New Directions in Slavery Studies: Commodification, Community, and Comparison
Jeff Forret, Christine E. Sears
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In this landmark essay collection, twelve contributors chart the contours of current scholarship in the field of slavery studies, highlighting three of the discipline s major themes commodification, community, and comparison and indicating paths for future inquiry.
New Directions in Slavery Studies addresses the various ways in which the institution of slavery reduced human beings to a form of property. From the coastwise domestic slave trade in international context to the practice of slave mortgaging to the issuing of insurance policies on slaves, several essays reveal how southern whites treated slaves as a form of capital to be transferred or protected. An additional piece in this section contemplates the historian s role in translating the fraught history of slavery into film.
Other essays examine the idea of the slave community, an increasingly embattled concept born of revisionist scholarship in the 1970s. This section s contributors examine the process of community formation for black foreigners, the crucial role of violence in the negotiation of slaves sense of community, and the effect of the Civil War on slave society. A final essay asks readers to reassess the long-standing revisionist emphasis on slave agency and the ideological burdens it carries with it.
Essays in the final section discuss scholarship on comparative slavery, contrasting American slavery with similar, less restrictive practices in Brazil and North Africa. One essay negotiates a complicated tripartite comparison of secession in the United States, Brazil, and Cuba, while another uncovers subtle differences in slavery in separate regions of the American South, demonstrating that comparative slavery studies need not be transnational.
New Directions in Slavery Studies provides new examinations of the lives and histories of enslaved people in the United States.
Foss, A Journal of the Captivity and Sufferings of John Foss, 2nd ed. (Newburyport, MA: Angier March, 1798), 12, 21–25; James Wilson Stevens, An Historical and Geographical Account of Algiers (Philadelphia: Hogan and M’Elroy, 1797), 77 (second quotation); Parker, Uncle Sam in Barbary, 10; Groenewald, “Slaves and Free Blacks,” 967 (third quotation); Evelyn Powell Jennings, “War as the ‘Forcing House of Change’: State Slavery in Late Eighteenth-Century Cuba,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser.,
1730–1800 (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1993), 174–77. 17. Robert Brenner, Merchants and Revolution: Commercial Change, Political Conflict, and London’s Overseas Traders, 1550–1653 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), 143, 145; W. G. Stanard, ed., “Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 3 (July 1895): 53–56. 18. For examples, see Sparacio and Sparacio, Virginia County Court Records: Lancaster, 1652–1657, 12, 13, 17, 20, 56, 125, 139.
struggle “to assert themselves as autonomous human beings.”25 His work reminds us that appropriating theoretical frameworks from radical critiques of liberalism can also lead historians back to autonomy, in Genovese’s case by way of G. W. F. Hegel and Antonio Gramsci. The conceptual overture in part 1 of Roll, Jordan, Roll begins and ends with glosses on Hegel’s account of lordship and bondage.26 Hegel distills this relationship in a struggle to the death between a master and the slave who has
whenever they could in the purchase of slave women to carry out activities in the streets from which they themselves wished to remain removed.52 Freed black women, for instance, often owned female slaves even when they did not own much else.53 Thus, for much of the eighteenth century, slave women prevailed among street vendors in Sabará, many succeeding in earning the price of their freedom. In Baltimore, slave women were less successful in transforming their labor into freedom. Whereas female
white inhabitants and 1,255 slaves, by 1810 those numbers had increased to 36,212 and 4,672, respectively. The slave population in Baltimore grew at a faster rate than the white population during that period, and its percentage of the total population in the city increased, but in terms of sheer numbers, by 1810 Baltimore and its workforce likely seemed whiter to the city’s employers.54 Indeed, during the turn of the nineteenth century, the city of Baltimore became a port of destination for a