Chapter 12: The old south and slavery 1830-1860



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Chapter 12: The old south and slavery 1830-1860

I. Introduction:

A. Nat Turner Rebellion

1. Nat Turner and six other slaves broke into Joseph Travis’ home, where they killed Travis, his wife, and two other whites, and later on the infant. They traveled around killing whites. The membership was about 60/70 and they killed over 60 whites. The white militia took control and slaughtered blacks even if they weren’t involved. Turner went to trial and then was hung.

B. Before the Turner Rebellion Virginians had worried little of slave rebellions.

C. Non-slaveholding whites in the western par of the state, urged that Virginia follow the lead of northern states and emancipate slaves.

D. The south had been split.

1. Upper South: Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas

a. major economy based on raising wheat, tobacco, hemp, vegetables, and livestock,

b. Relied less on slavery and cotton then the lower south.

2: Lower, or Deep South: South Caroline, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisianan, and Texas.

II. King Cotton:

A. The Lure of Cotton:

1. Cotton was one the leading crops of this time. With its warm climate, wet springs, and summers, and relatively dry autumns, the Lower South was especially suited to the cultivation of cotton. Cotton was an inexpensive crop to grow with very little necessities.

a. The demand for cotton in Britain and New England kept the price of it high.

b. with the production of cotton and other leading crops, it made the south the wealthiest part of the US at the time.

c. in 1860, 35-50% of cotton farmers owned no slaves.

2. In the south slave population was high.

a.1810-1860 population doubled and cotton employed ¾ of slaves

b. Slave holding allowed planters to increase their cotton acreage and hence their profits.

3.Advantage of cotton lay in the compatibility with the production of corn. Could be planted anytime throughout the year.

a. Corn allowed planters to use employ slaves when cotton was not being harvested.

B. Between the Lower and Upper South:

1. Sugar and Cotton dominated agriculture in the lower south.

2. Tobacco, vegetables, hemp, and wheat dominated the upper south.

a. depended much less on cash crops for stability.

3. Upper south identified with the lower south rather than with the agricultural regions of the free states.

a. many settlers in the lower south had migrated form the upper south. Along with economic ties which linked them.

b. all white southerners benefited for the 3/5th clause.

c. all southerners were stung by abolitionist criticism of slavery(drew no distinction between upper and lower south)

d. encouragement of trading slaves due to the crops.

C. The North and South Diverge:

1. While much of the North started to urbanize, the South stayed relatively rural.

a. due to lack of industries.

b. J.D.B. DeBow advocated factories as a way to revive the economies of the older states t o reduce the southern dependence on the north.

c. Chief brake of southern industrialization was money.

i. due to refusal to sell slaves for capital.

2. Factories and industries:

a. compared to North, Southern industries were small, closely tied to agriculture.

b. Slavery posed a major obstacle to southern industrialization.

i. Slaves hired in factories passed themselves as free and acted free to negotiate better working conditions.

3. Public education:

a. Southerners rejected compulsory education and were reluctant to tax property to support schools.

b. lawmakers made it a crime to teach slaves

c. Some public aid flowed to universities but most was private.

d. white illiteracy remained high in the south.

e. the North took education more into effect accepting Horce Mann’s plan on education.

4. Progression:

a. Northerners believed that the South was not industrializing.

b. Yet the white south did not lack progressive features

i. In 1840 per capita income was slightly below average, and in 1860 exceed the average

c. Southerners progressed in agricultural improvement

III. The Social Groups of the White South:

A. slave ownership:

1. In every southern state some slaveholders owned big estates and homes, with hundreds of slaves but most lived more modestly.

a. in 1860 ¼ of all white families in the south owned slaves.

i. Of those, nearly ½ half owned less than 5, 1/3 owned less than 10, 12% owned 20 or more, and 1% owned more than 100.

B. Social Groups:

1. Planters

a. those who owned 20 or more slaves, to run the plantation

b. dominated in low country and delta regions of the south

c. urban merchants & lawyers were classified in this group

d. labor staff in plantation:

i. domestic staff: butler, waiters, seamstresses, laundresses, maids and gardeners.

ii. pasture staff: shepherds, cowherds, hog drivers

iii. outdoor artisans: stonemasons and carpenters

iv. indoor artisans: blacksmiths, carpenters, shoemakers, spinners, and weavers

v. field hands

e. the homes where usually elaborate mansions

f. slaves where worth a lot of money

g. Planters had to worry constantly about profitability. The fixed costs of operating plantations- including hiring overseers, housing and feeding slaves, and maintaining cotton gins and other equipment- were considerable.(caused them to search for better land)

h. the isolation left many women depressed which caused the couple to move to the cities for long periods of time and left the plantation management to the overseers.

