American slavery was a dynamic institution. And though slavery was mainly a system of labor, those who toiled in the fields and catered to the most private needs and desires of slaveholders were more than just workers. Although utterly obvious, it must be reiterated that the enslaved were indeed people. In fact, the nature and diversity of the institution of slavery ensured that bondpeople would experience enslavement quite differently. Aiming to highlight the variety of conditions that affected a bondperson’s life as a laborer, Swing the Sickle examines the workaday and interior lives of the enslaved in two plantation communities in Georgia—Glynn County in the lowcountry and Wilkes in the piedmont east of Athens.
Often wrongly considered to be on the periphery of the history of the United States, Africa has played an important role politically, economically, and culturally from before American independence until the present day.
On March 21, 1861, Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the Confederate States of America, delivered an extemporaneous speech to an enthusiastic crowd in Savannah, Georgia. Stephens declared that new nation had been created in order to refute the idea enshrined in the Declaration of Independence that “All men are created equal.” According to Stephens, “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and moral condition.”