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tv   Lectures in History Power in Antebellum Slave Societies  CSPAN  August 31, 2021 7:48pm-8:49pm EDT

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>> now in american history tv on c-span 3, university of maryland professor christopher bonner teaches a class about the concept of power in the civil war slave societies. he also discusses how the invention of the cotton gin resulted in the expansion of slavery. >> all right.
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i want to go ahead and get into it. good morning, folks. welcome back. it's good to see you all here today. what we are going to do is think through some big questions about power dynamics in american slave societies today. so part of this is building on what we talked about last thursday. we spoke about gabriel's conspiracy, which meant 1800, and we talk particularly about the way it reflects the complex every -- complexity of slavery. it was a relationship between individuals, a person owned another person, so as an experience slavery was endlessly complex. with gabriel we saw some of the ways in a slave person could enjoy some kinds of freedom within their bondage. so different practices of power influenced the ways different people experienced slavery. but we will do today is talk through some of these practices of power. our big questions for today are broadly about this. we will come back to these questions at the end of last. questions about the ways that
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labor influenced the lives of enslaved people in the south, and the particular tools that were available to both enslaved people and slaveowners and struggles over power. in the early 19th century, slave owners use their power to move massive amounts of enslaved people into cotton producing territories. through physical force, slaveowners compelled slave people to work and made massive amounts of money based on the violent extraction of labor. enslaved people worked and lived together and cultivated their own kinds of power through the relationships with one another. so slaves did a number of things that enabled them to exercise a degree of control in their own lives. so we will talk about both of these sides of this story here. the tools, the techniques of slave owner power, and we will also talk about the tools and techniques of power that were practiced by enslaved people. before we get into the particular questions about power that we are thinking about today, i want to talk
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about a clip from the movie 12 years slate. i like this film. i like it as a teaching tool as well. one of the things i really like about it is that it makes it possible to really sit down and see the landscapes. see the environment of the slave holding south. how many of you guys have seen the movie? or parts of it? yeah, so the story is about this guy, solomon [inaudible] , who is free in the northern states and trick and kidnapped into slavery and spent 12 years in bondage. the film is based on his narrative. the scene i will show is about two minutes and it takes place during a funeral. so the scene is just after solomon and other people have watched a fellow enslaved man collapse and die while working in the fields. so i want to show this and i
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want to think a little bit together about what we see here. watch this and think about how we might -- use it to understand solomon and how we might use it to understand human experiences of slavery. then we will build from there. >> ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> some say john was a baptist. some say john was a jew. but i say john was a preacher -- because my bible says so to.
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♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
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♪ ♪ ♪ >> so if we look at this, if we think about what we're seeing here, what might this clip suggest to us about the experience of slavery? how might we be able to use this to understand what slavery was like for people who were held in bondage? what do we think? >> you mentioned earlier about how when someone passes away they're kind of expected to move on and stuff. you can tell he was obviously really upset, but then everyone is more of a celebration at a funeral and you have to move on from it. so you kind of saw him start to sing with him at the end realizing that he has to maybe move on to have a chance to get over what just happened. >> you get a sense of maybe a collective emotional experience,
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but you are also suggesting there is evidence of an individual emotional experience. that solomon is feeling particular things. so what is happening about, what is happening with solomon? what could this could be saying about him? john, you're suggesting he's been transformed. what is happening with him in this clip laura? >> it looks like he's starting to accept his fate of the situation because he was obviously a free man and now he's not. so it kind of just is showing his transition from maybe this is what my life is going to be going forward. >> so we can think about the reality. he was enslaved for 12 years and then liberated, right? in this moment he does not know that, right? so maybe part of what you are seeing is him grappling with that. the feeling of the possibility that slavery might be a permanent status for him. right? other thoughts on how we might understand or think about this kind of transformation.
