Over the past decade, Not Even Past has published a wide range of resources that focus on the history of slavery. These are intended for use in the classroom and are collected here as a resource for teachers.
White slave-owning women were not the only ones to insist on their profound economic investments in the institution of slavery; the enslaved people they owned and white members of southern communities did too. The testimony of formerly enslaved people and other narrative sources, legal documents, and financial records dramatically reshape current understandings of white women’s economic relationships to slavery, situating those relationships firmly at the center of nineteenth-century America’s most significant and devastating system of economic exchange. These sources reveal that white parents raised their daughters with particular expectations related to owning slaves and taught them how to be effective slave masters. These lessons played a formative role in how white women conceptualized their personal relationships to human property, imagined the powers that they would possess once they became slave owners in their own right, and shaped their techniques of slave control.
STEPHANIE E. JONES-ROGERS
People think they know everything about slavery in the United States, but they don’t. They think the majority of African slaves came to the American colonies, but they didn’t. They talk about 400 hundred years of slavery, but it wasn’t. They claim all Southerners owned slaves, but they didn’t. Some argue it was a long time ago, but it wasn’t.
DAINA RAMEY BERRY
As scholars of slavery writing books on the historical value(s) of black life, we are concerned with the long history of how black people are commodified by the state. Although we are saddened by the unprosecuted deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and countless others, we are not surprised. We live a nation that has yet to grapple with the history of slavery and its afterlife. In 1669, the Virginia colony enacted legislation that gave white slaveholders the authority to murder their slaves without fear of prosecution. This act, concerning “… the Casual Killing of Slaves,” seems all too familiar today.
DAINA RAMEY BERRY AND JENNIFER L. MORGAN
Andrew Cox Marshall was Savannah’s most important African American in the pre-Civil War period. Born into slavery in the mid-eighteenth century, Marshall acquired his freedom and went on to become a successful businessman and an influential religious leader with far-reaching ties throughout Savannah’s diverse free and enslaved African American community; he was also well known among Savannah’s white elite. The lives of those who gained freedom before slavery ended were restricted by laws that limited their economic and social opportunities. Yet Marshall managed to navigate such constraints and achieve some level of success and autonomy.
Savannah is a prime location for understanding the centrality of slavery and race to the national and world economy, and the importance of the city to southern landscapes and the southern economy. Because of the great economic and social dominance of rural plantation-based slavery in the Americas, historians have long assumed that that slave labor was not suited to cities and therefore slavery in American cities was insignificant. But a re-examination of slavery in cities throughout the Atlantic World has demonstrated the importance of urban areas to the slave economy and the adaptability of slave labor and slave ownership to metropolitan regions, especially port cities such as Savannah.. Urban slavery was part of, not exceptional to, the slave-based economies of North America and the Atlantic world
DAINA RAMEY BERRY
How did slavery end in America? It’s a deceptively simple question—but it holds a very complicated answer. “Visualizing Emancipation” is a new digital project from the University of Richmond that maps the messy, regionally dispersed and violent process of ending slavery in America.
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.
DAINA RAMEY BERRY
The Price for their Pound of Flesh is the first book to explore the economic value of enslaved men, women, and children in the American domestic slave trade, from before they were born until after their death, in both public and private market transactions and appraisals. How was a slave’s price determined? How did planters and traders establish values for enslaved people with specific ages, specific skills, or specific health conditions? Studies of the domestic slave trade rarely discuss the economic meaning and social significance of the market values and appraisals assigned to enslaved people. When they do discuss slave prices, the focus has mostly been on prime male slaves. This study examines slave prices of women, men, and children during their entire “lifecycle,” including preconception, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, the senior years, and postmortem.
DAINA RAMEY BERRY
At the turn of last century Eugene C. Barker, Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, conducted research on the illegal slave trade in Texas. Barker sought to unveil the obscure history of slave smuggling in Texas and he set out to collect information pertaining to that subject. Interested in the nineteenth century, particularly in the period from 1808 to the 1865 when the international slave trade was officially abolished and slavery ended in the United States, Barker wrote numerous letters to elderly residents of Texas asking for their recollections on anything related to the illegal slave trade in Texas during that period.In March 1902, 80-year-old Sion R. Bostick, from San Saba County, replied to Barker with a letter containing a wealth of information.
MARIA ESTHER HAMMACK
In addition to written records of slave narratives, we can now listen to the former bondpeople talk about their experience with the peculiar institution. The Library of Congress has a collection entitled “Voices from the Days of Slavery” which contains nearly seven hours of audio recordings of formally enslaved men and women. These audio files are the original recordings of WPA interviews that were used to compose the written slave narratives. As my students often say, it’s even more chilling to hear former slaves recount their experiences of slavery than to read their autobiographies in an edited collection. The audio files are revealing in that one can hear the questions posed and answered in their original form. Historians can compare the questions asked, place the responses in context, and learn about omitted material. This alone allows the researcher a different lens to explore a somewhat controversial historical source.
