Abstract and Keywords
This article reviews scholarship on slave culture and the slave experience. Historians of the American South have had an interest in slavery since the early twentieth century but not until fairly recently have they paid sustained attention to the enslaved. Historians have begun to examine slaves, providing a bottom-up analysis of how slavery and slaves shaped their culture, daily lives, and southern white culture generally. This more recent emphasis has been sensitive to the importance of variables: how southern slave culture was shaped by time, place, work patterns, source population (the origins of African-born slaves); whether a region was under English, Dutch, Spanish, Spanish, French, or American jurisdiction; whether slaves lived and worked in societies with slaves or slave societies; whether slaves were skilled, toiled under the task system, or were gang labour; whether they produced tobacco, indigo, rice, sugar, and cotton; their proximity to Native Americans or Spaniards; and whether they lived in times of war or peace.
Historians of the American South have had an interest in slavery since the early twentieth century but not until fairly recently, as Peter Kolchin has shown, have they paid sustained attention to the enslaved.1 Traditional analyses tended to rely on top‐down examinations that considered how the institution of slavery shaped regional and national economics and politics and southern white society and culture. More innovatively, historians have begun to examine slaves, providing a bottom‐up analysis of how slavery and slaves shaped their culture, daily lives, and southern white culture generally. This more recent emphasis has been sensitive to the importance of variables: how southern slave culture was shaped by time, place, work patterns, source population (the origins of African‐born slaves); whether a region was under English, Dutch, Spanish, Spanish, French, or American jurisdiction; whether slaves lived and worked in societies with slaves or slave societies; whether slaves were skilled, toiled under the task system, or were gang labor; whether they produced tobacco, indigo, rice, sugar, and cotton; their proximity to Native Americans or Spaniards; and whether they lived in times of war or peace.
This attention to variables defines the more recent trajectory in the writing of slave culture and the analysis of the slave experience has been greatly advanced by historians' eagerness to employ broader temporal and geographic scopes that often include comparative components. More recently still, revisionists have begun employing Atlantic world and African diaspora approaches, placing slaves at the center of their analysis, often tracing the transmission of African culture to the South, and establishing patterns of cultural continuity throughout the African diaspora. Africanists tracing the cultural heritage of members of the African diaspora as they were forcefully taken to Europe, the Americas, and into the Indian Ocean largely (p. 466) initiated this new approach. These reinterpretations remind us of three important, and obvious, though often neglected, historical phenomena: that New World colonies were established and maintained to generate revenue for European metropolises; that slavery generated most of this wealth; and that most of the people that crossed the Atlantic Ocean from the Old World to the New before the early nineteenth century were from Africa. Treating southern slaves as members of the African diaspora, carrying their culture with them, and not Africans in America cut off from their cultural heritage, has greatly enhanced our understanding of slave culture. Moreover, such an approach facilitates comparative, Atlantic world analysis, enabling historians to draw from scholarship on the slave experience in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, and the Indian Ocean and allowing us to more readily to trace and identify cultural patterns that were difficult to perceive when using a more focused temporal and geographic scope that only considers the American South.
A Cultureless People: Early to Mid‐Twentieth‐Century Analysis
Culture is a slippery term. Its definition and application are usually subjectively and sometimes arbitrarily prescribed. What one group considers a cultural trait another may perceive as a lack of culture—as savagery or barbarism. Sociologist William Whit noted, “there is probably no more problematic term than culture. Some refer to it exclusively as the high culture of music and art whereas others define it as only the general belief system of a society.” Various definitions of culture have been used to analyze the slave experience. Relying on a narrow Eurocentric definition of high culture, early twentieth‐century historians avowed that Atlantic Africans and their New World protégés were cultureless and that slavery was a benevolent institution that thoroughly Christianized, civilized, and Americanized Africans.2
In the 1960s and especially the early 1970s historians began employing broader, more inclusive definitions of culture. Generally they regarded culture as a something learned and shared, entailing creative expressions that were passed down through generations of bondspeople. Importantly, such definitions recognized the existence of both African and slave culture. Much of the scholarship on slave culture in the 1970s and early 1980s identified African cultural traits in slave culture. However, it was not until Africanists and some Americanists began placing New World slavery into a broader Atlantic world context and considering slaves as members of an African diaspora carrying their culture with them that historians (p. 467) more fully appreciated the depth and complexities of slave culture, especially its African heritage.
This broader analytical approach and definition of culture has enabled scholars to recognize that slaves were far more successful in maintaining their African heritage than previously assumed and forces us to reconsider creolization. Traditionally, scholars assumed that creolization entailed Westernization—the blending of African and Western customs. Recently, some have replaced this narrow Eurocentric definition of creolization with a broader definition that emphasizes the process of creative adaptation. They insist that creolization did not necessarily involve Western influence and could exclusively entail the braiding of traditions held by Africans from different ethnic, language, and cultural groups.
For decades, our understanding of southern slave culture was hobbled by several factors. An early focus on the institution of slavery and how it shaped regional and national politics and economics and the social and economic politics of the Old South tended to eclipse interest in the lives of the enslaved and, instead, targeted slaveholders. Second, historians of antebellum southern slave culture were reluctant to draw from the scholarship of anthropologists, linguists, and archaeologists and to employ a broader, Atlantic world approach by utilizing the interpretative frameworks of scholars studying African history and slave culture elsewhere in the Americas.3
Such frameworks were available to historians of the American slave South long before the 1970s when the study of antebellum slave culture gained a foothold in the historiography. The study of slave culture as a legitimate scholarly endeavor arguably began in 1933 with the publication of Brazilian anthropologist Gilberto Freyre's The Masters and the Slaves: A Study of the Development of Brazilian Civilization. The Masters and the Slaves provided numerous theories, models, and topics that scholars of southern slavery could have considered. Freyre apparently coined the term “Africanization” to describe the cultural “shadow which the Negro slave cast over the Brazilians…” After visiting the American South, Freyre concluded that bondspeople superimposed their African culinary traditions on the region's cuisine.4 The Masters and the Slaves was first published in English in 1946, yet historians of southern slavery did not begin to systematically consider slave culture until the 1970s. Historians did not have to look as far away as Brazil for scholarship on slave culture. Anthropologist Melville Herskovits extensively documented slaves' African heritage as did English professor and linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner.
