Sunday, June 30, 2019

Slaves - Clothing

Hon. T. T. Bouldin, a slave-holder, and member of Congress from Virginia, in a speech in Congress, Feb. 16, 1835. Mr. Bouldin said "he knew that many negroes had died from exposure to weather,'' and added, "they are clad in a flimsy fabric, that will turn neither wind nor water.''

George Buchanan, M. D., of Baltimore, member of the American Philosophical Society, in an oration at Baltimore, July 4, 1791. "The slaves, naked and starved, often fall victims to the inclemencies of the weather.''

Wm. Savery of Philadelphia an eminent Minister of the Society of Friends, who went through the Southern states in 1791, on a religious visit: after leaving Savannah, Ga., we find the following entry in his journal, 6th, month, 28, 1791. "We rode through many rice swamps, where the blacks were very numerous, great droves of these poor slaves, working up to the middle in water, men and women nearly naked.''

Rev. John Rankin, of Ripley, Ohio, a native of Tennessee. "In every slave-holding state, many slaves suffer extremely, both while they labor and while they sleep, for want of clothing to keep them warm.''

John Parrish, late of Philadelphia, a highly esteemed minister in the Society of Friends, who traveled through the South in 1804. "It is shocking to the feelings of humanity, in travelling through some of those states, to see those poor objects, [slaves,] especially in the inclement season, in rags, and trembling with the cold...They suffer them, both male and female, to go without clothing at the age of ten and twelve years.''

Rev. Phineas Smith, Centreville, Allegany, Co., N. Y. Mr. S. has just returned from a residence of several years at the south, chiefly in Virginia, Louisiana, and among the American settlers in Texas. "The apparel of the slaves, is of the coarsest sort and exceedingly deficient in quantity. I have been on many plantations, where children of eight and ten years old, were in a state of perfect nudity. Slaves are in general wretchedly clad .''

Wm. Ladd, Esq., of Minot, Maine, recently a slaveholder in Florida. "They were allowed two suits of clothes a year, viz. one pair of trowsers with a shirt or frock of osnaburgh for summer; and for winter, one pair of trowsers, and a jacket of negro cloth, with a baize shirt and a pair of shoes. Some allowed hats, and some did not; and they were generally, I believe, allowed one blanket in two years. Garments of similar materials were allowed the women.''

Mr. Stephen E. Malthy, Inspector of provisions, Skeneateles, N. Y., who resided sometime in Alabama. "I was at Huntsville, Alabama, in 1818-19, I frequently saw slaves on and around the public square, with hardly a rag of clothing on them, and in a great many instances with but a single garment both in summer and in winter; generally the only bedding of the slaves was a blanket.''

Reuben G. Macy, Hudson, N. Y. member of the Society of Friends, who resided in South Carolina, in 1818 and 19. "Their clothing consisted of a pair of trowsers and jacket, made of 'negro cloth.' The women a petticoat, a very short 'short-gown,' and nothing else, the same kind of cloth; some of the women had an old pair of shoes, but they generally went barefoot.''

Mr. Lemuel Sapington, of Lancaster, Pa., a native of Maryland, and formerly a slaveholder "Their clothing is often made by themselves after night, though sometimes assisted by the old women, who are no longer able to do out-door work; consequently it is harsh and uncomfortable. And I have very frequently seen those who had not attained the age of twelve years go naked.''

Philemon Bliss, Esq., a lawyer in Elyria, Ohio, who lived in Florida in 1834 and 35. "It is very common to see the younger class of slaves up to eight or ten without any clothing, and most generally the laboring men wear no shirts in the warm season. The perfect nudity of the younger slaves is so familiar to the whites of both sexes, that they seem to witness it with perfect indifference. I may add that the aged and feeble often suffer from cold.''

Richard Macy, a member of the Society of Friends, Hudson, N. Y., who has lived in Georgia. "For bedding each slave was allowed one blanket, in which they rolled themselves up. I examined their houses, but could not find any thing like a bed.''

W. C. Gildersleeve, Esq., Wilkesbarre, Pa., a native of Georgia. "It is an every day sight to see women as well as men, with no other covering than a few filthy rags fastened above the hips, reaching midway to the ankles. I never knew any kind of covering for the head given. Children of both sexes, from infancy to ten years are seen in companies on the plantations, in a state of perfect nudity. This was so common that the most refined and delicate beheld them unmoved.''

