Confederacy with EmancipationProclamation of 1862 (effective 1863)• After the war the 13th amendment of 1865abolished slavery and all forms ofinvoluntary servitude.
  21. 21. Slavery and the Civil War
  22. 22. Slavery and the War• “Of the American Civil War it may besafely asserted that there was a single cause:slavery.” James Ford Rhodes, historian• “To strengthen, perpetuate and extend thisinterest [slavery] was the [motive of thesecession]” Abraham Lincoln• “Slavery is the heart of the matter in anyexplanation.” Don Fehrenbacher, historian
  23. 23. Secession vs. War• Slavery was the cause of the secession.• Secession was the cause of the war.• “The question is no longer about Africanslavery, but whether we have a governmentcapable of maintaining itself.” Sen. LymanTrumbull in March 1861.
  24. 24. Slavery vs. States’ Rights• The South fought for the right “to withdraw froma Union into which they as sovereign communitieshad voluntarily entered. The existence of Africanservitude was in no wise the cause of the conflict,but only an incident.” Jefferson Davis, Presidentof the confederacy in 1881• This is a revisionist view. They wanted towithdraw in order to hold onto their slaves as wecan see by comments at the time.
  25. 25. Conflicting comments made atthe time• Secession is justified by the exclusion ofslavery from the territories which wouldmake “property in slaves so insecure as tobe comparatively worthless” Davis in 1861• Slavery is “the immediate cause of the laterupture and present revolution.” Stephens,VP of the Confederacy in 1861
  26. 26. A Noble Cause?• “It is not hard to understand the reluctanceof Southern whites to believe that the noblecause for which their ancestors foughtmight have included the defense of slavery.That is why they have embraced otherinterpretations of the origins of sectionalconflict.” James McPherson, historian
  27. 27. Alternative Explanations• A favorite revisionist view was to depict the waras a conflict between the agrarian South and theindustrial north.• The southern way of life was depicted as gracious,chivalrous, and honorable.• Slavery was depicted as a mostly benigninstitution necessary to an agricultural society andin which slaves prospered under paternal care oftheir masters. Next slide gives an example.
  28. 28. Agrarian South vs. IndustrialNorth• “Slavery was part of the agrarian system,but only one element and not an essentialone. . . .The fundamental and passionateideal for which the South stood and fell wasthe ideal of an Agrarian Society, the old anaccepted manner of life for which Egypt,Greece, Rome, England and France hadstood.” Frank Owsley, Historian 1930
  29. 29. Gone With the Wind• “It is no coincidence that this interpretationflourished during the same years that thenovel and movie Gone With the Wind werebecoming the greatest popular successes ofall time. History and popular culture . . .marched hand in hand.” James McPherson
  30. 30. On Gone with the Wind• “Lip service is paid to [slavery] having beena horrible institution, but our cultural realitybelies such protestations as we renovate . . .Slave plantations [and] turn an apologia likeGone with the Wind into a cultural icon.”Gloria Naylor, novelist
  31. 31. Representations of Slavery• The nostalgic view in “Gone with theWind” is one representation of slavery inAmerican culture, but American literatureof the 18th, 19th, 20thand 21st century is fullof many more valuable and honestrepresentations. Exploring these is the focusof this course.