2. Small slaveholders

a. Those with fewer than 20

b. looked to the planters for leadership

c. typically owned few slaves, and didn’t aspire to be planters

i. In lower regions aspired to be planters

d. The invest in slaves could be justified only by setting them to work on profitable crops.

e. Small slaveholders where usually younger than than large slave holders .

f. Initially pushed into the cotton belt

3. yeomen

a. Non slaveholding family farmers

b. comprised the largest single group of southern whites

c. dominated in hilly upland region(slaveholders tended to acquire their outlook

d. rural artisans & merchants usually were classified in this group (minority of yeomen didn’t own land)

e. hired slaves at harvest time, but paid them

f. leading characteristic is the value that they attached to self-sufficiency, devoted a large land to subsistence crops.

g. in the lower county were seen as “poor white trash”

h. in upper areas where highly respectable

4.people of the pine barren

a. usually squatted on the land, put up crude cabins, cleared some acreage and planted corn between tree stubs, and grazed hogs and cattle in the woods.

b. made up about 10% of southern population

c. neither raised cash crops nor engaged in daily routines as farmers did

d. proof to whites that slavery degraded them

e. were self-reliant and fiercely independent

i. some time worked slaves jobs

ii. women refused to become servants.

C. Social Relations in the white south:

1.Conflict over slavery:

a. conflict between slaveholders and nonslaveholders

b. Between 1830-1860 slaveholders gained an increasing proportion of southern wealth while declining as a proportion of white population. i. Class size shrank 36% in 1831.

c. nonslaveholders wanted to abolish slavery

i. impending crisis of the south, by: Hinton R. Helper

d. slavery didn’t create a lasting effect for emancipation was dropped from southern agenda after 1832.

2. Why were pro-emancipation forces not pressured, if the majority of southerners where nonslaveholders?

a. some nonslaveholders wish to become slaveholders

b. most simply accepted the racist assumptions upon which slavery rested.

c. didn’t want blacks to have the same social equality as the whites.

d. no one knew, if freed what they would do, or go.

D. Proslavery Arguments:

1. Southern writers constructed a defense of slavery as a positive good rather than a ` necessary evil.

a. Southerners answered northern attacks on slavery as a backward institution by pointing out that the slavery society of ancient Athens had produced Plato and Aristotle and that Roman slaveholders had laid the basis of western civilization.

b. many southerners used references to the bible.

c. many believed that the real intentions for abolishment of slavery is to advocate women’s right and destroy the family.

d. proslavery began to emerge in discussions at church, for at first they thought that it was immoral, but later advocated that it was necessary.

E. Violence in the old south:

1. Violence often occurred amongst the southerners

a. Gouging out eyes became a specialty of sorts among poor whites.

b. Murder rate was ten times higher in the old south than in the north.

2. Code of Honor and Dueling:

a. among gentlemen an exaggerated pride took the form of a code of honor

i. Honor: an extraordinary sensitivity to ones reputation, belief that ones self esteem depends on the opinion of others.

b. Formalized by British and French officers during the revolutionary war, dueling gained a secure niche in the old south as a means by which gentlemen dealt with affronts to their honor.

c. Southerners saw it as a refined alternative to the random violence of lower classes.

d. most confrontations ended peacefully.

e. many ended in death and never dueled a lower class person.

3. Evangelicals, and white values:

a. All of the evangelical denominations preached by the churches, and others, preached honorable traditional values.

b. In the 1800’s evangelical preachers had reached out to the south’s subordinate groups: women, slaves, and the poor.

i. frequently allowed women and slaves to exhort in biracial churches. (women were expected to remain silent in church)

ii. blacks conducted their own worship services in black churches.

IV. Life under slavery:



  1. Maturing of the plantation system:

  1. Drastic change in the slaves from the 1700’s and the 1830’s

    1. Typical North American slave was as likely to be a male or a female who was born in America, spoke a form of English, who whoreked in the company with numerous other slaves on a plantation.

    2. Ratio of female and male slaves balanced, causing more marriage.

      1. Usually married people from nearby plantations.

    3. Importation of slaves gradually decreased during the 1760’s and congress banned it in 1808.

  2. Work on plantation slaves:

    1. Typical slave worked with numerous other slaves usually in banned of 10

    2. Almost 3/5 of all slaves that year were owned by masters with ten or more slaves.

    3. ½ slaves worked for masters who contained 20 or more slaves.