Mr. William Leftwich, a native of Virginia, now a member of the Presbyterian Church, in Delhi, Ohio. "The only bedding of the slaves generally consists of two old blankets.''

From American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839

Friday, June 28, 2019

Slaves and Rice Cultivation in South Carolina

The intricate steps involved in planting, cultivating, harvesting, and preparing rice required an immense labor force employing both men and women. Planters stated that African slaves were particularly suited to provide that labor force for two reasons: 1) rice was grown in some areas of Africa and there was evidence that some slaves were familiar with the methods of cultivation practiced there, and 2) it was thought that the slaves, by virtue of their racial characteristics, were better able than white laborers to withstand the extreme heat and humidity of the tidal swamps and therefore would be more productive workers. Rice cultivation resulted in a dramatic increase in the numbers of slaves owned by South Carolinians before the American Revolution.
Planting Rice 1850s Harper's Monthly Magazine (1859), vol. 19, p. 726; wiyh article by T. Addison Richards, The Rice Lands of the South (pp. 721-38).

In 1680, four-fifths of South Carolina's population was white. However, black slaves outnumbered white residents two to one in 1720, and by 1740, slaves constituted nearly 90% of the population. Much of the growing slave population came from the West Coast of Africa, a region that had gained notoriety by exporting its large rice surpluses.

While there is no consensus on how rice first reached the American coast, there is much debate over the contribution of African-born slaves to its successful cultivation. New research demonstrates that the European planters lacked prior knowledge of rice farming, while uncovering the long history of skilled rice cultivation in West Africa. Furthermore, Islamic, Portuguese, and Dutch traders all encountered and documented extensive rice cultivation in Africa before South Carolina was even settled.

At first rice was treated like other crops, it was planted in fields and watered by rains. By the mid-18th century, planters used inland swamps to grow rice by accumulating water in a reservoir, then releasing the stored water as needed during the growing season for weeding and watering. Similarly, prior records detail Africans controlling springs and run off with earthen embankments for the same purposes of weeding and watering.
Cultivating the Rice

Soon after this method emerged, a second evolution occurred, this time to tidewater production, a technique that had already been perfected by West African farmers. Instead of depending upon a reservoir of water, this technique required skilled manipulation of tidal flows and saline-freshwater interactions to attain high levels of productivity in the floodplains of rivers and streams. Changing from inland swamp cultivation to tidal production created higher expectations from plantation owners. Slaves became responsible for five acres of rice, three more than had been possible previously. Because of this new evidence coming to light, some historians contend that African-born slaves provided critical expertise in the cultivation of rice in South Carolina. The detailed and extensive rice cultivating systems increased demand for slave imports in South Carolina, doubling the slave population between 1750 and 1770. These slaves faced long days of backbreaking work and difficult tasks.
Two South Carolina women pound outer husks from rice grain.

A slave's daily work on a rice plantation was divided into tasks. Each field hand was given a task--usually nine or ten hours' hard work--or a fraction of a task to complete each day according to his or her ability. The tasks were assigned by the driver, a slave appointed to supervise the daily work of the field hands. The driver held the most important position in the slave hierarchy on the rice plantation. His job was second only to the overseer in terms of responsibility.
 Harvesting Rice Harper's Monthly Magazine, (1859), vol. 19, p. 729; with article by T. Addison Richards, The Rice Lands of the South (pp. 721-38).

The driver's job was particularly important because each step of the planting, growing, and harvesting process was crucial to the success or failure of the year's crop. In the spring, the land was harrowed and plowed in preparation for planting. Around the first of April rice seed was sown by hand using a small hoe. The first flooding of the field, the sprout flow, barely covered the seed and lasted only until the grain sprouted. The water was then drained to keep the delicate sprout from floating away, and the rice was allowed to grow for approximately three weeks. Around the first of May any grass growing among the sprouts was weeded by hoe and the field was flooded by the point flow to cover just the tops of the plants. After a few days the water was gradually drained until it half covered the plants. It remained at this level--the long flow--until the rice was strong enough to stand. More weeding followed and then the water was slowly drained completely off the field. The ground around the plants was hoed to encourage the growth and extension of the roots. After about three weeks, the field was hoed and weeded again, at which time--around mid-June or the first of July--the lay-by flow was added and gradually increased until the plants were completely submerged. This flow was kept on the field for about two months with fresh water periodically introduced and stagnant water run off by the tidal flow through small floodgates called trunks.
Pounding rice using a wooden pounding tool and a hollowed out log.