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what is happening with solomon northup in this moment? is he just resigning himself to the fact that he's going to be a slave for light? how else might we think about it? would you say that he feels said? very kate? >> i feel like he's having a hard time accepting the fact that everyone sees this as being normal. in the background everyone else doesn't seem like they have animation in their faces, but he seems like he's going through all of these emotions. so it seems like he's trying to not accept it. like he doesn't want this to be his life. >> so there is a change in his face, right, but there's also a struggle i think you could see, right? that what is happening here, whatever solomon might be feeling at the end of this clip, it's a feeling that he comes to gradually as a part of a difficult process. it's not easy for him to feel what it is that he's feeling in this moment, right? so i think there are some important things that you guys have pointed to hear that i want to build on a little bit.
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on a fundamental level, one of the things we see here is that slavery could be a transformative experience. enslavement could shape a person's life. so forced labor and connections with other people, right? with other enslaved people, these things could shape the ways people like solomon felt on a day-to-day basis, how they feel about themselves, right? it almost seems like he's thinking of himself gradually as a part of this community of enslaved people. so one way we can read that is what laura is saying, that there is a way that solomon northup seems to be identifying himself as a slave. in this moment he knows that is his status, right? but there are other ways we can think about what that might mean. northup is at a funeral, john
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you're suggesting that funerals are celebrations of light. at this moment solomon is joining in the community that is celebrating this guy. joining in a community that is singing a song that does not sound particularly said. right? so i think there are ways to see that solomon northup is changing how he sees himself, both in relation to the institution of slavery and in relation to other enslaved people. so the song they are singing, roll jordan role, it is a him that has its origins in community of enslaved african americans. it talks about the river that the israelites crossed just before they entered the promised line -- land. so the jordan river is like the last task. crossing the river is the last struggle that people would have to endure before they achieved a sort of spiritual liberation. so that is kind of a way of thinking about what's the participation in this singing might mean to solomon northup, right? it's not a participation in just an act of grieving, but in a particular act of grieving.
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an act of grieving that is designed to represent death as a triumph over the bondage of slavery in the south. so solomon northup's story as it is told in his narrative, in that film, history represents the ways a person's life can be changed by enslavement. the work of cultivating cotton had profound effects on the daily lives of northup and of the people who were there at that funeral, and of other enslaved people who were forced to cultivate cotton. cotton grew really well in the long and hot summers of the deep south. the fact the summers were long in hot also was part of wet made slippery -- slavery so difficult in these places. slaves would plant cotton seats in the spring and would spend summers hauling and would work to keep down the weeds and the
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grasses that popped up between the rows of plants. in late august, into the fall, they would pick the cotton. i want to reemphasize how important the cotton gin was for transforming the economy of the united states. the gin separated the seeds out of cotton fibers. before this mission existed, enslaved people were forced to do it by hand. this was a slow process. essentially it is described as a production bottleneck. a limited the amount of cotton that could be cultivated in any one year. you lie whitney's cotton gin made it possible for enslaved people to clean more cotton. so slaveowners, of course, because they wanted to maximize their profits, they want to to force enslaved people to produce more cotton for the market. so after the invention of the cotton gin or in slave people were forced to produce more cotton dissatisfied slaveowners mans. and part of what we can see is
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technology is one of the tools slave owners used to exert power over enslaved people. picking cotton was a particularly difficult process because cotton is a stubborn crop. where you are looking at here is able, a cotton bowl. when it's ripe the bull blooms. it opens up. raw white cotton fibers are exposed. but the bulls, you can see it here, it doesn't always open all the way so the job of a person who's picking this crop is to region try to pull out as much of the fiber as they can. to avoid pulling out stems, other kinds of aspect pieces of the plant, the leaves, but also to avoid cutting themselves. the leaves of the bull are sharp. so this is a profoundly difficult task. it requires a lot of dexterity. it leads to a lot of small
