Chapters 11

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					Cotton, Slavery and
the Old South

  Brinkley text Chapter 11
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 The South “grew,” but did not develop.
 Population shifted from the “upper
 South” (the original “southern” states of
 Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas) to
 the “lower South” – the new states of
 Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 Tobacco continued to dominate in the
  upper South
 Cotton was “king” in the lower South.
 The Lower South produced over 3
  million bales of cotton annually by 1850.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 The cotton wealth was not equally distributed.
 Three-fourths of Southern white landowners
  owned NO slaves at all.
 Of the 25% who owned slaves, almost half
  owned fewer than six slaves.
 In such cases, family members and slaves
  shared work and lived in fairly close contact,
  sometimes in the same quarters.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South

 The 12% of Southern landowners who owned
  more than 6 slaves (and often owned 50 or
  more) were the wealthiest and most powerful
 Poorer families deferred to their judgment in
  almost all things; they were a noble class who
  were looked up to, very similar to the “landed
  gentry” of England.
 They saw themselves as “nobility” also.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 The old Jeffersonian ideal of the
  “yeoman farmer” still persisted, but
  largely in the upper South.
 About ½ million Southerners rented
  what useless land they could afford.
 They were called “crackers,” or
  “sandhillers.” They were a permanent
  white underclass.
 They were also the majority
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 The upper class lifestyle of the ruling class
  was made possible by slavery, which was
  largely abandoned everywhere in the country
  except in the South by the 1830s.
 As other sections of America turned their
  backs on slavery, Southern slave owners felt
  more and more obligated to defend it.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 “Outsiders” just didn’t understand the unique
  life style that Southerners lived.
 Slavery “peculiar” to the South. The word
  “peculiar” in those days didn’t mean “odd;” it
  meant “characteristic of a small group, not of
  the large group.”
 Slavery was thus the “Peculiar Institution” of
  the Southern planter class.
 “We understand it; you just would not. You
  have to BE here to understand”
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 This exact phrase – “The Peculiar Institution,”
  sometimes shortened just to “Our Institution”
  – became a euphemism for slavery.
 And the very fact that Southerners needed a
  euphemism for slavery indicates that at some
  level they were ashamed of needing it.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 Plantation hierarchy:
 Owners hired white overseers to manage the
  plantation work.
 Being one step above slaves on the social
  scale, they were often needlessly cruel to
  slaves just to show their domination.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 Owners could call themselves “kind” to their
  slaves by virtue of the fact that they
  themselves never ordered whippings or
  withheld meals.
 Overseers did these disagreeable tasks.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 A slave who had in some way attracted the
  owners’ favor might be assigned to house
 Usually less back-breaking than outdoor
  work, it cut the slaves off from slave culture.
 House slaves were seen by their peers as
  people who believed they were “better than
  the other Black folk.”
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 Slave families could be broken up at any
  time, for any reason.
 Most slave owners would not allow legalized
  marriages among their slaves; this eased the
  guilt of breaking up families through sale.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 Owners and overseers had two highly
  successful threats with which to curb unruly
  behavior among their slaves:
 to sell off the slave’s wife/husband/children,
  or to sell the family “farther south.”
 Sometimes referred to as being “sold down
  the river.”
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 The Constitution forbade any further
  importation of foreign slaves after 1808
 But slavery did not die out
 Even though owners discouraged marriage,
  they did encourage breeding
 Slave numbers grew through natural
  population increase, which increased a slave
  owner’s “property” at no expense to him.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 Though there were no import/export markets,
  but there were marketplaces in almost every
  major Southern city where field hands could
  be bought and sold
 One of the most notorious was in Washington
  DC, in the shade of the Capitol Building
 Another busy slave market was in Memphis,
  on Front Street.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 Slave traders were social outcasts, even
  though they often grew rich
 This is another indication of the distaste many
  slave owners felt for the nuts-and-bolts of the
  economic institution that supported their
  wealthy life styles.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 A field hand would usually sell for about $800
  (about $14,000 in today’s dollars.)
 A skilled slave (one who could blacksmith, for
  example) might sell for twice as much.
 Slaves at market were often forced to strip in
  public, to show broad shoulders or strong
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 Most slave owners allowed crude but fairly
  adequate shelter for their slaves, and basic
  levels of nutrition.
 A slave, like a good horse, was a valuable
  investment that should be cared for.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 Slaves, particularly slaves that had formed
  family ties, would often make the best of the
  arrangement in the interest of keeping their
  families together.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 Others, particularly young male slaves with
  no emotional ties, reacted violently to their
  enslaved condition.
 Gabriel Prosser led a slave revolt in Virginia
  in 1800
 Denmark Vesey led a slave revolt in
  Charleston, South Carolina in 1822
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 The most famous – and most feared – was
  led by Nat Turner in coastal Virginia in 1831
 Turner’s fellow rebels raided the cache of
  farm tools in his master’s barn, and used
  them to effect brutal murders.
 The Turner Revolt caused institution of the
  “slave codes” in Southern states – laws
  meant to restrict the movement of slaves.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 Slaves could not be out of slave quarters after
 Slaves could not learn to read or write.
 Slaves were not allowed to use farm tools
  unless a white person was present.
 Slaves who had attempted to run away were
  branded like farm animals, or were forced to
  wear spiked, belled collars to keep them from
  hiding in a forest.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 Escape a common method or rebellion
 Quaker families in Pennsylvania would
  provide refuge for escaped slaves.
 The route to the North became known by
  slaves as “The Underground Railroad.”
 One of the most famous “conductors” was
  escaped slave Harriet Tubman, who escorted
  over 300 to freedom.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 Manufacturing in the South was less than 2%
  of the gross revenues of the Southern
 Iron works were the most common types of
 Southern economy was thus not diversified.
 If the main industry failed, the entire economy
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 Some Southerners saw disaster coming
 James B. D. DeBow’s newspaper The
  Review (often called DeBow’s Review) urged
  a more commercial and more diversified
  economic base.
 His pleas fell largely on deaf ears.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 Women in the South were generally as
  subservient as their sisters in the North,
  although the agrarian economic base meant
  that a middle-class Southern woman had to
  work harder
 Many slave-owning husbands fathered
  children with slave women, with their wives’
  understanding if not full permission.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 As reformers in the North began to call more
  loudly for slavery to be abolished, slave
  owners in the South began equally loudly to
  defend their institution and to use political
  means to silence the critics.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 In 1836, Southern representatives in
  Congress pushed through a “gag rule”
 This forbade any House member to bring
  slavery up for discussion, and forbade the
  House to entertain any bill that threatened
  slavery in any way
 A gag is any binding placed over the mouth of
  a person to prevent speaking out
 This gag rule held until 1844.
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 Scientific arguments were proposed in
  Southern universities, “proving” that Black
  persons were inherently inferior, and were
  made for manual labor.
 Preachers told of many positive aspects of
  slavery, claiming it guaranteed that Black
  persons would be Christianized.
 “Southern life on the whole is more moral
  than life in the North, and slavery was the
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 Before 1830, slave owners would state it was
  a bad system, but couldn’t be avoided.
 After 1830, they portrayed it as a positive
Cotton, Slavery and the Old South
 Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina
  proposed a new vision for the United States
  as early as 1837
 His idea of “concurrent majority,” would
  provide two presidents, one North and one
 This would forever protect the Peculiar
  Institution from majority rule by “outsiders.”

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