Rice planted in the first week of April was usually ready for harvesting by the first week of September. After the lay-by flow was withdrawn, just before the grain was fully ripe, the rice was cut with large sickles known as rice hooks and laid on the ground on the stubble. After it had dried overnight, the cut rice was tied into sheaves and taken by flatboat to the threshing yard. In the colonial period, threshing was most often done by beating the stalks with flails. This process was simple but time consuming. If the rice was to be sold rough, it was then shipped to the agent; otherwise, it was husked and cleaned--again, usually by hand. By the mid-19th century most of the larger plantations operated pounding and/or threshing mills which were driven by steam engines. After the rice had been prepared, it was packed in barrels, or tierces, and shipped to the market at Georgetown or Charleston.

For more information See National Park Service

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Slaves Working

Mr. Eleazar Powel, Chippewa, Beaver county, Pennsylvania, who lived in Mississippi in 1836 and 1837. "The slaves had to cook and eat their breakfast and be in the field by daylight, and continue there till dark.''
Ballou's Pictorial (Boston, Jan. 23, 1858), vol. 14, p. 49.

Mr. George Westgate, of Quincy, Illinois, who has spent several years in the south western slave states, says: “Their time, after full dark until four o'clock in the morning is their own; this fact alone would seem to say they have sufficient rest, but there are other things to be considered; much of their making, mending and washing of clothes, preparing and cooking food, hauling and chopping wood, fixing and preparing tools, and a variety of little nameless jobs must be done between those hours.”
Hon. Alenxander Smyth, a slaveholder, and member of Congress from Virginia, in his speech on the "Missouri question,'' Jan. 28, 1820. "Is it not obvious that the way to render their situation more comfortable, is to allow them to be taken where there is not the same motive to force the slave to INCESSANT TOIL that there is in the country where cotton, sugar, and tobacco are raised for exportation. It is proposed to hem in the blacks where they are HARD WORKED, that they may be rendered unproductive and the race be prevented from increasing...The proposed measure would be EXTREME CRUELTY to the blacks...You would...doom them the HARD LABOR.''
Cassell's Illustrated History of England, 1820-1861  1863, vol 3, p 307

W. C. Gildersleeve, Esq., a native of Georgia, an elder of the Presbyterian Church at Wilkesbarre, says: “The corn is ground in a handmill by the slave after his task is done—generally there is but one mill on a plantation, and as but one can grind at a time, the mill is going sometimes very late at night.”
Cultivating Tobacco 1797 Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Sketchbook, III, 33
Mr. Cornelius Johnson, Farmington, Ohio, who lived in Mississippi in the years 1837 and 38, says: “On all the plantations where I was acquainted, the slaves were kept in the field till dark; after which, those who had to grind their own corn, had that to attend to, get their supper, attend to other family affairs of their own and of their master, such as bringing water, washing clothes, &c. &c., and be in the field as soon as it was sufficiently light to commence work in the morning.”
W. C. Gildersleeve, Esq., Wilkesbarre, Pennsylvania, a native of Georgia. "It was customary for the overseers to call out the gangs long before day, say three o'clock, in the winter, while dressing out the crops; such work as could be done by fire light (pitch pine was abundant,) was provided.''
Lewis Miller, Sketchbook of Landscapes in the State of Virginia, 1853-1867

Mr. Asa A. Stone, a theological student, near Natchez, Mississippi, in 1834 and 1835. "Everybody here knows overdriving to be one of the most common occurrences, the planters do not deny it, except, perhaps, to northerners.''
Harper's Weekly (April 13, 1861), p.232.