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injuries on the hands, fingers of people forced to pick cotton. so the cotton gin encouraged more slave owners to acquire more enslaved people, to compel them to do this difficult work. in order for this to happen slave donors relied on constant supervision. they relied on regular violence to compel enslaved labor. so we will look at a couple of pieces of north were upset narrative as we work through today. and i will highlight some things that he shows us, some things he reveals about the ways the work of the plantation took place. so in his narrated, north up describes some of the order, the structures of power on a cotton plantation. the landscape, one of the things he points out, it was arranged into rows. there were need, orderly ways of laying out the cotton field. that made it easy for overseers,
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slave drivers, slaveowners, it made it easy for them to see the progress of enslaved people as they were moving across the field. everybody is lined up, you can see how far everyone is moving. the positioning of the overseer is one of those things that north wrapped hires. you can imagine someone on horseback, standing ten feet tall, how much they could see as opposed to somebody who is five foot and a half, six feet tall. right? overseers on horseback with literally see over, watch over the work of enslaved people. overseers would use the whip to continue to compel enslaved people to do this work. north writes the lashes are constantly moving all day long. people are being whipped. the sound of the lashes is like a constant background noise for plantation labor. the labor of cotton shaped
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enslaved people's lives. at the same time the crop, cotton reshaped the united states. it changes geography, has changed the nation's economy. we looked at the slide in other contexts, i pointed out the early statehood of louisiana in 1812, mississippi, alabama. right? a movement of people into what is now the deep south. what was then called the old southwest. we can see here movement of the nation into the spaces. when we look at these maps, we can think about other aspects of what is happening when these states are being created. these maps connect the movement of people to the movement, the expansion of cotton production. you can see two big things here. the top map is 1820, the bottom is 1840. each dot represents, i think it's 2000 bails of gone.
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two basic things, right? one, 1840, there are a lot more dots than 1820. a lot more cotton is being produced as the 19th century was progressing. the other thing you can see is the shift and where the production was happening. it was being concentrated around the mississippi river. the production of cotton was moving into new spaces, south and west as the 19th century progress. so the people, the work of cotton moved south. as the 19th century progress. also it's representing cotton bails, where these things were being produced. implicit in the map, right, by the people forced to do the labor of producing cotton. each dot represents some dozens or hundreds, thousands of enslaved people who moved into the south and west to produce the cone.
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so the map is a representation not only of the movement of people across the country, the movement of cotton production, but also the movement of enslavement, right? the transformation of the geography of slavery. i mentioned a few weeks back when we were talking about the late colonial period, the slave population in north america by the late 1700s, was experiencing a natural increase. the population was going up beyond the numbers of enslaved people being imported. in 1808 the u.s. banned the import of enslaved africans through the atlantic slave trade. legally there were not new enslaved people being brought into the country. even after that the population continued to grow. in 1810 there were about 1.1 million slaves in the u.s.. in 1830 there were about 2 million slaves in the u.s.. an 1840 there are about 2.5
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million. so in the early 1800s massive numbers of these people were moved south and west, and what historians have come to describe as the second middle passage. this is of course a reference to the, you know, the main middle passage, the first middle passage which we talked about. the transfer of people across the atlantic ocean, in the bottom's of slave ships, 12 million people extracted from africa, transported to the americas. the second middle passage describes this movement, massive movement of and slick people into contradicting territory. between 1800 and 1860, an estimated 1 million people were moved into these territories. this is a contemporary image this representing a representational of what was called a cough. it is a critical term for us.
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i don't know if you will be able to really actually. so coffle is the termed used for a group of enslaved people chained together, forced to walk over long distances, right? this is a coffle being moved from virginia to tennessee. from the old tobacco producing regions of the country, chiefly, into newer spaces that were being intended for cultivating cotton. and enslaved man named charles ball describe what it was like to be part of a coffle, moving from maryland to south carolina. i think this image is useful as a representation, but this is giving us a more textured look at what it actually would've been like. right? ball wrote this about being in a coffle.