Part of this reluctance to take seriously the existence and importance of slave culture is attributable to the fact that several prominent works published before the 1970s contended that slaves largely lacked culture. In American Negro Slavery (1918), U. B. Phillips argued that Africans possessed no knowledge, skills, or customs of value to the West. For Phillips, the “plantation was a school” that Westernized, Christianized, and civilized backwards Africans, forcing them to “adapt themselves (p. 468) to the white man's ways…In short, Foulahs and Fantyns, Eboes and Angolas begat American plantation Negroes…Eventually it could be said the Negroes had no memory of Africa as a home.”5
Phillips's interpretation did not go entirely unchallenged. Several mid‐twentieth‐century scholars argued slavery was the antithesis of Phillips's model, stressing that slavery was a brutal, oppressive institution. Ironically, though, like Phillips, they concluded that slavery stripped Africans of their African cultural heritage. In The Negro Family in the United States sociologist E. Franklin Frazier contended: “Probably never before in history has a people been so nearly completely stripped of its social heritage as the Negroes who were brought to America.” Bondage, maintained Frazier, destroyed slaves' culture, making family units few and far between, matriarchal, unstable, and offering their members little emotional or psychological support.6
This line of thinking had its most forceful expression in Stanley Elkins's Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life, which compared plantation slavery to Nazi concentration camps. He asserted that bondage was so brutal it destroyed bondspeople's African cultural heritage, transforming their personal characteristics into childish, submissive dependence caricatured in the “Sambo” stereotype. The scholarship of Frazier, Elkins, and their followers portrayed slaves as a broken, dysfunctional, socially disorganized, cultureless people. Importantly, several mid‐twentieth‐century social scientists and policy makers embraced such conclusions because they provided non‐racist explanations for the perceived cultural differences of blacks and whites and the socioeconomic conditions suffered by many African‐Americans.7
Other interpretations similarly concluded that bondage virtually extinguished any memory of slaves' African cultural heritage while preventing the development of slave culture. In The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante‐Bellum South, Kenneth M. Stampp challenged Phillips's interpretation of slavery, concluding slavery was “[a]mong the more outrageous forms of human exploitation” and that slaveholders were motivated by greed, not by paternalistic desires. He recognized that some “Africanisms” survived. However, he argued that conversion to Christianity, the harshness of bondage, and slaves' inability to control their personal lives obliterated practically all their African heritage, concluding that slavery completely Westernized Africans.8
Even in the midst of these works depicting slaves as cultureless, small interpretative fissures, fissures that were to become extremely important for opening up debate later on, were being formed. Melville Herskovits's 1941 The Myth of the Negro Past offered one of the first serious challenges to the burgeoning conventional wisdom that slaves had no culture. Through decades of research Herskovits and fellow anthropologists identified various elements of slaves' African cultural heritage, which they called African “carryovers,” “survivals,” or “Africanisms.” Although much of Herskovits's analysis was later criticized for treating Africa as a (p. 469) single cultural area, his field research in the Caribbean, Suriname, and West Africa enabled him to consider how slavery disseminated African culture throughout the Atlantic world.
The 1972 publication of The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography, which was edited by George P. Rawick, was a major impetuous for the study of slave culture and allowed historians and not just anthropologists to begin thinking seriously about the lives of slaves.9 Fisk University and Federal Writers' Projects' Slave Narrative Collection (FWP) interviews of ex‐slaves in 1936–8 were published as The American Slave. Commonly called the Works Project Administration (WPA) narratives, the typescript of these interviews was bound and deposited in the rare books room of the Library of Congress in 1941 and later microfilmed for distribution. Fisk University made two volumes of what would become volumes eighteen and nineteen of The American Slave available in 1945. That same year B. A. Botkin published a short book containing excerpts from the WPA interviews. These sources provided enough historically significant material to alert scholars of their potential value. However, Phillips helped discourage their use for decades by claiming “ex‐slaves narratives in general…were issued with so much abolitionist editing that as a class their authenticity is doubtful.”10
New Interpretations of the Slave Experience during the 1970s
Much of the scholarship of the early 1970s sought to counter Elkins's claim that slaves were emasculated and Philips's assertions that slavery was a benign institution that Westernized Africans. Historians who were increasingly interested in the question of “culture” mined bondspeople's accounts to demonstrate that slaves were not physically defenseless, culturally vacant, and could in fact gain significant amounts of personal autonomy. A growing number of historians began shifting their analysis from the institution of slavery as slaveholders perceived it to the slave experience as told by bondspeople.
In 1972 two significant works were published that reflected this analytical shift: John W. Blassingame's The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South and George Rawick's From Sundown to Sunup: The Making of the Black Community. Blassingame and Rawick cannot claim full responsibility for legitimizing black‐authored sources (which Phillips dismissed) to consider slave culture. However, they were instrumental in debunking the belief that such works were too biased to possess historical merit.
(p. 470) Rawick edited The American Slave and wrote volume i, From Sundown to Sunup, which was an attempt to demonstrate the value of the WPA ex‐slave interviews as historical evidence. Reception was mixed. C. Vann Woodward concluded that Rawick generally failed because the book was “complicated by the abstract and theoretical character of his interest in history.” Norman Yetman praised From Sundown to Sunup, saying it significantly extended historians' understanding of slave culture by considering it as a form of resistance and providing a “fully developed and persuasive” portrayal of the slave community.11
John Blassingame used nineteenth‐century slave narratives, and not the WPA or Fisk interviews, to gain access to the social and cultural life of the enslaved.12 Blassingame found that despite white sexual exploitation and forcible separation, the nuclear family survived and functioned, providing its members with emotional and physical support and guidance for negotiating the brutal world of slavery. Plantations were not concentration camps that reduced slaves to powerless children. Slave quarters afforded slaves numerous opportunities for independent and group creativity and expression, including preservation of a broadly construed African heritage that largely ignored ethnic and regional differences.
