Reading head: THE SOCIETY OF THE OLD SOUTH HISTORY 1
THE SOCIETY OF THE OLD SOUTH HISTORY 8
Please adapt the paper to coincide with the instructions listed here as references ONLY? Strictly monitored for inaccuracies. Must retain the scholarly, well written college level content as informed article on the three chosen specific topics within the book and not a book report! 4-6 pages
You May only make Use of the following materials listed; (3) readings & two books resources ONLY (but Northup’s “Twelve Years A Slave” primarily):
Twelve Years A Slave, by Solomon Northrup, (BOOK)
“The South: A Concise History, VOL 1, by Jeanette Keith, chapter 2. (BOOK)
Select documents: Letters of William Gilmore Simms, 1826 (READING)
Forrest McDonald and Grady McWhiney, “The Antebellum Southern Herdsman: A Reinterpretation,” Journal of Southern History 41, no. 2 (May 1975): 147-166. (READING)
Dennis C. Rousey, “Aliens in the WASP Nest: Ethnocultural Diversity in the Antebellum Urban South,” Journal of American History 79, no. 1 (June 1992): 152-164.(READING)
1. What details about the society of the Old South, at least in the history of the state of Louisiana, does Solomon Northup reveal in his narrative Twelve Years a Slave? Please make note of the geographical location of Louisiana??
2. Pick three from among the subjects discussed in the readings (listed above) for this part of the course:
Life of slaves
Life of southern whites
Class distinctions among whites
The urban-rural divide
Transportation in the South,
For each of the three subjects you choose, utilizing and citing the historical information of the content in the articles/ readings, discuss how Northup portrays each of those 3 subjects (of your choice), in his narrative? Citing its placement in the assigned content resources listed for this assignment? ONLY!
The old south history in Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
1. Details of the Old South in relation to Louisiana
Solomon Northup in his book Twelve Years a Slave narrates of a man thrown into the life of slavery despite being born a free man within American. Northup is born in Minerva, New York State in 1808. However, in 1841 at the age of 33 years he is kidnapped and taken to the Washington D.C slave market where he is smuggled into the state of Louisiana as a slave for 12 years. Taylor, (1960, 36) confirms that over 270,000 Negroes were captured and illegally smuggled into United States as slaves between the year 1808 and 1860. South Carolina became the main route for smuggling goods and slaves into Louisiana through Charleston (Shugerman, 2002, 282). Solomon Northup gives an elaborate picture of his slave life in the Louisiana gulf state as an educated and skilled slave.
The smuggling of slaves was brought by the abolition of foreign slave trade within the Orleans territory in 1808. This caused a shortage of slave laborers within the Louisiana plantation economy. The gulf coast of Louisiana was supported by a plantation culture where cash crops such as rice, sugarcane, cotton and indigo were planted. The cotton boom led to the introduction of the cotton gins to increase production. Cotton production and exports went up by 11,000% between the years 1790 and 1795 (Shugerman, 2002, 283). Farmers sought for more slaves to reduce the high labor cost. Without these slaves the plantation economy would be non-existent.
Jefferson’s purchase of Louisiana from the French attempted to revive African slave trade using the African apprentice bill. This bill led to a further smuggling of 2,500 free and skilled Africans into Louisiana. Slave merchants like J.H. Birgham were authorized into importing more slaves under the indenture laws (Shugerman, 2002). Northup alludes to this concept in his book twelve years slave. For example, Northup is sold to Tibeats due to his carpentry skills and business acumen. These highly skilled slaves were used to improve the level of production by working on special roles such as slave drivers.
2. Pick three from among the subjects discussed in the readings (listed above)
The agrarian system of the southern economy composed of the planters and their slave workforce. The plantations farms were categorized by size and the number of slaves working on them. A minimum of 20 slaves was required to maintain a plantation economy. Cotton was a staple cash crop within the plantation economy. Each slave was supposed to produce 3.0 census bales per person (Battalio & Kagel, 1970). Other cash crops such as tobacco and rice had lower targets such as 1,600 pounds for the tobacco and 255 bushels for the paddy rice per year.
The southern livestock were kept for subsistence purposes. Livestock such as cattle, sheep and pigs were left to free range and scavenge for their own food. However during the winter seasons their feeds were supplemented using corn and peas. There was little work to be performed during the winter seasons which meant that livestock were kept for fattening purposes. The feeds of the livestock during the winter months were supplemented using forage. This meant that slaves also engaged in the production of grain feeds such as corn, sweet potatoes and oats (Battalio & Kagel, 1970). The transition to gran farming also supplemented the household food requirements of the small scale farmers.
The small scale farmers within the southern states engaged in farming of less intensive crops such as tobacco. This transition from wheat farming to tobacco allowed the small scale farmers to make huge profits due to the sharp price hikes occasioned by the European markets (Eaton, 1960). The British merchants controlled the prices of tobacco which favored their British born planters. This protected them form the slave economy by allowing them to free themselves from slavery and buy their way into plantation farming.
