When they were brought to Oregon in 1844, Missouri slaves Robin and Polly Holmes and their children were promised freedom in exchange for helping develop their owner’s Willamette Valley farm. However, Nathaniel Ford, an influential settler and legislator, kept them in bondage until 1850, even then refusing to free their children. Holmes took his former master to court and, in the face of enormous odds, won the case in 1853.
In Breaking Chains, R. Gregory Nokes tells the story of the only slavery case adjudicated in Oregon’s pre-Civil War courts—Holmes v. Ford. Through the lens of this landmark case, Nokes explores the historical context of racism in Oregon and the West, reminding readers that there actually were slaves in Oregon, though relatively few in number.
Drawing on the court record, Nokes offers an intimate account of the relationship between a slave and his master from the slave’s point of view. He also explores the experiences of other slaves in early Oregon, examining attitudes toward race and revealing contradictions in the state’s history. Oregon was the only free state admitted to the union with a voter-approved constitutional clause banning African Americans and, despite the prohibition of slavery in the state, many in Oregon tolerated it and supported politicians who advocated for slavery, including Oregon’s first territorial governor.
Breaking Chains sheds light on a somber part of Oregon’s history, bringing the story of slavery in Oregon to a broader audience. The book will appeal to readers interested in Pacific Northwest history and in the history of slavery in the United States.
A well-known nineteenth-century abolitionist and former slave, William Wells Brown was a prolific writer and lecturer who captivated audiences with readings of his drama The Escape; or, a Leap for Freedom (1858). The first published play by an African American writer, The Escape explored the complexities of American culture at a time when tensions between North and South were about to explode into the Civil War. This new volume presents the first-edition text of Brown’s play and features an extensive introduction that establishes the work’s continuing significance.
The Escape centers on the attempted sexual violation of a slave and involves many characters of mixed race, through which Brown commented on such themes as moral decay, white racism, and black self-determination. Rich in action and faithful in dialect, it raises issues relating not only to race but also to gender by including concepts of black and white masculinity and the culture of southern white and enslaved women. It portrays a world in which slavery provided a convenient means of distinguishing between the white North and the white South, allowing northerners to express moral sentiments without recognizing or addressing the racial prejudice pervasive among whites in both regions.
John Ernest’s introductory essay balances the play's historical and literary contexts, including information on Brown and his career, as well as on slavery, abolitionism, and sectional politics. It also discusses the legends and realities of the Underground Railroad, examines the role of antebellum performance art—including blackface minstrelsy and stage versions of Uncle Tom's Cabin—in the construction of race and national identity, and provides an introduction to theories of identity as performance.
A century and a half after its initial appearance, The Escape remains essential reading for students of African American literature. Ernest's keen analysis of this classic play will enrich readers’ appreciation of both the drama itself and the era in which it appeared.
Indians in the Family
Dawn Peterson Harvard University Press, 2017 Library of Congress E78.S65P48 2017 | Dewey Decimal 975.00497
Through stories of a dozen white adopters, adopted Indian children, and their Native parents in early America, Dawn Peterson shows the role adoption and assimilation played in efforts to subdue Native peoples. As adults, adoptees used their education to thwart U.S. claims to their homelands, setting the stage for the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
Christopher Phillips has brought to life a man, a story, and a voice lost in the din of competing post–Civil War narratives that each claim a timeless divide between North and South. William Barclay Napton (1808–1883) was an editor, lawyer, and state supreme court justice who lived in Missouri during the tumultuous American nineteenth century. He was a keen observer of the nation’s sectional politics just as he was a participant in those of his border state, the most divided of any in the nation, in the decades surrounding the Civil War. This book tells the story of one man’s civil war, lived and waged within the broader conflict, and the long shadows both cast.
But Napton’s story moves beyond the Civil War just as it transcends the formal political realm. His is a fascinating tale of identity politics and their shifting currents, by which the highly educated former New Jerseyite became the owner or trustee of nearly fifty slaves and one of the most committed and thoughtful of the nation’s proslavery ideologues. That a “northerner” could make such a life transition in the Border West suggests more than the powerful nature of slavery in antebellum American society. Napton’s story offers provocative insights into the process of southernization, one driven more by sectional ideology and politics than by elements of a distinctive southern culture.
Although Napton’s tragic Civil War experience was a watershed in his southern evolution, that evolution was completed only after he had constructed a politicized memory of the bitter conflict, one that was suffered nowhere worse than in Missouri. This war-driven transformation ultimately defined him and his family, just as it would his border state and region for decades to come. By suffering for the South, losing family and property in his defense of its ideals and principles, he claimed by right what he could not by birth. Napton became a southerner by choice.
Drawn from incomparable personal journals kept for more than fifty years and from voluminous professional and family correspondence, Napton’s life story offers a thoughtful and important perspective on the key issues and events that turned this northerner first into an avowed proslavery ideologue and then into a full southerner. As a prominent jurist who sat on Missouri’s high bench for more than a quarter century, he used his politicized position to give birth to the New South in the Old West. Students, teachers, and general readers of southern history, western history, and Civil War history will find this book of particular interest.
