Lecture 4 HST 101
Popular in American History to 1865
Popular in History
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Date Created: 09/17/14
Tuesday September 17 2014 How Did American Slavery Begin Key Terms Headright System Bacon39s Rebellion Plantation Revolution 1 The Big Question Which Came First Slavery or Racism Can you have the former without the latter Or is the racism just an after thefact justification How does English colonists ideas of who is quotblackquot who is quotwhitequot and who is a slave evolve in North America Some English writers surprisingly positive or neutral before there is a clear narrative of dehumanization and exclusion the rules are unclear quotBlackquot people are generally assumed to be candidates for slaves and quotwhitequot people are not but the rules seem to be about faith not necessarily skin color As Atlantic empires grow and face the ongoing people problem Instead simple twotone palette of Black and White Slave and Free The climate theory and the problem of reality The biblical theory and the problem of missionaries The question of different bodies disease resistance fertility childbearing and breastfeeding Also why have slaves at all Do slaves bring about the need for slave labor crops or do the crops bring the slaves Some general points or cautions Historians agree that both European enslavement of subSaharan Africans and European prejudice towards subSaharan Africans existed long before Tuesday September 17 2014 the colonization of Virginia However they also agree that black slavery in Virginia and elsewhere in the English Atlantic was different from previous and other examples and that it changed over time The questions are how and why How does the final theory of racism the different bodies morethanskin deep come about Let39s look at specifics in Virginia 2 Economic Pressures and Social Changes The Virginia Example As noted before Virginia was first and foremost a colony about profits from its earliest iteration as a haven for privateers to the hope that Jamestown was a gold mine The leading sponsors and colonists are mainly aristocratically born landed men Classic people problem in early starving years A 1617 policy called the headright system 50 acres per head helps the wealthier colonists build estates with indentured English servants doing their labor for set terms of up to seven years As Virginians discover tobacco as a cash crop the colony starts to prosper and grow but the headright system creates an obvious divide Virginians also import black slaves from early on but in rather small numbers A small number of these slaves become free and the question of whether becoming Christian can free slaves or whether children of slaves is not settled officially in law until 1660s and 1670s But there are other changes that lead to this transformation The plateauing of tobacco prices The expansion of white freemen into Native territories The growing divide between elite whites and poor whites Va Social Structure c 1650 Tuesday September 17 2014 Elite whites Poor mostly white free people Enslaved blacks Some permeability between black and white Less mobility between poor and rich 3 American Slavery and American Freedom Interdependent Processes The outbreak of Bacon39s Rebellion A frontier war and a civil war Bacon v Berkeley attacks on estates on the social order The lessons elites learn 1 We have a new people problem we have lots of people but not enough that we can exploit for labor to make a profit on tobacco 2 We need more people who share our interests 3 The indiscriminate violence against Indians sure reveals the power of racial animosity in building social cohesion Meanwhile the laws of the 1660s and 1670s have changed legal code and by the time the Plantation Revolution the shift over to full scale major slave crops comes about in the late 1600s and early 1700s the social structure of Virginia c 1750 looks like this Elite whites Poor whites Enslaved blacks Increased representation feeling of connection between elites and ordinary Virginians The end of the few escape hatches from slavery Tuesday September 17 2014 It39s in the years immediately before and after Bacon39s Rebellion that we see a massive spike in the importation of slaves Bacon39s Rebellion is not the CAUSE exactly but it does help shift the rhetoric and perspective of slaveowners who increasingly emphasize common cause with whites and have a strong reason for wanting to police the color line Changing nature of fear away from white insurrection to fear of black insurrection along with constant fear of Indian war creates volitile brittle racial hierarchy hence a system that denies the ambiguity of racial mixing and one that gives a very explicit reason for nonslaveowning whites to support slavery and the master class Indeed the real change in Virginia after Bacon39s Rebellion is not that being quotblackquot becomes synonymous with slavery which it already had become in the last two decades it39s that being quotwhitequot comes to mean the same thing as being quotfreequot free to have a say free to get wealthier thanks to the continued enslavement of cheap labor The dynamic connected nature of American slavery and American freedom