Life of slaves
The southern plantation system was characterized by an archaic and cruel labor system. The Negro slaved were exposed to cruel disciplinary measures for small mistakes compared to their Indian counterparts. Northup narrates his struggle against violence and sexually abusive masters as part of this black racial identity. He describes one of his masters called Tibeats as cruel and highly violent. He could mete out his anger on the slaves at the slightest provocation. The slaves that stood idle in the field were met with 100 lashes while those who tried to escape 500 lashes. Some labor intensive tasks included working in sugar or cotton plantations which made the African laborers to be labeled as the sugar mules (Williams, 2014). The harsh working environment made the Negro slaves four times more profitable than their Indian counterparts. This meant that more Africans were employed to perform tasks that required great endurance.
The female slaves were also prone to sexual exploitations form their male masters. The white men used the reproduction and race laws to force the female slaves into sexual relationships with their masters (Davis, 2002). Northup narrates of Edwin Epps his second master who was guilty of sexual violations against the slave girl known as Patsey. The young girl was often punished for the sexual indiscretions from his master. The sexual advances form his slave owner led to her frequent lashing and suffering within the plantation. Rape was not considered a crime within the plantation economy. The political significance of this reproductive system meant that the workforce reproduced itself while at the same time keeping these offspring from gaining their freedom.
Northup argues that slavery led to his changed stature as a man. Northup describes his transition into slavery as a temporary loss of manhood. His eyes became down cast and his head covered (Hoganson, 1993). A majority of the slaves were miserable with torn and half-starved demeanor. The basic food rations consisted of corn meal and vegetables. These slave labor roles also challenged the traditional gender order to further humiliate these slaves. The male slaves were emasculated into feminine roles to stifle resistance (Harper, 1985). The male servants were expected to keep their sexual chastity and become submissive to their masters. The female slaves performed the same tasks as their male counter parts. The cut down trees drew firewood and carried manure on their heads to the cotton fields.
Transportation in the South
Twelve years a slave opens with a free born who is a stable home owner who is a farmer, a rafter and a popular fiddler. Northup reveals that Africans who were born free within the northern states were not actually free to move freely and explore the world. True freedom which is defined by the ability to determine the geographical limits to one’s physical movements was restricted when it came to people of color. The free travel between the northern and the southern states was meant to transport goods, services and labor where they were needed the most (Cox, 2005). Northup saw this as an opportunity to exchange his highly sought after skills for financial independence. This freedom of movement afforded Northup his frequent trips along the lake, and border crossings into Canada and other countries such as Montreal and Kingston.
Northup also reveals that the movement of slaves within the southern state was restricted by physical shackles and the masters’ financial needs. Northup travels to numerous plantations in order to make money for his master using his highly sought after skills such as farming, woodwork and being a fiddle master. However, Northup is given severe canning in one instance by Epps for expressing his desire to be exchanged with a slave owner who tans leather (Cox, 2005). The free will movement of slaves was highly restricted. It also shows first-hand how slaves were shuttled from one plantation to another for the economic benefit of their masters. The desire for self-willed movements forced slaves to stay within territories where they were well known to avoid being apprehended as escapees. This consequently restricted the slaves’ participation within the American economy.
Northup becomes attracted to the lives of the two circus men who seem to be earning a living through travel. Despite his efforts to gain the rightful papers proving he is a free man. His skin color becomes a threat to his quest for financial freedom. When Northup loses his papers of travel he also lost his freedom to travel. He also loses his freedom and is sold into slavery. His fight to reclaim his name back and legal status as a free man becomes part of the slavery narrative. Northup brings to the fore the effects of unhindered travel for a free born African American in the 1800’s (Cox, 2005). The extent of his travel into the southern state reveals that travel was not a truly free affair under the fundamental principles of his racial identity.
Battalio, R. C., & Kagel, J. (1970). The structure of antebellum southern agriculture: South Carolina, a case study. Agricultural History, 44(1), 25-37.
Cox, J. D. (2005). Traveling South: Travel Narratives and the Construction of American Identity. University of Georgia Press.
Davis, A. (2002). ‘Don’t Let Nobody Bother Yo’Principle’: The Sexual Economy of American Slavery. Sister circle: Black women and work, 103-27.
Eaton, C. (1960). Slave-Hiring in the Upper South: A Step Toward Freedom. The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 46(4), 663-678.
Garrisonian Abolitionists and the Rhetoric of Gender, 1850-1860. American Quarterly, 45(4), 558-595.
Harper, C. W. (1985). Black aristocrats: Domestic servants on the Antebellum Plantation. Phylon (1960-), 46(2), 123-135.
Shugerman, J. H. (2002). The Louisiana Purchase and South Carolina’s Reopening of the Slave Trade in 1803. Journal of the Early Republic, 22(2), 263-290.
Taylor, J. G. (1960). The Foreign Slave Trade in Louisiana after 1808. Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, 1(1), 36-43
Williams, E. (2014). Capitalism and slavery. UNC Press Books.