Philemon Bliss, Esq., a lawyer of Elyria, Ohio, who lived in Florida in 1834 and 1835. "During the cotton-picking season they usually labor in the field during the whole of the daylight, and then spend a good part of the night in ginning and baling. The labor required is very frequently excessive, and speedily impairs the constitution.''
Harper's Weekly (Jan 31, 1863), p 68

Hon. R. J. Turnbull of South Carolina, a slaveholder, speaking of the harvesting of cotton, says: "All the pregnant women even, on the plantation, and weak and sickly negroes incapable of other labor, are then in requisition.''
Asa A Stone, theological student, a classical teacher near Natchez, Mississippi, 1835. "It is a general rule on all regular plantations, that the slaves be in the field as soon as it is light enough for them to see to work, and remain there until it is so dark that they cannot see."
Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1853), vol. 9, p. 760.

Mr. Cornelius Johnson, of Farmington, Ohio, who lived in Mississippi a part of 1837 and 1838. "It is the common rule for the slaves to be kept at work fifteen hours in the day, and in the time of picking cotton a certain number of pounds is required of each. If this amount is not brought in at night, the slave is whipped, and the number of pounds lacking is added to the next day's job; this course is often repeated from day to day.''
Harper's Weekly (Jan 5, 1867), p 8 2

Mr. Nehemiah Caulkins, Waterford, Connnecticul., a resident in North Carolina eleven winters. "The slaves are obliged to work from daylight till dark, as long as they can see.''  Philemon Bliss, Esq., a lawyer in Elyria, Ohio, who resided in Florida in 1834 and 1835. "The slaves commence labor by daylight in the morning, and do not leave the field till dark in the evening.''
Harper's Monthly Magazine (1859),vol 19, p 726;

Quotes from American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Ex-slave Laura Clark, about 87, Remembers being sold away from her mother in 19C America

Larua remembered, "When I was 'bout six or seven years ole, I reckon hit 'twas, Mr. Garret...bought ten of us chillun in North Ca'lina and sent two white men, and one was Mr. Skinner, to fetch us back in waggins. An' he fetch ole Julie Powell and Henry to look atter us. Wa'n't none of dem ten chillun no kin to me, and he never bought my mammy, so I had to leave her behine. I recollect Mammy said to old Julie, 'Take keer my baby chile (dat was me) and iffen I never sees her no mo' raise her for God.' Den she fell off de waggin where us was all settin' and roll over on de groun' jes' a-cryin'."

Photos and quotes of former slaves used in these blog posts come from the Slave Narratives.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Milk Churning

Milk Churning by Mary Lyde Hicks Williams.  Mary Lyde Hicks Williams (1866-1959) Mary's paintings of freed slaves reflected daily life she saw on her uncle's plantation during Reconstruction in North Carolina.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Ex-slave Mary Ann Patterson, Texas, Remembers weaving, bear meat, & honey in 19C America

Mary Ann remembered, "I helped wid de work in de 'loom room.' I had to do 'five cuts a day', but I was fast enough to make eight cuts a day. I made five cuts fo' de white folks and three fo' myself...Now, let me tell you about de cooks. Mawster Burleson had a cook fo' de big house and he had a cook fo' de slaves. Dah was a kitchen in de big house fo' de white folks, and dah was a kitchen and long table fo' de hands. We had putty good vittles. I remembah we had so much hog meat dat we'd throw de hogs' head and feet away. Mawster Burleson raised his own hogs. Everythin' dat ole mawster et, we had it too. Sometimes we et deer meat and dah was times when we had bear meat and honey. Mawster Burleson had his own bees."

Photos and quotes of former slaves used in these blog posts come from the Slave Narratives. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Born a Slave - Clara Brown (1800-1885) Colorado

Clara Brown was born a slave in Virginia in 1800. At 9, she & her mother were sold into Kentucky. By 18, she married & then gave birth to 4 children. At 35, she was sold at auction & separated from her husband & children. Freed by her 3rd owner in 1859, she traveled to Denver by working as a cook on a wagon train in exchange for her transportation. Brown is said to be the first black woman to cross the plains during the Gold Rush.

