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1800 - 1850 Society and Perfection

1800 - 1850 Society and Perfection - Divided Society of the...

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Divided Society of the Old South Forced labor had been considered essential to the South’s plantation economy Inequality determined in two ways: By class (differences in status resulting from unequal access to wealth & productive resources) By caste (inherited advantages or disadvantages associated with racial ancestry) White society divided by class and region – both were important in determining white Southerner’s relationship to slavery Ownership of slaves determined gradations of social prestige and influence Large planters (20+ slaves) tended to live in plantation areas of “Cotton Belt” (GA, AL, MS, LA, TX, SC) Yeoman farmers with few or no slaves lived in upcountry & frontier areas 1860 – only ¼ of all white Southerners belonged to families owning slaves Slaveholders were a minority – about 40% Planters were the minority of a minority – 4% of total white population of South in 1860 Divisions within black society About 6% were free, but faced increasing restrictions on rights Great majority lived on plantations & worked in agriculture; small number worked industrial jobs or in urban settings Field hands vs. servants in “Big House” or skilled jobs Most blacks shared the goal of ending slavery The World of Southern Blacks Most slaves lived in close contact w/ their asters and suffered their masters’ strenuous efforts to maintain control Masters sought to ensure their personal safety & profitability by convincing slaves that whites were superior and had right to rule Slavery provided little opportunity for learning about the world outside the plantation, developing mental skills, or being individual Blacks’ sense of being part of a distinctive group w/ its own beliefs & ways made psychic survival possible Daily life varied enormously depending on region in which they lived and plantation on which they worked 1860 – 90% of slaves worked on plantations or farms; rest worked in industry/cities Large plantation in Cotton Belt – most worked in “gangs” under an overseer from sunup to sundown, 6 days per week Never a slack season – cotton required year-round cultivation Women & children were expected to work year-round too, with babies in hands if necessary Some older children worked in “trash gangs” doing lighter tasks – weeding, yard cleaning Slaves who cultivated rice (SC/GA) worked under a “task system” that gave them more control over pace of labor Typically 8-hour day Slaves on small farms typically worked side-by-side with master rather than in large groups Intimacy did not necessarily mean leveling of power relationships Slaves typically resisted working on “clock” time – enforced rights to take breaks & Sundays off Slaves performed other kinds of labor besides field work: Dug ditches, built houses, worked on boats and in mills (often hired out) House servants – cook, clean, garden Some worked w/in slave community as preachers, caretakers of children, and healers Typically reserved for those of “higher status” in slave communities
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