Blassingame's boldness in declaring that he was breaking from historiographical tradition was interpreted as a sharp indictment of the historical profession, sparking considerable hostility. The Slave Community was criticized for excessive deployment of psychological theory, failing to draw from a wide enough selection of primary sources, especially the WPA and Fisk slave interviews, and portraying slaves as homogeneous.13 Some historians, such as Mary Frances Berry, believe racism muted the praise of Blassingame, who was an African‐American, and stimulated a reactionary backlash against The Slave Community.14
Some of the scholarship directly following Blassingame and Rawick provided more nuanced analysis of slave culture and began considering how some of the variables of bondage affected the slave experience. Eugene Genovese's Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made meticulously considered virtually every aspect of the antebellum South that slaves helped create. Roll, Jordan, Roll is the most comprehensive study of antebellum southern slavery. Geneovese provided a model of a slave society in which slaves and slaveholders were inseparably bound. He employed a Marxist theory of cultural hegemony to describe the power of the planter class, while introducing a complex notion of paternalism to the owner–slave relationship that stressed mutual dependence in which both sides played a ceaseless game of give‐and‐take involving the expansion and contraction of reciprocal rights and obligation. This relationship, Genovese argued, enabled slaves to continually shape and reshape white society.15
Genovese believed slaves maintained African traditions and created new ones as part of a “strategy for the survival of their individuality and some measure of group autonomy.” He detailed the various elaborations of slave culture in religion, dances, music, work songs, and foodways and considered how such traditions were (p. 471) insinuated upon a receptive southern white culture. Though whites generally regarded blacks as their inferiors, Genovese explained how, in profound ways, they were consciously and subconsciously shaped by slave culture. Describing whites' willingness to embrace slave traditions Genovese noted, “whites particularly enjoyed participating in slaves' ‘plantation balls’ and other social events.” Slave influences on other traditions were perhaps less obvious to some whites but were, nonetheless, just as enjoyable. Genovese explained how enslaved female cooks so thoroughly interlaced their African‐influenced cuisine through southern foodways that “it represented the culinary despotism of the quarters over the Big House.” Ironically, it was the plantation mistress and not the enslaved cook that usually received the credit and praise for creating African‐influenced slave dishes. Thus, Genovese, contended that much of slaves' culture was appropriated by white southerners who knowingly and unknowingly claimed both authorship and ownership of it, transforming slave culture into more broadly and less racially defined southern culture (a conclusion Freyre reached some forty years earlier).16
Some historians considered slave culture as part of broader folk culture. In Black Culture and Black Consciousness Lawrence Levine tapped the WPA narratives to recreate the “expressive culture” of African‐Americans through the analysis of their folk culture. Using a definition of intellectual history as one that considers a people's thought processes to provide a rich understanding of slaves' folk culture and impressed by the retentions of African motifs in black oral traditions, Levine carefully emphasized the dynamic quality of African‐American culture, explaining that slaves' folk culture was “created and constantly recreated through a communal process,” which resulted in the casting and recasting of a semi‐autonomous culture and worldview.17 Similarly, Charles Joyner's Down by the Riverside: A South Carolina Slave Community extended our understanding of slave culture as both folk culture and intellectual history. Joyner analyzes South Carolina lowcountry slave experience. While most of Joyner's analysis is of the antebellum period, he considers how colonial‐era events, like the transmission of an African rice culture, shaped nineteenth‐century life and culture. Joyner detailed how slaves shaped their own lives by focusing on the retention of African cultural practices, how slaves worked and lived in a communal African‐influenced manner, creolization, and leisure activities, and folk life and culture.18
The interest in family and community as a proxy for culture continued in the 1970s. Herbert G. Gutman's The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750–1925 argued that, despite the brutalities of bondage and threats of family members being sold, the family was slaves' dominant social institution and primary source of social cohesion and group identity. He contended that the nuclear family was the norm, that bondswomen were not promiscuous, and that networks of extended kin created familial bonds that provided sources of identity spanning several generations. Gutman's analysis dealt with slaves' ability to sustain family units, and the (p. 472) implications of his rigorously documented conclusions were that other cultural, communal traditions were similarly sustained.
Out of Africa and into the Colonial South
During the 1970s, many historians recognized that antebellum bondspeople maintained elements of their African cultural heritage and, adopting the language of Herskovits, called African cultural retentions “Africanisms,” “carryovers,” and “survivals.” When considering the African legacies of slave culture, historians of the antebellum South traditionally assumed slavery largely shattered bondspeople's African heritage, allowing them to only maintain broken shards of their African heritage. During the 1970s few historians sought to trace slaves' African cultural heritage.
In the early 1970s, few historians expressed a rich understanding of colonial slave life and historians of the Old South studied a population comprised largely of American‐born, Americanized slaves. Indeed, in “Time, Space, and Evolution of Afro‐America Society in British Mainland North America” (1980) Ira Berlin complained that the previous generation of historians oversimplified slave life by not accounting for temporal and geographic dimensions, saying their “view[s] [of] southern slavery from the point of maturity, dissecting it into component parts, comparing it to other slave societies, and juxtaposing it to free societies have produced an essentially static vision of slave culture.” Hence, by beginning their analysis in the antebellum period many historians lacked the historical perspective necessary to conduct in‐depth examinations of slaves' ability to convey and retain large components of their African heritage to the Americas and the creolization process.19
Ironically, the heavy use of both WPA and fugitive slave narratives—the very sources that helped liberate the study of slave culture from the Phillips tradition—constrained some of the analysis of the slave experience by shifting much of its focus to the mid‐nineteenth century. These sources enabled slaves to describe their lives but, since they largely spoke of mid‐nineteenth‐century experiences, they offered only a slice the slave experience. In Exchanging our Country Marks (which will be discussed later) Michael Gomez convincingly argues: “By 1830, the number of African‐born slaves dropped to the single digits—a clear majority were two or more generations removed from African soil…American‐born slaves far outnumber those of the native African, and the general patterns of the emerging African American identity are discernable.” Though slaves living after the 1830s knowingly (p. 473) and unknowingly maintained African traditions, Gomez explains that this is the decade when culturally they shifted from being African to African‐American. Generally speaking, fugitive slave narratives were first published in the late 1830s and usually did not discuss events prior to about 1820. WPA narratives overwhelmingly describe experiences in the 1850s and 1860s. Both the WPA and fugitive slave narratives illustrate life in populations that were largely comprised of American‐born slaves, containing few and possibly no African‐born slaves. Additionally, their narrators often did not seem aware of the African origins of many of their cultural practices. Instead, they evidently regarded many African traditions as a way of life distinct from that of their owners. In the early 1970s, some historians of American slavery became increasingly aware of the need to examine colonial sources in order to appreciate more fully the African origins of slave culture and how it shaped the lives of black and white antebellum southerners.20
Histories of the colonial period, especially those deploying Atlantic world and African diaspora approaches, tended to provide revisionist interpretations that stressed the centrality of profit motivation behind slavery and remind us that until the early nineteenth century the vast majority of the people who crossed the Atlantic Ocean from the Old World to the New came in the hold of a slave ship.21 But such work also spoke in meaningful ways to the question of slave culture, its origins, continuity, and elaboration in the New World.