In Central City, Colorado, she set up shop as a laundress, worked hard, & saved money. After Emancipation, she returned to Kentucky to search for her lost children in 1866 with no luck. On this trip, she helped ex-slaves relocate to Colorado & later took in needy ex-slaves. In 1879, when she was nearly 80, she traveled to Kansas to help poor freedmen "exodusters" relocated on Kansas farms from the South. In 1882, she finally found her daugher Eliza Jane, who had been sold into slavery as a girl & helped her relocate to Iowa with her grandaughter Cindy. She died in 1885.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Male & Female Slaves & the North Carolina Fishing Industry

In North Carolina & other coastal colonies, slaves served as fishermen & fish processors for their owners.  Usually males fished, & females prepared the catch for market or export.  Between 1800 & the Civil War, African Americans composed approximately 45 percent of the total population in North Carolina's 19 tidewater counties. They made up nearly 60 percent of the total population in its largest seaports. Along the Albemarle Sound, prodigious gangs of black fishermen wielded mile-and-a-half-long seines in what was the largest herring fishery in North America.  Slaves at Shell Castle Island, a shoal at Ocracoke Inlet, ranged up & down the Outer Banks with their nets in pursuit of jumping mullet & bottlenosed dolphins.  The shad & herring fishery along the Albemarle Sound had only one comparable cousin, off the Chesapeake Bay, and the commercial mullet fishery between Bear Inlet & Ocracoke Inlet was unique. But slave fishing and boating were a deeply imbedded and important part of plantation life throughout the southern seacoast.  During this period, the slave plantations of the West Indies became the largest market for American fish.
Sein Fishing in North Carolina, Harper's Weekly (Sept. 28, 1861), p. 620.

Night Fishing in North Carolina 1861.Harper's Weekly (Sept. 28, 1861), p. 621

Fish Processing in North Carolina 1861, Harper's Weekly (Sept. 28, 1861), p.621

See: David S. Cecelski.  The Waterman's Song: Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina.  University of North Carolina Press. 2001

Vickers, Daniel. Farmers and Fishermen: Two Centuries of Work in Essex County, Massachusetts, 1630-1850. Chapel Hill and London: Published for the Institute of Early American history and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia by the University of North Carolina Press, 1994., compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.

Friday, June 14, 2019

The role of slaves in the 18C & 19C American economy

Male & female Africans were captured & transported to the Western Hemisphere to work.  Most European colonial economies in the Americas from the 16th - 19th century were dependent on enslaved African labor for their survival.  The rationale of European colonial officials was that the abundant land they had "discovered" in the Americas was useless without sufficient labor to exploit it.  Only some 450,000 of the nearly 10 million Africans who survived the Middle Passage across the Atlantic to the Americas during the transatlantic slave trade settled in the continental United States. Nevertheless, these 450,000 had grown to more than 4 million people of African descent by 1860, the dawn of the Civil War.
South Carolina

Slavery was not limited to the Western Hemisphere.  The trans-Saharan slave trade had long supplied enslaved African labor to work on sugar plantations in the Mediterranean alongside white slaves from Russia & the Balkans. This same trade also sent as many as 10,000 slaves a year to serve owners in North Africa, the Middle East, & the Iberian Peninsula.
Cartouche Shipping Hogsheads of Tobacco from Frye-Jefferson map of Virginia, 1755

Of the millions of immigrants who survived the crossing of the Atlantic & settled in the Western Hemisphere between 1492 -1776, only about 1 million were Europeans. The remaining were African. An average of 80 % of these enslaved Africans—men, women, & children—were employed, mostly as field-workers. Women as well as children worked in some capacity.

More than half of the enslaved African captives in the Americas were employed on sugar plantations. Sugar developed into the leading slave-produced commodity in the Americas.  During the 16th & 17th centuries, Brazil dominated the production of sugarcane. One of the earliest large-scale manufacturing industries was established to convert the juice from the sugarcane into sugar, molasses, & eventually rum, the alcoholic beverage of choice of the triangular trade.  The profits made from the sale of these goods in Europe, as well as the trade in these commodities in Africa, were used to purchase more slaves.
Tobacco Advertisement Card, Newman’s Best Virginia, 1700s

By 1750, both free & enslaved black people in the British American colonies, despite the hardships of their lives, manifested a deepening attachment to America. The majority of blacks by now had been born in America, rather than in Africa. While a collective cultural memory of Africa was maintained, personal & direct memories had waned. Slave parents began to give their children biblical rather than African names. 
Tobacco Label, Ford’s Virginia