The journals of David Golightly Harris are a unique daily record of a fifteen-year span in the life of a Piedmont South Carolina farm family that owned ten slaves and cultivated one hundred acres. Documents from small slaveholders are few, making these journals an invaluable source of information about the agricultural routines of a small antebellum farm as well as a revealing commentary on regional and national affairs, slavery, education, religion, family relationships, and community life.
An especially compelling feature of this book is its inclusion of writings by Harris's wife, Emily, who took over the journal when he went to war for the Confederacy in 1862. Recounting the trials of managing the farm and raising seven children in her husband's absence, Emily's words offer poignant insights into the daily struggles of those who tended the home front during the Civil War.
"Piedmont Farmer is one of those rare books that deserves a place alongside The Cotton Kingdom, My Bondage and My Freedom, The Children of Pride, Mary Chesnut's Civil War, and the recent Freedom volumes as an indispensable source for historians of the nineteenth-century South."—David C. Rankin, The Journal of Southern History
"Harris's journals are important because they span the years before, during, and after the Civil War. . . . Philip N. Racine's annotations are extensive and extraordinarily rich in detail and insight. Enhanced with photographs, maps, and a comprehensive index, the Harris journals are not only a major contribution to southern history, but also they are a poignant view of agriculture and an explicit confirmation of slavery's burden."—David E. Schob, Illinois Historical Journal
The Editor: Philip N. Racine is Kenan Professor of History at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He edited "Unspoiled Heart": The Journal of Charles Mattocks of the 17th Maine in the Voices of the Civil War series published by the University of Tennessee Press.
A valuable narrative of the often paradoxical and conflicting human bonds between female owners and the enslaved in nineteenth-century Cuba
In the early nineteenth century, while abolitionism was rising and the slave trade was declining in the Atlantic world, Spain used this opportunity to massively expand plantation slavery in Cuba. Between 1501 and 1866, more than 778,000 Africans were torn from their homelands and brought to work for the Cuban slaveholding class.
An understudied aspect of Cuban slaveholding society is the role of the white Cuban slave mistress (amas). The Power of Their Will: Slaveholding Women in Nineteenth-Century Cuba illuminates the interaction of female slaveholders and the enslaved during this time. Teresa Prados-Torreira shows, despite the lack of political power in a highly patriarchal society, Cuban women as property owners were instrumental in supporting the long duration of slavery, whether by enforcing the disciplining of the enslaved in the domestic sphere or helping to create the illusion of slavery as a humane institution. Thousands of Creole slaveholding women relied on slaves to lead a comfortable life. Even the subsistence of many poor women depended on the income derived from the hiring out of their enslaved.
In this accessible cultural history, culled from government documents, fiction, newspaper articles, traveler’s accounts, women’s wills, and archival research, Prados-Torreira coalesces a valuable narrative out of the often paradoxical and conflicting stories of the human bonds between the female owner and the enslaved. Narrative chapters, enlivened by vignettes, describe the daily life of slave mistresses in the main cities of Havana and Santiago and other towns, workings of sugar mills and coffee plantations, how slaveholding women coping with slave rebellions and wartime during the Ten Years’ War, and how personal relationships could occasionally affect the balance of power.
William Hardin Burnley (1780–1850) was the largest slave owner in Trinidad during the nineteenth century. Born in the United States to English parents, he settled on the island in 1802 and became one of its most influential citizens and a prominent agent of the British Empire. A central figure among elite and moneyed transnational slave owners, Burnley moved easily through the Atlantic world of the Caribbean, the United States, Great Britain, and Europe, and counted among his friends Alexis de Tocqueville, British politician Joseph Hume, and prime minister William Gladstone.
In this first full-length biography of Burnley, Selwyn R. Cudjoe chronicles the life of Trinidad’s “founding father” and sketches the social and cultural milieu in which he lived. Reexamining the decades of transition from slavery to freedom through the lens of Burnley’s life, The Slave Master of Trinidad demonstrates that the legacies of slavery persisted in the new post-emancipation society.
In a work of prodigious scholarship and enormous breadth, which draws on the tribal, ancient, premodern, and modern worlds, Orlando Patterson discusses the internal dynamics of slavery in sixty-six societies over time. These include Greece and Rome, medieval Europe, China, Korea, the Islamic kingdoms, Africa, the Caribbean islands, and the American South.
In Slavery Unseen, Lamonte Aidoo upends the narrative of Brazil as a racial democracy, showing how the myth of racial democracy elides the history of sexual violence, patriarchal terror, and exploitation of slaves. Drawing on sources ranging from inquisition trial documents to travel accounts and literature, Aidoo demonstrates how interracial and same-sex sexual violence operated as a key mechanism of the production and perpetuation of slavery as well as racial and gender inequality. The myth of racial democracy, Aidoo contends, does not stem from or reflect racial progress; rather, it is an antiblack apparatus that upholds and protects the heteronormative white patriarchy throughout Brazil's past and on into the present.