An informed understanding of American slave culture, especially its African heritage, was hinged on the compilation of monographs that examined sizeable populations of African‐born slaves during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These studies considerably extended our understanding of slave culture, especially the transmission of African cultural practices to the Americas, and laid the foundation for a richer understanding of nineteenth‐century slave culture. Importantly, they began placing slaves and slavery in the broader context of the Atlantic world by documenting slaves' attempts to maintain ties to their ancestral homelands through the preservation of African traditions and by considering how events in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, and Europe shaped the slave experience.22
Peter H. Wood's Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion helped precipitate the shift towards analyzing colonial slavery while broadening our understanding of slaves' experiences. Wood made slaves the center of his analysis and considered how the retention of broadly construed African cultural practices shaped the lives of white and black South Carolinians. Wood documented African transmissions like animal husbandry, canoeing, fishing, and agriculture and how they contributed to South Carolina's economic success. As Benjamin Quarles noted, Wood demonstrated that slaves were a “major rather than a minor” component and that they were “active rather than passive” players in determining South Carolina's development.23
(p. 474) Although studies of the antebellum period recognized “Africanisms,” their emphasis on the years 1790–1860, especially from about 1820 to 1860, hampered their understanding of cultural transmission and creolization. Scholars of colonial slaves had the vantage necessary for documenting slaves' ability to transmit what Judith Carney calls “African knowledge systems.” Rice cultivation is the best example of how the creation and perpetuation of such systems worked, and scholars such as Peter Wood, Daniel C. Littlefield, Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, and Judith A. Carney have convincingly argued that most of the early knowledge, skills, and technology necessary to reproduce a “rice culture” in colonial America were similar to ones that existed in Africa. This analysis illustrates how African‐influenced cultural traditions shaped the institution of slavery, including work patterns and profit margins.24
In Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro‐Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century Gwendolyn Midlo Hall challenged earlier notions, popularized by Sidney Mintz and Richard Price, that claimed the slave trade and slavery made it virtually impossible for slaves to reconstruct African traditions (other challenges to Mintz and Price will be discussed in more depth later in the essay). She argued that slaves in southern Louisiana created “the most Africanized slave culture in the United States.” Asserting that the “Louisiana experience calls into question the assumption that African slaves could not regroup themselves in language and social communities derived from the sending culture,” Hall paid particular attention to the specific African origins of slaves, documenting especially how slaves from the Senegambia shaped Louisiana's development. Mutually intelligible African languages and dialects facilitated the development of creolized languages necessary for the retention of African traditions. Hall documents how Senegambians shaped Louisiana's indigo and rice cultures and examines how an African syntax or “grammatical structure” was imposed upon creolized French vocabulary. Importantly, Hall explores how African traditions were passed from African‐born slaves to their American‐born children.25
Historians of the colonial period provide important comparative analysis of the slave experience in different colonies. Philip Morgan's Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth‐Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry examines how slavery transformed both black and white society. Slave Counterpoint considers the plantation, black–white relationships, and the construction of black cultural and social institutions. Morgan contends that slave culture was a form of resistance, saying “the creation of a coherent culture” was the product of slave resistance in which bondspeople sought to secure “some independence for themselves, by forcing their masters to recognize their humanity, and by creating an autonomous culture, slaves also eased the torments of slavery, and in that respect, their cultural creativity encouraged accommodation.” Comparing two regions within British North America, he stresses that it was not necessarily legal systems, mother countries, or religion that shaped slavery and slave culture; instead, slave systems (p. 475) and their respective societies and cultures were shaped by, among other things, slave‐produced staple crops, planters' lifestyles, source populations (where African slaves were from), and the creolization process.26 Perhaps the book's greatest strengths are its interdisciplinary approach and contribution to our understanding of slaves' daily lives, especially their material culture. Morgan demonstrates the value of tapping anthropological and archaeological studies and mining the analysis of scholars of West Indian and Latin American slavery. Morgan's analysis of the internal economy drew from and elaborated on decades of research in the West Indies by scholars like Sidney Mintz, Douglass Hall, Neville T. Hall, Barry W. Higman, and Dale Tomich.
Other historians have stressed change over time while considering different geographic regions. Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America by Ira Berlin is the most comprehensive analysis of slave life in colonial America. Synthesizing the research of generations of scholars of African history and New World slavery, Many Thousands Gone sought to correct the problems Berlin identified in “Time, Space, and Evolution” by presenting an in‐depth interpretation of the complexities and diversities of colonial slave life. Berlin explores evolving traits of slavery, owner–slave relationships, and slave life (including work and culture).27
The book's comparative and Atlantic world dimensions facilitate nuanced analysis, while reminding readers that what became the United States was small portions of the Spanish, English, Dutch, and French empires. By considering three chronological periods (“Charter,” “Plantation,” and “Revolutionary Generations”) and four geographic regions (North, Chesapeake, lowcountry, and Lower Mississippi Valley) the book chronicles how time and space shaped slaves' experiences. Berlin demonstrates that the creolization process was not necessarily linear and that the degrees of African and Western traditions in slaves' cultures ebbed and flowed from generation to generation. Borrowing from the scholarship of historians of African history Berlin coined the term “Atlantic creole” to assert that the Westernization of a significant number of American slaves began in Africa. Some were bi‐racial, but for Berlin Atlantic creoles were born more out of Westernization in Africa than interracial liaisons. Atlantic creoles arrived in America having adopted aspects of Christianity, Western material culture, and gave or were given European names.
Many Thousands Gone was important for allowing historians to think about the role of place and chronological time in shaping slave culture and, by implication, placing the evolution and elaboration of slave cultural identity firmly within the larger context of Atlantic history. In Berlin's hands, slaves were inextricable from the larger forces of the era—the emergence of capitalism, burgeoning imperialism, and intercontinental colonialism—and slave culture both informed and was formed by these larger processes. Berlin's conceptualization of Atlantic creoles primarily focuses on seventeenth‐ and eighteenth‐century Africans from Senegal (p. 476) to Angola. However, as Africanists Robin Law and Kristin Mann state, “Berlin's analysis arguably exaggerates both the extent of cultural ‘creolization’ in West African coastal communities in early times and the numerical significance of such ‘creoles’ among exported slaves.” Yet, Berlin's conceptualizations have proven helpful. Law and Mann explain: “Even though the argument may be empirically problematic for the seventeenth century, the conceptual framework that Berlin develops, of a cosmopolitan culture linking seaports on all sides of the Atlantic littoral, can be fruitfully applied to later periods.”28 Indeed, while limiting the term's use to a specific time and region, Linda Heywood and John Thornton use the concept to great profit in their 2007 study Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles, and the Foundation of the Americas, 1585–1660. Heywood and Thornton use slave trading records to contend that West‐Central Africans were the majority of slaves brought to English and Dutch colonies in North America; many seventeenth‐century West‐Central Africans were Atlantic creoles who had adopted elements of Christianity and European languages, names, and material culture; and suggest ways that Atlantic creole culture laid the foundation for subsequent slave cultures throughout the Americas.29
Enslaved Women: New Imperatives, New Analyses
To more fully comprehend slave culture historians have recognized the need to consider the experience of all bondspeople, including female slaves. Indeed, Darlene Clark Hine and David Barry Gaspar contended: “To explore slavery and slave society through the prism of the lives of black women is to come to a better understanding of how much scholars have missed or misconstrued when they have used the term slave without due regard to gender, or with reference specifically to slave men.” Historians began rigorously considering the experiences of bondswomen in the mid‐1980s yet, as late as 1997, Leslie Schwalm bemoaned, “[d]espite the prominence of debates about slave families in the historiography of slavery, including Deborah Grey White's clarion call in 1984 for greater sensitivity to a life‐cycle analysis of women in slavery, the field has lagged in studying the experiences and meaning of maternity, motherhood, infancy and childhood in slavery.”30
Since Deborah Grey White wrote Ar'n't I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South a number of historians have written works that focus on the experiences of slave women. A growing number of historians, like Hillary Beckles, Barbara Bush, Darlene Clark Hine, Jacqueline Jones, Bernard Moitt, Jennifer L. Morgan, Leslie Schwalm, and Marie Jenkins Schwarts, have documented the (p. 477) experiences of slave women throughout the Americas. The scholarship of most authors focuses primarily on issues of gender, race, natural reproduction, and labor rather than how gender directly affected slave culture. However, an understanding of slave women's experiences considerably extends our understanding of slave culture. Indeed, a common cultural theme throughout this new and expanding body of scholarship is on how mothers passed traditions and life skills, like cooking, sewing, gardening, and respect for white authority, to their children.