During the British American colonial period in the United States, tobacco was the dominant slave-produced commodity.  During the colonial era, 61% of all American slaves -- nearly 145,000 -- lived in Virginia & Maryland, working the tobacco fields in small to medium-sized gangs. Planters who owned hundreds of slaves often divided them among several plantations. In the North & the Upper South, masters & bondpeople lived close to each other.  Rice & indigo plantations in South Carolina also employed enslaved African labor.  The South Carolina & Georgia coastal rice belt had a slave population of 40,000. Because rice requires precise irrigation & a large, coordinated labor force, enslaved people lived & worked in larger groups. Plantation owners lived in towns like Charleston or Savannah & employed white overseers to manage their far-flung estates. Overseers assigned a task in the morning, & slaves tended to their own needs, when the assigned work was completed. The region was atypical, because of its more flexible work schedules and more isolated and independent slave culture.
Indigo Production South Carolina. William DeBrahm, A Map of South Carolina and a Part of Georgia  London, published by Thomas Jeffreys, 1757.

Exhausted land caused a decline in tobacco production, & the American Revolution cost Virginia & Maryland their principal European tobacco markets, & for a brief period of time after the Revolution. The future of slavery in the United States was in jeopardy. Most of the northern states abolished it, & even Virginia debated abolition in the Virginia Assembly.
Slave Auction. New York Illustrated News; January 26, 1861

The invention of the cotton gin in 1793, gave slavery a new life in the United States. Between 1800 -  1860, slave-produced cotton expanded from South Carolina & Georgia to newly colonized lands west of the Mississippi. This shift of the slave economy from the upper South (Virginia & Maryland) to the lower South was accompanied by a comparable shift of the enslaved African population to the lower South & West.
Hauling Cotton US South. Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1853-54)

After the abolition of the slave trade in 1808, the principal source of the expansion of slavery into the lower South was the domestic slave trade from the upper South.  By 1850, 1.8 million of the 2.5 million enslaved Africans employed in agriculture in the United States were working on cotton plantations.
Picking Cotton. Ballou's Pictorial (Boston, Jan. 23, 1858)

The vast majority of enslaved Africans employed in plantation agriculture were field hands. Some coastal owners used slaves as fishermen.  Even on plantations, however, they worked in many other capacities. Some were domestics & worked as butlers, waiters, maids, seamstresses, & launderers. Others were assigned as carriage drivers, hostlers, & stable boys. Artisans—carpenters, stonemasons, blacksmiths, millers, coopers, spinners, & weavers—were also employed as part of plantation labor forces.
Slave Auction. The Illustrated London News; February 16, 1861

Enslaved Africans also worked in urban areas. Upward of 10% of the enslaved African population in the United States lived in cities. Charleston, Richmond, Savannah, Mobile, New York, Philadelphia, & New Orleans all had sizable slave populations. In the southern cities, they totaled approximately a third of the population.
Edwin Forbes (1839-1895) Stacking Wheat in Culpepper, Virginia 1863

The range of slave occupations in cities was vast. Domestic servants dominated, but there were carpenters, fishermen, coopers, draymen, sailors, masons, bricklayers, blacksmiths, bakers, tailors, peddlers, painters, & porters. Although most worked directly for their owners, others were hired out to work as skilled laborers on plantations, on public works projects, & in industrial enterprises. A small percentage hired themselves out & paid their owners a percentage of their earnings.
Picking Cotton US South Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1853-54)

Each plantation economy was part of a larger national & international political economy. The cotton plantation economy, for instance, is generally seen as part of the regional economy of the American South. By the 1830s, "cotton was king" indeed in the South. It was also king in the United States, which was competing for economic leadership in the global political economy. Plantation-grown cotton was the foundation of the antebellum southern economy.
 Ginning Cotton US South Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1853-54)

The American financial & shipping industries were also dependent on slave-produced cotton, as was the British textile industry. Cotton was not shipped directly to Europe from the South. Rather, it was shipped to New York & then transshipped to England & other centers of cotton manufacturing in the United States & Europe.  As the cotton plantation economy expanded throughout the southern region, banks & financial houses in New York supplied the loan capital &/or investment capital to purchase land & slaves.
Harvesting Sugar Cane, Louisiana Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1853)

As an inexpensive source of labor, enslaved Africans in the United States also became important economic & political capital in the American political economy. Enslaved Africans were legally a form of property—a commodity. Individually & collectively, they were frequently used as collateral in all kinds of business transactions. They were also traded for other kinds of goods & services.
Slave Market. Harper's Weekly, January 24, 1863