DAINA RAMEY BERRY
By any measure, Frederick Douglass’s Narrative (1845) is an extraordinary document—as autobiography, anti-slavery polemic, literature, and primary text illuminating mid-nineteenth-century American life. Douglass was born a slave on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in 1818, the son of a white father and an enslaved woman. One of the most moving parts of his story revolves around his learning to read and write. Literacy opened a whole new world to him, but also embittered him, as he contemplated the injustice of slavery. In 1838 he forged his name on a pass, disguised himself as a sailor, and escaped to Massachusetts. By the 1840s he was travelling throughout the North and Great Britain, electrifying audiences with his eloquence and his compelling story of escape from bondage.I teach the Narrative in my Signature course (a seminar offered to first-year students) called “Classics in American Autobiography.” The students appreciate this text on many different levels, and eagerly engage in the discussion of a central question: How does one make a case for freedom in a time and place where many people assume slavery is a “natural” condition for a certain group of people?
These two historians transform the way we view the impact of the slave trade. By emphasizing the role of the African populace as well as the Portuguese in the flourishing slave trade, Mariana Candido and Roquinaldo Ferriera redistribute the economic and cultural burden of the Atlantic. Candido and Ferriera demonstrate the cultural exchange between the Portuguese and African, altering the way historians conceptualizes creolization and the formation of slave societies.
“In January of 1856, a prolonged period of frigid temperatures in northern Kentucky—the coldest in sixty years—froze the Ohio River creating a bridge to freedom for enslaved people daring enough to cross it. On Sunday, January 27, 1856, Margaret Garner and seven members of her family made the arduous eighteen-mile journey that separated their lives of enslavement in Kentucky from freedom in Ohio. After only a few hours on free soil, the Garners found themselves facing imminent capture. When the chaos subsided and the Garners were subdued, Mary, a toddler, lay dead and the Garners’ three surviving children all bore wounds of various degrees and intensity. Margaret had attacked her own children. Examining the events that shaped Garner’s decision and the subsequent legal battle that propelled her, if only briefly, into the national spotlight, Nikki M. Taylor offers a nuanced study of Margaret Garner’s life and the impact of the trauma of enslavement on the enslaved.”
- Driven Toward Madness: The Fugitive Slave Margaret Garner and Tragedy on the Ohio by Nikki M. Taylor (2016) – reviewed by Signe Peterson Fourmy
- Blacks of the Land: Indian Slavery, Settler Society, and the Portuguese Colonial Enterprise in South America by John M. Monteiro (2018)
- Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South, by Barbara Krauthamer (2013)
- Quilombo dos Palmares: Brazil’s Lost Nation of Fugitive Slaves, by Glenn Cheney (2014)
“Historians have been puzzled by the rapid development of slavery in English America in the last three quarters of the seventeenth century: Scott Irish indentured laborers, Algonquian prisoners of war, and captured Africans were pressed into slavery. In a society that flaunted “English” freedoms at home, the introduction of slavery in America allegedly represented a radical departure. Moreover by the early eighteenth century the Caribbean islands and many mainland colonies witnessed the emergence of mature plantation economies and the growth of racial slavery. Michael Guasco has written a book to challenge this narrative of two seemingly different moments of transition.”
- Empire of Cotton: A Global History by Sven Beckert (2015)
- Slaves and Englishmen, by Michael Guasco (2014)
- Slave Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslin Uprising of 1835 in Bahia by João José Reis (1993) – by Michael Hatch
- Madeleine’s Children: Family, Freedom, Secrets and Lies in France’s Indian Ocean Colonies, by Sue Peabody (2017)
“We all know that films on historical subjects distort events for the sake of entertainment. The goal of this review is to examine this latest rendition of slavery in popular culture from a historian’s point of view to see how those distortions are used and what affect they may have on popular ideas about slavery. I am not a historian “having a hissy fit” to quote Tarantino, but I believe that using one dimensional, anachronistic characters and the preposterous plot line of an ex-slave bounty hunter, while satisfying Hollywood entertainment formulas, detract from any understanding of the actual, lived experience of bondage in US history.”
DAINA RAMEY BERRY ON DJANGO UNCHAINED
- Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (2002) – by Daina Ramey Berry and Jermaine Thibodeaux
- “12 Years a Slave” and the Difficulty of Dramatizing the “Peculiar Institution” – by Jermaine Thibodeaux
- Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012) – by Daina Ramey Berry
- Sankofa (1993) by by Daina Ramey Berry and Jermaine Thibodeaux
ONLINE RESOURCES REFERENCED ON NEP
- National Humanities Center: The Making of African American Identity
- “Visualizing Emancipation”
O’Sullivan, Timothy H, photographer. Five generations on Smith’s Plantation, Beaufort, South Carolina. Beaufort South Carolina, 1862. [, Printed Later] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/98504449/.