Analysis of gender and slave culture have, like the analysis of slave culture itself, benefited enormously from a broadened geographic emphasis. David Barry Gaspar and Darlene Clark Hine's anthology More than Chattel: Black Women and Slavery in the Americas seeks to conjoin the studies of bondwomen and comparative slavery. The geographic focus of the volume is on the Caribbean, Brazil, and what became the United States, and the temporal scope is broad, extending from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries.31 More than Chattel explores numerous aspects of slave women's lives, demonstrating how discussions of gender can heighten our understandings of bondage and the slave experience, both central to our understanding of slave culture. The collection considers the African heritage of slave families, gendered divisions of labor as a method for reaching a deeper comprehension of bondswomen's experiences and slavery in the Americas, stresses that female slaves in slave societies were largely valued for their abilities to produce commodities, and examines how slave women individually and collectively challenged the dehumanizing, destructive forces inherent to slavery.
How slave women were perceived and treated by broader white society impacted the development of slave culture. In Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery Jennifer L. Morgan considers how early English perceptions of gender and race (especially those held by South Carolinians and Barbadians) influenced how slave women were viewed and treated. Morgan contends that reproduction, and not the type of labor they performed, was the primary influence in female slaves' lives. It shaped experiences with work, community, and culture. Slaveholders recognized the “speculative value of a reproducing labor force.”32 Morgan asserts that reproduction was central to the creation of a creolized population. Slaveholders preferred slaves born in the Americas, believing that they would be a more tractable workforce than African‐born slaves.
The internal economy and how bondwomen informally earned and spent money provides considerable insight upon cultural activities. Betty Wood's Women's Work, Men's Work: The Informal Economies of Lowcountry Georgia examines the social function of the informal slave economy by focusing on the working lives of slaves outside plantation slavery. Wood's analysis demonstrates that the informal economy's true significance was not economic, but social and cultural. Slaves' informal economy enabled many to obtain considerable degrees of autonomy. Cultural activities like craft‐making, hunting, and fishing enabled slaves to generate (p. 478) incomes, and culture influences, such as purchasing nice clothes to wear to church, shaped how slaves earned and spent their money.33
Betty Wood stresses that the informal economy and recreational activities improved the quality of their lives while shaping slaves' relationships with white southerners. She documents the roles of gender and family in the informal production of goods during free time and the exchange of these goods. The slave family was the primary unit of production, cultivating fruits and vegetables in gardens, and members hunted, fished, and made crafts. As in Africa, women dominated marketing activities within the informal economy, providing whites with most of their fresh foods. Many whites felt slaves' monopoly on foodstuffs held them to “ransom” to bondspeople's economic whims.34 White dependence on slaves for much of their sustenance created power struggles over the degrees of autonomy that the informal economy provided to slaves. Thus, contrary to earlier interpretations that claimed slaves were helpless and dependent on whites, Betty Wood illustrates how cultural practices facilitated considerable slave self‐sufficiency and economical independence, while making many whites quite dependent on slaves.
Enslaved Children and Cultural Continuity through the Generations
Just as historians' analyses descended back in time, from the antebellum to the colonial period, to consider the origins of mature slave culture, some historians have shifted from studying adults to children. The antebellum American South is one of the few New World slave societies where a slave population sustained itself through natural reproduction. Most slave societies, and some societies with slaves, had to rely on the “massive importation of Africans to maintain their populations.” Enslaved both at birth and by birth, more than half all of nineteenth‐century slaves were under the age of 20 and were born in America, not Africa. Despite these interesting and provocative statistics historians have largely ignored the lives of enslaved children and how cultural traditions were passed down through the generations. In the early 1970s historians began including some discussion of slave children in their studies of antebellum bondage. Historians like Willie Lee Rose, John Blassingame, Leslie Howard Owens, Brenda Stevens, and Thomas Webber have considered children within their broader analyses and Herbert Gutman examined them within the context of the family.35
A focused examination did not appear until 1995, with Wilma King's Stolen Childhood: Slave Youth in Nineteenth‐Century America. Stolen Childhood considers (p. 479) issues of childbirth, familial dynamics, work patterns, play, religious instruction, literacy, and the transition from slavery to freedom. Enslaved children, argues King, “had virtually no childhood because they entered the work place early and were more readily subjected to arbitrary plantation authority, punishments, and separations.” Using prose evocative of Elkins, King compared slave children's lives to those of children in war zones, which “robbed many youngsters of a safe and nurturing childhood.” Children were often subjected to the same physical, emotional, and psychological abuses as adults, and if they were not subjected to harsh punishment or sexual exploitation they either witnessed or learned about it. Family members provided guidance and support systems that enabled children to survive their oppression.36 Nevertheless, slavery forced children to grow up prematurely and face the same brutalities as adult slaves.
Marie Jenkins Schwartz's Born in Bondage: Growing up Enslaved in the Antebellum South provides a significantly different interpretation of childhood slavery. Born in Bondage examines how children “endured the conditions associated with bondage. Because children could not fend for themselves, particularly at young ages, this book focuses on the adults responsible for children, as well as children themselves and their interactions with one another.” Schwartz highlights the resiliency of enslaved children and how adults helped them navigate the tortuous maze of inhumanity that sought to rob them of their childhood.37
Both Stolen Childhood and Born in Bondage argue that the lives of enslaved children cannot be comprehended by separating them from the adult world in which they lived. As both children and slaves they were subjected to dual, sometime contradictory, sets of authority—that of their owners and that of their parent. King and Jenkins reveal that these twin sources of authorities bombarded slave children with what must have been perceived as a disorderly aria of contradictory instructions that, despite their parents' best intentions, conceivably exacerbated anxiety in their young lives.
Importantly, both works detail how African and Western life skills and cultural practices that could make slavery more bearable were passed from generation to generation. Parents taught their children cultural traditions, like hunting, fishing, sewing, gardening, cooking, cleaning, childrearing, swimming, and occupational skills, such as domestic work, folk medicine and midwifery, carpentry, and blacksmithing. Literate parents taught their children to read and write. Oral traditions kept family customs and histories alive, enabling some to recount how their grandparents were enslaved in Africa, cargoed across the Atlantic, and sold in America. Folktales provided children with valuable life lessons, such as avoiding white wrath, tricking white authority figures, and how to avoid becoming the victim of someone else's pranks.
Despite the tremendous contributions of King and Schwartz, considerable research on enslaved children is still required. Sources suggest that at least one‐fourth of all slaves brought to what became the United States were children under (p. 480) the age of 14. Surprisingly, no monographs devote considerable attention to the experiences of these African‐born children. Just as historians examined colonial adults to better appreciate the experiences of antebellum adults so too should we examine colonial slave children. A study of African‐born children would undoubtedly advance our understanding of the acculturation process. The experiences of slaves taken from Africa while children, like Venture Smith, Olaudah Equiano, Zamba, James Albert Ukawsa Gronniosaw, John Jea, Phillis Wheatley, Joseph Wright, Samuel Ajayi Crowther, and Ottaba Cuguano, suggest that age—as much as time and place—influenced how quickly and thoroughly many “saltwater slaves” Westernized.38
The African Diaspora in the Atlantic World
Since the 1980s historians of Africa, the Atlantic world, and the African diaspora have made extremely important contributions to our understanding of slave culture throughout the Atlantic world, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean and, increasingly, in the American South. Most important, Africanists in particular have helped sharpen our appreciation of slaves' African heritage while considering them as part of a broad diaspora. In 1981, John Thornton asserted: “Scholars of the United States interested in the African background of American history have usually sought general information about African culture by reading accounts of modern anthropologists and ethnologists, which are not always helpful for understanding specific historical situations.”39 Scholars of the American slave experience are increasingly drawing from the scholarship—and adopting the theoretical models of—scholars of African, the African diaspora, and Atlantic world history.