Race remains a potent and divisive force in our society. Whether it is the shooting of minority people by the police, the mass incarceration of people of color, or the recent KKK rallies that have been in the news, it is clear that the scars from the United States’ histories of slavery and racial discrimination run too deep to simply be ignored. But what are the most productive ways to deal with the toxic and torturous legacies of American racism?
Slavery’s Descendants brings together contributors from a variety of racial backgrounds, all members or associates of a national racial reconciliation organization called Coming to the Table, to tell their stories of dealing with America’s racial past through their experiences and their family histories. Some are descendants of slaveholders, some are descendants of the enslaved, and many are descendants of both slaveholders and slaves. What they all have in common is a commitment toward collective introspection, and a willingness to think critically about how the nation’s histories of oppression continue to ripple into the present, affecting us all.
The stories in Slavery’s Descendants deal with harrowing topics—rape, lynching, cruelty, shame—but they also describe acts of generosity, gratitude, and love. Together, they help us confront the legacy of slavery to reclaim a more complete picture of U.S. history, one cousin at a time.
Slaves and Slaveholders in Bermuda, 1616-1782, offers a fresh perspective on the complex relationship between racism and slavery in the often overlooked second-oldest English colony in the New World. As the first blacks were brought onto the islands not specifically for slave labor, but for their expertise as pearl divers and cultivators of West Indies plants, Bermuda's racial history began to unfold much differently from that of the Caribbean islands or of the North American mainland.
Bermuda's history records the arrival of the first blacks, the first English law passed to control the behavior of the "Negroes," and the creation of ninety-nine-year indentures for black and Indian servants. When the inevitable reality of slavery took hold in Bermuda, slaveholders realized that they, like their slaves, were not free. Slavery dictated and strained the relationships between whites and blacks, but in this smallest of English colonies it differed from slavery elsewhere because of the uniquely close master-slave relations created by Bermuda's size and maritime economy.
At only twenty-one square miles in area, Bermuda saw slaves and slaveholders working and living closer together than in other societies. The emphasis on maritime pursuits offered slaves a degree of autonomy and a sense of identity unequaled in other English colonies. This groundbreaking history of Bermuda's slavery reveals fewer runaways, less-violent rebellions, and relatively milder punishments for offending slaves.
Bernhard delves into the origins of Bermuda's slavery, its peculiar nature, and its effects on blacks and whites. The study is based on archival research drawn from wills and inventories, laws and court cases, governors' reports and council minutes. Intended as an introduction to both the history of the islands and the rich sources for further research, this book will prove invaluable to scholars of slavery, as well as those interested in historical archaeology, anthropology, maritime history, and colonial history.
Winner of the Frederick Jackson Turner Award
Winner of the John Hope Franklin Prize
Winner of the Avery O. Craven AwardSoul by Soul tells the story of slavery in antebellum America by moving away from the cotton plantations and into the slave market itself, the heart of the domestic slave trade. Taking us inside the New Orleans slave market, the largest in the nation, where 100,000 men, women, and children were packaged, priced, and sold, Walter Johnson transforms the statistics of this chilling trade into the human drama of traders, buyers, and slaves, negotiating sales that would alter the life of each. What emerges is not only the brutal economics of trading but the vast and surprising interdependencies among the actors involved.
Using recently discovered court records, slaveholders’ letters, nineteenth-century narratives of former slaves, and the financial documentation of the trade itself, Johnson reveals the tenuous shifts of power that occurred in the market’s slave coffles and showrooms. Traders packaged their slaves by “feeding them up,” dressing them well, and oiling their bodies, but they ultimately relied on the slaves to play their part as valuable commodities. Slave buyers stripped the slaves and questioned their pasts, seeking more honest answers than they could get from the traders. In turn, these examinations provided information that the slaves could utilize, sometimes even shaping a sale to their own advantage.
Johnson depicts the subtle interrelation of capitalism, paternalism, class consciousness, racism, and resistance in the slave market, to help us understand the centrality of the “peculiar institution” in the lives of slaves and slaveholders alike. His pioneering history is in no small measure the story of antebellum slavery.
In this groundbreaking work, Michael Tadman establishes that all levels of white society in the antebellum South were deeply involved in a massive interregional trade in slaves. Using countless previously untapped manuscript sources, he documents black resilience in the face of the pervasive indifference of slaveholders toward slaves and their families. This new paperback edition of Speculators and Slaves offers a substantial new Introduction that advances a major thesis of master-slave relationships. By exploring the gulf between the slaveholders’ self-image as benevolent paternalists and their actual behavior, Tadman critiques the theories of close accommodation and paternalistic hegemony that are currently influential.