    4. Working day:

      1. Usually began an hour before sunrise with the sounding of a horn or bell.

      2. After a sparse breakfast, they marched to the fields.

      3. They would then work until sun down.

    5. Men and female usually worked together side by side.

    6. If women didn’t work in the fields, they worked caring for the masters family.

  3. Discipline:

    1. Overseers and drives usually walked around whipping the slaves

    2. Master saw the discipline as a necessity and priority

  4. Had opportunity of advancement, from unskilled field workers, to semiskilled indoor worker.

  1. The slave family:

1. Some of the masters encouraged weddings, and at times made them a wedding cake.

2. laws provided neither recognition or nor protection fro the slave family.

3. Many times the families had to be separated when the master sold family members.

a. mothers where usually separated from their children for days.

b. when married from different plantations, the children usually stayed with the mother.

4. Differed from white families

a. in white families the parent-child bond overrode all others, slaves in contrast emphasized ties between children, uncles, grandparents, and aunts, as well as their parents.

b. slaves often created fictive kins network, with the absence of an uncle or aunt, they called their friends uncles, and aunts

5. Longevity, diet, and health of slaves

a. Slaves in the United States tended to live longer than the ones that were in the western hemisphere.

b. Gender rates among slaves equalized more rapidly in the United States, encouraging earlier and longer, marriages with more children.

c. the slaves food consisted of peck of cornmeal and 3-4 pound of meat a week

d. slaves had greater immunities to both malaria and yellow fever, but suffered more from cholera, dysentery, and diarrhea.

i. blacks often made remedies that cured stomach pains

e. although slave remedies were often more effective than those of white physicians, slaves experienced a higher mortality rate than whites.

i. whites could out live blacks at any age

ii. 2/3 black children survived to be ten

6. Slaves off plantations:



    1. Many of the slaves who worked outside of the plantation had much more skills that they were able to acquire.

    2. Slaves or free blacks found it easier to pursue skilled occupations in the southern cities attracted few immigrants to compete for work, and partly because the profitability of southern cash crops long had pulled white laborers out of towns and cities and left behind opportunities for blacks, slaves or free, to acquire craft skills.

    3. Slaves that worked outside of the plantation were usually hired more than owned.

7. Life on the Margin: free blacks in the old south

    1. Free blacks would usually live In cities, and were urban

    2. Usually given the chance to become carpenters, coopers, barbers and even small traders.

    3. Urban free blacks formed their own fraternal orders and churches; a church run by free blacks was often the largest house of worship in the southern city.

    4. Rate of growth of black slowed down after 1810

      1. Due to fewer masters setting their slaves free

    5. In the wake of the Nate Turner rebellion in 1831 laws restricting the liberties of free blacks were tightened.

      1. Made it a felony in the south to teach blacks how to read and write.

    6. Majority of blacks that didn’t live in the city lived in rural areas.

8. Slave resistance:

    1. Nat turners rebellion

      1. In Virginia and the only rebellion to have the death of whites.

    2. In 1800 Virginia slave Garbia Prossers planned uprising was betrayed by other slaves, Gabrial and his followers were executed.

    3. Had fewer rebellions in America then did in the Caribbean.

    4. Many of the slaved instead of going in rebellion decided to go and escape

      1. Frederick Douglass borrowed a sailors papers in making his escape from Baltimore to New York

      2. Harriet Tubman, and Josiah Henson made repeated trips back to the South to help other slaves escape.

V. The Emergence of African-American Culture:

A. The Language of Slaves

1. When the slaves had first arrived, many spoke different languages for they weren’t from the same part of Africa.

2. Developed pidgin: a language that had no native speakers in which people with different native languages can communicate.

a. As more American slaves began to form pidgin to root.

b. Usually dropped the verb to be and dropped the gender

c. Contained several African words: Banjo, goober

B. African- American Religion:

1. Usually worship native land religion.

2. Similar to the Indians , in which they believed in gods, and the sprites of the earth.

3. Many of the slaves that came had not clung to their relgion in native land

4.Many went to Christianity for they had similar symbolic features such as the meaning of water(life and hope)

a. Even though the whites and blacks where preached the same thing, many times they had different interpretations.

5. Later on went to make Baptist and Methodist churches.

C. Black Music and Dance:

1.Blacks were much more expressive, shouting “Amen” and let their body movement reflect their feelings.

2.Slaves also expressed their feelings in music, and dance

a. Used a lot of hand clapping to mark rhythm

i. American Slaves made clapping noises called patting juba.

b. Slavs also plated an African instrument, the banjo, and beat tin buckes as substitution for drums.

3. Always tied music with body movement

4. Also came up with many chants that masters encouraged, for it was believed that it would make them work harder.



5. Also sung religious songs later called spirituals.


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