In 1968, Philip Curtin noted that “The recent trend towards world‐historical perspective and away from parochial national history also calls for a new approach to the broader patterns of Atlantic history.”40 While studies of southern slavery and slave culture have traditionally not drawn extensively on scholarship beyond the South's geographic boundaries, historians of Africa, the Atlantic world, and the African diaspora have exchanged concepts, theories, and models so freely that it is often difficult to remember or distinguish to which sub‐discipline a historian belongs. John Thornton is perhaps the quintessential example of this cross‐fertilization. Trained as a historian of early modern West‐Central Africa, or the Congo‐Angola region, his scholarship has considered historical events throughout the Atlantic world.
(p. 481) Thornton's 1992 study, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1680 traces the movement of Africans and their culture to the Americas. Seminal because it is the first major work on slave culture to shift its emphasis from the Americas to Africa, Thornton wrote against a prevailing grain that traditionally viewed the transmission of African culture from the West. Instead, Thornton examined the creation of African‐influenced cultures from the perspective of Africa, documenting the flow of traditions out of Africa, rather than tracing them back to Africa. This approach was widely applauded by Americanists and Africanists. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall asserted that this framework “will help us move away from Eurocentric interpretations of American culture, which have significantly narrowed our vision during the past two decades.” Similarly Paul Lovejoy said: “Thornton's expertise in African history enables him to achieve a level of analysis that makes more sense to me than the speculations of most of the scholarship that has emanated from the specialists of slavery in the Americas.”41
In Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, Thornton avows that much of what was thought to have been constructed in the Americas was created in Africa. Much of the analysis for Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World was based on years of primary research, not twentieth‐century anthropology, enabling him to engage several debates on slave culture. He convincingly argues against many of Sidney Mintz and Richard Price's assertions, especially claims that Africans were too diverse and slaves too brutalized and deracinated to perpetuate their African heritage, and that similarities between African and slave culture were the result of parallel developments in similar tropical climates. Thornton extends Melville Herskovits's analysis pertaining to common African cultural beliefs and practices and persuasively argues that Africans from the Senegambia to West‐Central Africa shared many similar culture practices and beliefs, saying, “at most we have three truly culturally divers areas, and the seven subgroups [within these regions] are themselves often quite homogeneous.” He contends that the Atlantic slave trade did not “randomize” slaves to the extent that Mintz and Price stressed through a process called “coasting,” in which slave ships purchased slaves at several anchorages along the African coast and sold them in many points in the Americas. Rather, Thornton explains: “Slave ships drew their entire cargo from only one or perhaps two ports in Africa and unloaded them in large lots of as many as 200–1,000 in their new Atlantic homes.”42
Other scholars agree. Though not necessarily engaging the historiographical debate on coasting and randomization, the scholarship of Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, James Sweet, Daniel Littlefield, Herbert Klien, Robin Law, Walter Rodney, Boubacar Barry, Joseph Miller, James Searing, and others suggests that both have been exaggerated. Shipping records, like those of the Royal African Company of England found on The Trans‐Atlantic Slave Trade: A Database on CD‐ROM, document how European slave traders in Africa concentrated enslaved Africans from a given region in slave castles or barracoons, providing slave ship captains (p. 482) with enough humans from mostly the same region to fill a slave ship's hold, and most slaves were sold at one New World port. Such records are bolstered by primary sources that suggest, and sometimes conclusively indicate, slaves' origins. Slave narratives and plantation records indicate that a significant number of slaves designated the origins or ethnicity of themselves and others.43
Scholars also must consider other evidence such as linguistics, scarification patterns, filed teeth, slaveholders' ethnic preferences, and discrete cultural practices in trying to locate the sometimes slippery notion of “ethnic identity.” In Exchanging our Country Marks: The Transformations of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South Michael A. Gomez examines the evolution of identities among slaves. Primarily trained as an African historian, Gomez considers the retention of African culture and identities in the American South up to the 1830s, when a transition occurred “consistent with the demographic evidence, that delineates the demise of a preponderate African social matrix and the rise of an African American one in its place.” While language was often the most obvious sign of one's ethnicity, as the title suggests, “country marks,” or facial scarification patterns, were often key indicators. Gomez argues that African ethnicities persisted in the Americas after African‐born people became the minority in the slave population and even after they adopted a black racial identity in contrast to the white racial identity of their enslavers. Exchanging our Country Marks is also significant because it challenges the notion that American slaves were less successful in retaining African culture than bondspeople in the Caribbean or Latin America.44
Along similar lines—and perfectly in keeping with the new, broader, more temporally, geographic, and theoretically robust work of Africanists—Gwendolyn Midlo Hall believes slaves could recreate language and social communities. In Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Restoring the Links she traces how work‐related skills and cultural practices of African ethnic groups were recreated in the New World. “Specific groups of Africans made major contributions to the formation of the new cultures developing throughout the Americas,” wrote Hall. “The diverse peoples who met and mingled in the Americas all made major contributions to its economy, culture, esthetics, language, and survival skills.” Importantly, Hall explains: “Creolization was not the process of Africans melting into a European pot.” She stresses that creolization often occurred as slaves blended various African traditions and it affected white culture. The author's research is impressive, including manuscript collections in Spain, France, and Louisiana, and relied heavily on the twenty‐some years' research dedicated to the topic of slave culture, and which she provides free to the public on her Louisiana Slave Database, 1791–1820.45
Others historians consider how members of certain ethnic groups were taken to specific places in America. Lorena Walsh's From Calabar to Carter's Grove: A History of a Virginia Slave Community provides a historical interpretation for colonial Williamsburg's eighteenth‐century slave quarter at Carter's Grove and (p. 483) illustrates how historians can provide depth to generalized histories of slaves by reconstructing late seventeenth‐ and early eighteenth‐century group experiences.46 Walsh explains that existing records make it virtually impossible to recreate the lives of enslaved individuals linked to Carter's Grove and, instead, traces the history of a slave community owned by the extended Burwell family in tidewater Virginia. Using shipping records and West African naming patterns Walsh asserts that much of the initial slave population was taken from the Senegambia. She then illustrates how the Burwell slaves were drawn from ever further south, with a considerable number being shipped from either Old or New Calabar situated on the Niger River Delta. Walsh identified work skills and cultural beliefs that were probably conveyed to colonial Virginia. She theorizes that just as African knowledge significantly contributed to “the development of rice culture in the Carolinas” it may have contributed to the development of the Chesapeake's tobacco culture.47
Conclusion and Future Direction of Analysis
Historians, whether Americanists or Africanists, have increasingly begun their studies of the slave experience in Africa and treated slaves not as peoples cut off from their cultural heritage, but members of a diaspora that sustained and disseminated their cultural heritage throughout the Atlantic and Indian oceans. In this vein, the scholarship of the African diaspora and Atlantic world suggest the framework of future studies of the southern slave experience for the next decade or so. Atlantic world and African diaspora approaches demonstrate that comprehension of the southern slave experience must be built on the foundation of an understanding of Africa and can be heightened through the analysis of slave culture elsewhere in the Americas, as well as Europe and the Indian Ocean.
