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African American history has grown from the kinds of people’s histories that emphasize a progressive struggle
toward an ultimate victory over the tyranny of the powerful. Consequently, studies that privilege the perspectives of the enslaved depend in
some measure on the chronicling of heroic achievement, and historians of slave culture and resistance have recently been accused of romanticizing their subject of
study.42 Because these scholars have done so much to enhance our understanding of slave life beyond what was imaginable a scant few generations ago, the allegation
may seem unfair. Nevertheless, some of the criticisms are helpful. As the historian Walter Johnson has argued, studies of slavery conducted within the terms of social history have often taken “agency,” or the self-willed activity of choice-making subjects, to be their starting point.43
Perhaps it was inevitable, then, that many historians would find themselves charged with depicting slave communities and cultures t...
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This document was uploaded on 03/26/2014.
- Spring '14