Slavery & Society

What does the account
of a slave auction
reveal about the
mindset of slave-owning
“product” promoted
• The law upheld this concept ie: Dred Scott
v Sandford (1857)
• Business concepts applied to slavery—
read “inventory” (1849)
• Thus…Class and status could be improved
by owning slaves
But as a “necessary evil,” slavery could not be abolished
precipitously, for if it were the South would be plunged into chaos.
(McPherson, p. 49-50)
This justification was also predicated on the beliefs that:
The opportunities that the American society had to offer
encouraged free men to pursue their own interests–to strike out on
their own.
• Approx 3000 planter elite families
• Two Groups
• Planter aristocrats of Old South
• Market-driven entrepreneurs
• Aristocratic Heritage distinguished Southerners from
• Tobacco v. Cotton farmers
• Entrepreneurial v. aristocratic
• Gang Labor
• 1830- 36% of Southerners owned slaves….186025% did
• Regional variation of slave ownership
[What do these statistics reveal…]
• Richest planter families—20+ slaves (5% of pop)
• Middle-class planters, owned 40% of slave pop.
• Worked as artisans and professionals as well
• Small holders—1-5 slaves each
• Worked along side slaves
• Poorest Southerners more nomadic
African Traditions in
Second Great Awakening
“ring shouts”
Religion as escape
Religion as unifier
Petitions v. Revolt
• Split Abolitionist cause
• Nat Turner educ. Himself
• Religious vision
• W/Relatives killed 55 white
men, women and children
• Whites took revenge….
• Virginia Legis. Deeply
Slave Rebellion 1831
• Provide hope, solidarity
• Combination of African
heritage, religious hymns
• Form of passive resistance
• against those slave owners
seeking to “break the spirit”
Songs promote freedom
• When the Sun comes back
And the first quail calls
Follow the Drinking Gourd,
For the old man is a-waiting
for to carry you to freedom
If you follow the Drinking
-African culture
-landed gentry in VA
Note euro. features…
• Marriages common but not accepted by
society (courts did not uphold marriages so
slaves could be sold separately)
• Constructing families by “adopting” older,
unrelated slaves
• Common heritage despite domestic slave
trade which resulted in separation
Former slave….
• Favored escape over rebellion
• African-American passive resistance
• Reduction of violence by masters
• Increased use of positive incentives as
• Tasks for free time
• Most whites viewed blacks as inferior
• Whites confined blacks to menial, lower paying
• Only a few states permitted free black men to:
• vote, attend public schools, sit next to whites in church
• Federal government also forbade equal rights for
• Free blacks could be re-enslaved if w/out papers
• Few blacks amassed wealth or distinction
• Prominent blacks formed organizations
Social organizations
Business organizations
• Free southern blacks were mostly artisans
• Though some free blacks entered white society, most helped
fugitive slaves, plotted insurrections, entered black politics or
worked for social ascension
• Video re-enactment: Harriet Beecher Stowe at auction