In “Defining and studying the Modern African Diaspora” Colin Palmer states that studies of the “African diaspora, should in my opinion, begin with the study of Africa. The African continent—the ancestral homeland—must be central to any informed analysis and understanding of the dispersal of its peoples.” Palmer stresses that scholars “arguably” should not define themselves as “diaspora specialists” if they have a narrow geographic focus. Rather, they must engage broad, interdisciplinary approaches to studying the African diaspora on several continents.48 Others have similarly emphasized the need to begin the analysis of slave culture in Africa. In “The African Diaspora: Revisionist Interpretations of Ethnicity, Culture and Religion under Slavery,” Paul Lovejoy explained how projecting African history into the diaspora establishes “concrete links with the homeland.” (p. 484) Lovejoy states that this illustrates “how slaves could create a world that was largely autonomous from white, European society” by documenting African cultural continuity in the New World diaspora. Consequently, historians can escape the “Eurocentrism and American‐centrism” that have dominated the analysis of slave life.49 The approaches Palmer and Lovejoy stress obviously require considerable knowledge that encompasses a broad expanse of time and space to include Africa, the Atlantic islands, the New World, Europe, and the Indian Ocean and events dating from medieval African history through 1888, when slavery was abolished in Brazil.50 By situating American slavery in the context of the Atlantic world and treating it as part of the African diaspora we not only continue to expand our understanding of southern slave life but sidestep the interpretative limitations of “southern exceptionalism” by appreciating the similarities of the African slave experience throughout the world.
Berlin, Ira. Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998).Find this resource:
Carney, Judith A. Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001.Find this resource:
(p. 488) Genovese, Eugene D. Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made. New York: Vintage, 1974.Find this resource:
Gomez, Michael A. Exchanging our Country Marks: The Transformations of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.Find this resource:
Hall, GwendolynMidlo. Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro‐Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century. Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1992.Find this resource:
—— Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Restoring the Links. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.Find this resource:
Heywood, Linda M., and John K. Thornton. Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles, and the Foundation of the Americas, 1585–1660. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.Find this resource:
Joyner, Charles. Down by the Riverside: A South Carolina Slave Community. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1984.Find this resource:
King, Wilma. Stolen Childhood: Slave Youth in Nineteenth‐Century America. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1995.Find this resource:
Levine, Lawrence W. Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro‐American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.Find this resource:
Littlefield, Daniel C. Rice and Slaves: Ethnicity and the Slave Trade in Colonial South Carolina. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1991.Find this resource:
Morgan, Jennifer L. Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.Find this resource:
Morgan, Philip D. Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth‐Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.Find this resource:
Schwartz, MarieJenkins. Born in Bondage: Growing up Enslaved in the Antebellum South. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001.Find this resource:
Thornton, John K. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1680. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.Find this resource:
White, DeborahGray. Ar'n't I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South. 1985; New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.Find this resource:
Wood, Betty. Women's Work, Men's Work: The Informal Economies of Lowcountry Georgia. Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1995.Find this resource:
Wood, Peter H. Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974.Find this resource:
(1.) Peter Kolchin, American Slavery, 1619–1877 (New York, 1993), 134.
(2.) William C. Whit, “Soul Food as Cultural Creation,” in Anne L. Bower (ed.), African American Foodways (Urbana, Ill., 2007), 45. Philip Curtin provides excellent analysis of British perceptions of savagery, barbarity, and culture and the subjectivity with which the British applied these concepts to Africans. Philip D. Curtin, The Image of Africa: British Ideas and Action, 1780–1850, 2 vols. (Madison, 1964).
(3.) For historiography of slavery, see Mark M. Smith, Debating Slavery: Economy and Society in the Antebellum American South (Cambridge, 1998).
(4.) Gilberto Freyre, The Masters and the Slaves: A Study of the Development of Brazilian Civilization (1933; New York, 1946), 279, 287, 465–6. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century scholars such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Carter G. Woodson considered slavery; unfortunately, much of their scholarship did not gain considerable traction among white historians.
(5.) U. B. Phillips, American Negro Slavery: A Survey of the Supply, Employment and Control of Negro Labor as Determined by the Plantation Regime (Baton Rouge, La., 1966), 45, U. B. Phillips, Life and Labor in the Old South (Boston, 1929), 194, 195, 198.
(6.) E. Franklin Frazier's The Negro Family in the United States (Chicago, 1939), 15; E. Franklin Frazier, The Free Negro Family: A Study of Family Origins before the Civil War (Nashville, 1932).
(7.) United States Department of Labor, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (Washington, DC, 1965); Thomas F. Pettigrew, A Profile of the Negro American (Princeton, 1964).
(8.) Kenneth M. Stamp, The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante‐Bellum South (New York, 1956), pp. viii, 340, 362.
(9.) George P. Rawick (ed.), The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography, 18 vols. (Westport: Conn., 1972). The African‐American protest movement in the 1950s and 1960s and the neo‐abolitionist sentiments of some historians also precipitated a growing interest in slavery and the belief that slaves' perceptions were at least as important as those of their owners. C. Vann Woodward, “The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography by George P. Rawick,” American Historical Review, 79 (2) (April 1974): 471; Norman R. Yetman, “Ex‐Slave Interviews and the Historiography of Slavery,” American Quarterly, 36 (2) (Summer 1984): 190.
(10.) B. A. Botkin (ed.), Lay my Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery (Chicago, 1945), Phillips, Life and Labor in the Old South, 219. C. Vann Woodward concluded that care in using the narratives was required, but the “necessary precautions, however, are no more elaborate or burdensome than those required by any other types of sources he [a historian] is accustomed to use. They are certainly not great enough to justify continued neglect of this valuable evidence on black history in America.” Vann Woodward, “The American Slave,” 480, Yetman, “Ex‐Slave Interviews.” Though Phillips was referring to nineteenth‐century slave narratives, according to C. Vann Woodward, his comments apparently prejudiced all narratives. Vann Woodward, “The American Slave,” 471.
(11.) Vann Woodward, “The American Slave,” 480, Yetman, “Ex‐Slave Interviews,” 193–4.
(12.) John W. Blassingame, The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South, Revised and Enlarged Edition (1972; Oxford, 1979).
(13.) Al‐Tony Gilmore (ed.), Revisiting Blassingame's The Slave Community: The Scholars Respond (Westport, Conn., 1978); Kenneth Wiggins Porter, “Review: The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South, by John W. Blassingame,” Journal of Southern History, 39 (2) (May 1973): 293–4, James M. McPherson, “Review: The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South, by John W. Blassingame,” Journal of Social Science, 7 (2) (Winter 1974): 208–11; William D. Pierson, “Review: Revisiting Blassingame's The Slave Community: The Scholars Respond by Al‐Tony Gilmore,” Journal of American History, 66 (1) (June 1979): 148–9.
