HIS 392 • African American Slavery
2:00 PM-5:00 PM
In his classic, prize-winning study, THE PROBLEM OF SLAVERY IN THE AGE OF REVOLUTION, David Brion Davis said, Through much of American history the shadowy presence of the slave was an irrepressible reminder of the systematic violence and exploitation which underlay a society genuinely dedicated to individual freedom and equality of opportunity. The ultimate irony in the American history experience, then, was that a nation born in revolution, legitimated by promises of political freedom, civil liberty and social justice, became the last great repository of slavery among the western nations. Invidious racial discrimination and forced involuntary servitudes have distinguished the African presence in this nation, literally from the beginning of their settlement in the Americas. The complexity of the institution of African American slavery, however, goes much beyond that of answering the question as to whether racism preceded slavery, slavery preceded racism or whether both developed simultaneously, mutually reinforcing each other. The institution of African American slavery was as indissolubly linked to the American economy as liberty for whites was indissolubly linked to the protection of private property. First, as an appendage of British capitalism and then, as an economic base of the American system, slavery played a significant role in American history not only in the development of a viable national economy, but also in its impact on the development of the social and economic class structure of white America.
The extent to which whites acquired freedom, as well as the extent by which they viewed their economic opportunities and preferential treatment, were determined, if not accomplished, by the extent to which blacks were denied liberty, equality and racial economic justice. In the competition for wealth, African American slaves, as human capital, were denied the inherent right to property ownership in themselves, in as much as free blacks was limited in equal access to property as a basis to produce wealth and secure economic independence. While African American slavery was distinguished by forced, involuntary, life-time hereditary servitude, slaves did not lead a monolithic slave experience. Also, by the nineteenth century, the responses of African American slaves to American slavery were diverse, varied and expansive as slaves developed a unique culture that continues to resonant in the African American experience. This course, consequently, emphasizes both the deconstruction of prevailing assessments and interpretations of antebellum slavery as well as provides information for a new reconstruction of the antebellum slavery and the African American slave experience.
COURSE REQUIREMENTS % of Grade Three page review of ten required books 15 points Class Discussion 15 points Historiography Paper on Your topic 70 points
Berlin, Ira, GENERATIONS OF CAPTIVITY: A HISTORY OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN SLAVES Berlin, Ira and Phillip D. Morgan, eds., THE SLAVE'S ECONOMY: INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION BY SLAVES IN THE AMERICAS Blassingame, John, THE SLAVE COMMUNITY: PLANTATION LIFE IN THE ANTEBELLUM SOUTH Fehrenbacker, Don and Ward M. McAfee, ed. THE SLAVEHOLDING REPUBLIC: AN ACCOUNT OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT'S RELATIONS TO SLAVERY Fett, Sharla M., WORKING CURES: HEALING, HEALTH, POWER ON SOUTHERN SLAVE PLANTATIONS Franklin, John H. and Loren Schweninger, RUNAWAY SLAVES: REBELS ON THE PLANTATION Gomez, Michael Angelo, THE TRANSFORMATION OF AFRICAN IDENTITIES IN COLONIAL AND ANTEBELLUM SOUTH Johnson, Walter, SOUL BY SOUL: LIFE INSIDE THE ANTEBELLUM SLAVE MARKET Koger, Larry, BLACK SLAVEOWNERS: FREE BLACK MASTERS IN SOUTH CAROLINA, 1790-1860 Schwartz, Marie J., BORN IN BONDAGE: GROWING UP ENSLAVED IN THE ANTEBELLUM SOUTH Stevenson, Brenda, LIFE IN BLACK AND WHITE: FAMILY AND COMMUNITY IN THE SLAVE SOUTH White, Deborah Gray, AR'N'T I A WOMAN?: FEMALE SLAVES IN THE PLANTATION SOUTH