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the women were tied together with a rope the size of a bed accord which was tied like halter around the neck of each. for the man a strong iron caller was closely fitted by means of a padlock around each of our next. a chain of iron about 100 feet long was passed to the padlocks, in addition to this we were handcuffed in pairs. so you can get a little bit of a better sense of the forced connection of people in this image. you can see the two guys in the frontier chain together at the wrist. that this guy on the front right is changed by the ankle the people behind him. so this is, on an obvious level, awful. right? people are bound together, forced to walk long distances to a new life, in a different kind of enslavement. but there are little things that, i think, people may not think about when you consider how difficult the situation would be. people are forced to walk all day. at night they are forced to
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sleep. at time there was not enough slack in the rope or change to allow them to actually lay down. people were bound together in paris. when one person needed to go to the bathroom they often had to stay bound to the person to whom they were chained. right? the concept of privacy is eradicated in some ways by the bonds of a coffle. so the second middle passage moves people and substantial numbers from the states of the upward south, the east coast, maryland, virginia, north carolina, delaware, a bit as well. into the deep south. into the cotton producing regions. mississippi louisiana, alabama, increasingly texas as well. right? one of the interesting things, i really want you to think about, this one of the terrifying prospects, all of these people were moved overland, and many oversee. you can imagine people being
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boarded into a ship in norfolk, people who heard stories from ancestors, from older folks about the middle passage. then being put into a ship, not really knowing what was going to happen to them. right? not knowing what kind of experience they might have on that ship, sailing to a place like new orleans. so slave traders, most of the people who were sold in the second middle passage were sold from states like maryland, virginia. slave traders would buy people, lead them on a track, or lead them on an ocean voyage. with the goal of selling them to complainers. so the second middle passage, i think, illuminate and allows us to see some of the human realities of the growth of the system of slavery. there is an institution growing, and institution that is expanding. we have to think about the marching of the people, right? the force the movement of
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individuals. as slavery moves and expands. the expansion of slavery was the movement of people. this was another kind of power that slaveowners exercise as well. slaveowners had the power to move people. to force them to do work in other places. as cotton is changing the geography of the united states, it was also changing the nation's economy. slave trading was part of this. trading was a big business in the 19th century. there was a slave trading firms in baltimore, richmond, here you see one in alexandria. that's being inspective, photographed by union troops during the civil war. slave trading firms in baltimore, richmond, had connections with slave traders in places like new orleans, mobile all, 11 emma. the south was being linked together by the business of
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trading slaves, of moving enslaved people. the business of slave trading, it's an interior shot here of this slave market, essentially a jail where people would be held waiting for sale, in alexandria. the business of slaves was part of a larger set of economic relationships. i want to highlight here, on this money from alabama, how important slavery and contradiction were through the economy. enslaved people were literally on the money. in some parts of the south. so the business of slave trading became a part of a set of economic relationships that were bound to, connected to con production. so this set of relationships reached far beyond the u.s. south. an example of this is the consolidated association of
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planners of louisiana. this eap all as i call it. it is a mouthful. it was organize an 1827. essentially it was a bank. and linked cotton planters, english investors and the louisiana government. so what we see here is basically a sketch of how this organization worked. investors in england bought bonds on the sea api. it would loan money to slave owners in louisiana and slaveowners would put up land and enslaved people as collateral, right? if they feel they might have to surrender a number of enslaved people to the bank. slave owners would use the cash that they got from this eap l to live their daily lives. they would use it to buy land and slaves, to buy cotton seed.
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to buy a fancy velvet coat, if that's what they wanted to do. it was a bank, they could do whatever they wanted with this money. when slave owners repaid their loans, that made dividends for english investors. so basically you are getting people connected across the atlantic ocean and connected in the project of making profit off of enslaved people and the production of cotton. the most important development or innovation of the sea ap o, though, was this. investors would be protected in case of an emergency, if there was bad weather, if the price of cotton collapsed. if, for some reason, a large collection of slave owners were unable to repay their loans, the chp l got the government of louisiana to back them.