(14.) Fogel and Engerman and Gutman appeared on The Today Show. Mary Frances Berry, “The Slave Community: A Review of the Reviews,” in Al‐Tony Gilmore (ed.), Revisiting Blassingame's The Slave Community: The Scholars Respond (Westport, Conn., 1978), 3.
(15.) Eugene D. Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made (New York, 1974).
(17.) Lawrence W. Levine, Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro‐American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom (Oxford, 1977), pp. ix, 30. Peter Kolchin argued that the strength and cohesion of the slave community were not as strong and pervasive as historians like Rawick, Blassingame, and Levine suggest. Peter Kolchin, “Reevaluating the Antebellum Slave Community: A Comparative Perspective,” Journal of American History, 70 (December 1983); Kolchin, American Slavery.
(18.) Charles Joyner, Down by the Riverside: A South Carolina Slave Community (Urbana, Ill., 1984).
(19.) Ira Berlin, “Time, Space, and Evolution of Afro‐America Society in British Mainland North America,” American Historical Review, 85 (1980): 44–78, esp. 44.
(20.) Michael A. Gomez, Exchanging our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South (Chapel Hill, NC, 1998), 194–5.
(21.) Robin Blackburn, The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492–1800 (New York, 1997); Richard S. Dunn, Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Plantation Class in the English West Indies, 1624–1713 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1972); David Eltis, The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas (Cambridge, 2000); S. Max Edelson, Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina (Boston, 2006); Stewart B. Schwart (ed.), Tropical Babylons: Sugar and the Making of the Atlantic World, 1450–1680 (Chapel Hill, NC, 2004); Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (1944; Chapel Hill, NC, 1994).
(22.) Thad W. Tate, “Review: The Neglected First Half of American Slavery,” Reviews in American History, 3 (1) (March 1975): 59–65.
(23.) Benjamin Quarles, “Reviewed: Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion by Peter Wood,”Journal of Negro History, 60 (2) (April 1975): 332.
(24.) Judith A. Carney, Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas (Cambridge, Mass., 2001), 2; Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro‐Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century (Baton Rouge, La., 1992); Daniel C. Littlefield, Rice and Slaves: Ethnicity and the Slave Trade in Colonial South Carolina (Chicago, 1991); Peter H. Wood, Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion (New York, 1972).
(25.) Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana, 159, 161, 188. See also Jane Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida (Urbana, Ill., 1999).
(26.) Philip D. Morgan, Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth‐Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry (Chapel Hill, NC, 1998), p. xxii.
(27.) Berlin, “Time, Space, and Evolution,” 44; Ira Berlin,Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America (Cambridge, Mass., 1998).
(28.) Robin Law and Kristin Mann, “West Africa in the Atlantic Community: The Case of the Slave Coast,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 56 (2) (April 1999): 310.
(29.) Linda M. Heywood and John K. Thornton, Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles, and the Foundation of the Americas, 1585–1660 (Cambridge, Mass., 2007).
(30.) Deborah Gray White, Ar'n't I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South (New York, 1985; 1999), 4, 17–25, esp. 23, David Barry Gaspar and Darlene Clark Hine, More than Chattel: Black Women and Slavery in the Americas (Bloomington, Ind., 1996), p. ix; Leslie A. Schwalm, “Review: More than Chattel: Black Women and Slavery in the Americas by David Barry Gaspar; Darlene Clark Hine,” Journal of Social History, 31 (2) (Winter 1997): 440.
(31.) Gaspar and Hine, More than Chattel.
(32.) Jennifer L. Morgan, Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery (Philadelphia, 2004), 2–3. Morgan's analysis of race, gender, and slavery reads well with Kathleen M. Brown, Goodwives, Nasty Wenches, & Anxious Patriarch: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia (Chapel Hill, NC, 1996).
(33.) Betty Wood, Women's Work, Men's Work: The Informal Economies of Lowcountry Georgia (Athens, Ga., 1995).
(35.) Wilma King, Stolen Childhood: Slave Youth in Nineteenth‐Century America (Bloomington, Ind., 1995), p. xvii.
(37.) Marie Jenkins Schwartz, Born in Bondage: Growing up Enslaved in the Antebellum South (Cambridge, Mass., 2001), 14.
(38.) Stephanie Smallwood, Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora (Cambridge, Mass., 2007), 164; David Eltis, Stephen D. Berendt, David Richardson, and Herbert S. Klein, The Trans‐Atlantic Slave Trade: A Database on CD‐ROM (Cambridge, 1999).
(39.) John K. Thornton, “African Dimensions of the Stono Rebellion,” American Historical Review, 96 (4) (October 1991): 1101–2.
(40.) Philip D. Curtin, “Epidemiology and the Slave Trade,” Political Science Quarterly, 83 (2) (June 1968): 190.
(41.) Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, “Review: Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1680, by John Thornton,”Journal of American History, 80 (3) (December 1993): 1047; Paul E. Lovejoy, “Review: Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1680, by John Thornton, ”Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 26 (1) (Summer 1995): 129; Ira Berlin, “Review: Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1680, by John Thornton,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 51 (3) (July 1994): 544–7.
(42.) Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 191–4, 209–10.
(43.) Eltis et al., The Trans‐Atlantic Slave Trade.
(44.) Michael A. Gomez, Exchanging our Country Marks: The Transformations of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South (Chapel Hill, NC, 1998).
(46.) Lorena S. Walsh, From Calabar to Carter's Grove: A History of a Virginia Slave Community (Charlottesville, Va., 1997), pp. xvii, 4–5.
(47.) Walsh speculates that after tobacco was introduced into Africa in the early seventeenth century knowledge of its production was probably carried back to the Americas by slaves. Walsh, From Calabar to Carter's Grove, 60; 61; 63–5. See also Douglas B. Chambers, Murder at Montpelier: Igbo Africans in Virginia (Jackson, Mo., 2005). Chambers adds a layer of nuance to the “Atlantic creole” model by documenting how a considerable number of African‐born slaves arrived in Virginia with little or no previous exposure to European influences.
(48.) Colin Palmer, “Defining and Studying the Modern African Diaspora,” Journal of Negro History, 85 (1/2) (Winter–Spring 2000), 30; 31.
(49.) Paul E. Lovejoy, “The African Diaspora: Revisionist Interpretations of Ethnicity, Culture and Religion under Slavery,” Studies in the World History of Slavery, Abolition and Emancipation, 2 (1) (1997); also see 21 January 2002, http://www.2.h‐net.msu.edu/~slavery/essays/esy9701love.html 4–5.
(50.) Linda Heywood and James Sweet provide examples of the approaches and methods that will be increasingly employed to study southern slave culture. Linda M. Heywood (ed.), Central Africans and Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora (Cambridge, 2002); James H. Sweet, Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African‐Portuguese World, 1441–1770 (Chapel Hill, NC, 2003).