The value of the investments slaveholders held in their slaves was often used to secure loans to purchase additional land or slaves. Slaves were also used to pay off outstanding debts. When calculating the value of estates, the estimated value of each slave was included. This became the source of tax revenue for local & state governments. Taxes were also levied on slave transactions.
Planting Rice US South. Harper's Monthly Magazine (1859)

Politically, the U.S. Constitution incorporated a feature that made enslaved Africans political capital—to the benefit of southern states. The so-called three-fifths compromise allowed the southern states to count their slaves as three-fifths of a person for purposes of calculating states' representation in the U.S. Congress. Thus the balance of power between slaveholding & non-slaveholding states turned, in part, on the three-fifths presence of enslaved Africans in the census.  Slaveholders were taxed on the same three-fifths principle, & no taxes paid on slaves supported the national treasury. In sum, the slavery system in the United States was a national system that touched the very core of its economic & political life.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.  

Jubilee: The Emergence of African-American Culture, ed. Howard Dodson. Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society.  2003, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

African Americans continued to sing & dance

Dance, Lynchburg, Virginia, 1853 Lewis Miller, Sketchbook of Landscapes in the State of Virginia, 1853-1867. Lewis Miller, Sketchbook of Landscapes in the State of Virginia, 1853-1867.

In the African cultures from which the slaves had come, everyday conversations, storytelling, & oral histories during sacred rituals & other celebrations, were filled with energy & dynamism.  Indigenous musics permeated all aspects of traditional African social life. They were used to establish & maintain the rhythms of work. Almost no African festival or life-cycle celebration seemed complete without the presence of music.
Harper's Weekly (April 13, 1861), p 232

Dancing to these rhythms was equally pervasive & usually involved all members of society regardless of age, sex, or social status.  When combined with the spiritual forces invoked by the singing, drumming, & dancing, the African dancers themselves seemed to become the embodiment of the rhythms & the spirits.
 Henry Bibb, Narrative of the life and adventures of Henry Bibb, an American slave (New York, 1849), facing p 23

Africans from a number of different ethnicities & nationalities created new music & dances out of the cultural & material resources found in their new environment in the Western Hemisphere drawing on their traditional African heritage.
Master Juba from American Notes by Charles Dickens 1842

America's Africans built their religious & secular rituals, festivals, & social gatherings on the foundations of song, dances, & rhythms which they invented to cope with the restrictions of their New World realities.
Plantation Dance, South Carolina, ca. 1785-1795  in Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

This music prevailed despite the fact that drums, the rhythmic foundation of African music & dance, were outlawed in many slave communities in the United States.  When slave owners in the United States discovered that drums could be used as a secret means of communication, many banned the use of drums.  In the place of drums, enslaved Africans in the United States substituted hand clapping, "pattin' juba," & tapping the feet in cadences to reproduce the complex rhythms of African drumming.
Jumping the Broom 1850s Emily Clemens Pearson [pseudo. Pocahontas], Cousin Franck’s Household, or, Scenes in the Old Dominion (Boston, 1853), facing p. 169.

Vernacular dances such as jigs, shuffles, breakdowns, shake-downs, & backsteps, as well as the strut, the ring shout, & other religious expressions, were danced to the accompaniment of these drum-less rhythms & to the fiddle, the banjo, bows, gourds, bells, & other hand or feet instruments—all New World African inventions by enslaved Africans.
 Robert Criswell, Uncle Tom's Cabin (New York, 1852), facing p 113

During the slavery era, enslaved Africans became the musicians of choice for white & black celebrations & festivities, because they were recognized by whites & blacks as the best musicians in their locales.
Singing & Corn Shucking in South Carolina 1852. Robert Criswell, Uncle Tom's Cabin (New York, 1852), facing p. 65.

Two indigenous African-American musical forms—the spiritual & the blues—were created by enslaved Africans during the slavery era.
Slave Quarters, Louisiana, 1861-65  Adolf Carlsson Warberg, Skizzer fran Nord-Amerikanska
Kriget, 1861-1865

Negro Firemen's Ball, Sabbatry Hall, Charleston, S.C. Sketched by William Waud, See page 67, New York Illustrated News, December 6, 1862, 77

Contraband Children Dancing the Breakdown. From Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. January 31, 1863.

Some of the images on this posting are from, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.