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if there was a crash, louisiana a tax dollars would be used to repay english investors. so this is like a state guarantee of the risk of investment in cotton. governments and investors on both sides of the atlantic ocean were getting deeply involved in the industry of cotton production. so the chp l reflects and illustrates the extent of national and international investment in american slavery. cotton became the most important export product of the united states in the early 18 hundreds. and slave owners were using financial power and they were using government power to enhance their wealth. so this is -- i use the term national, it's
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also international. but one of the interesting phenomena connected to the cotton industry are the ways that it brought together the north and south. and so cotton was the fuel for industry in the united states. new england factories produce large amounts of clothing for the american people. and the number of the american people for whom they produce cotton clothing where the enslaved people. so this photo shows some of the clothing that enslaved people may have been wearing. i think, likely, these clothes were made out of cotton. there is a phenomenon of what is called a negro cloth. it was woven into a cheap and rough and ideally durable fabric for clothing after being produced in the south that would then be sold back to slave owners in the south. so when slave people were
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wearing the fruits of their labor, wearing this rough woven cotton clothing designed to sustain them as their work, designed to sustain them as they cultivate more cotton. so this is part of the story of the slave power in society. slave owners had massive power in and beyond their plantations because they controlled so much wealth and had government support for their efforts to get rich, by exploiting slave labor. so the institution of slavery is growing and it is moving and it is expanding. and it is becoming increasingly embedded in the nation's economy. i want to talk through the ways in which lays experience this as humans. what was it like to live through these changes. so in 1885 there was a family of slave owners in north
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carolina who decided to pack up and move some of their family members and the people that they owned. the number of enslaved people to alabama. so during the trip, one of the slave owning women, named sarah spark men asked the in slave people that they owned, asked if they wanted to send messages back to family and messages back to friends in north carolina. sparkman wrote to describe what she was doing here. the servants requests me to send many messages back to their friends and relations. i hope you will read it to their friends. they say it is the very words they want to say to them. why you are looking at here is a message that a guy named arthur halle wanted to send to his wife's friend. there are some things you can see on a basic level. letting her know that they are doing well. glad to be able to have a chance to talk to her and hear from her.
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he misses her and he senses love. we can imagine that these are regular things that people would feel and convey to a family member for whom from whom they were separated. there are a couple of things i want to highlight here as well. so when you read this broadly you can see how important family and friendship were to this one enslaved person. i hope to see you in the children in the spring. there is this desire and need to believe that in the near future they will be re-connected. arthur had a wife and children and he had friends back home. this is key. i am glad to hear from friends back home. he had a place that he identified as his home. enslaved people made connections, they built communities and established families. and so one of the obvious things you see here is that this families fragile.
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arthur holley is being separated from his wife, his wife is being separated from their children. but these connections were no less significant are valuable because they were fragile. it's just two parts of the reality that is happening here in slavery. also, arthur holley writes that he is sorry to hear that his master sick. there are a couple of ways we can interpret this. first he might be saying this because he is dictating and reading these messages to sara sparkman, and he knows that the slave owner would want to believe or imagine that arthur holley is actually concerned about the slaveowners health. maybe he is saying this because that is what she wants to hear. another way to read this is that holley was actually
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concerned about his owners health. a slave owner who is sick is a slave owner who could die. and when slave owners died they were often given away, in ways that split the communities that had been built. so the health of a slave owner could be very, very important for someone like this writer. the health of a slave owner could be really important for the possibility that arthur holley might be able to stay in touch with his wife and friends in north carolina. so thousands of people like this man were moved in pursuit of a cotton crop. the fact that people were treated as property had profound effects on their lives. and i'll just reiterate because this is the topic of your second essay. it had profound effects on their lives. historians estimate that about a third of marriages were broken up in the upper south.
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so maryland, virginia. it's likely that sale and forced movement separated about half of enslaved children from at least one of their children parents. so the economy had dangerous results for black families. for black communities. enslaved people organized and strategized and looked for ways that they could claim some kind of power over their lives. and these were critical -- and one way we can understand these connections is truancy. running away from a farm and
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staying away for a few nights. maybe they could stay away for a week or two but instead of truancy and running away -- the distinction between running away and truancy is that enslaved people who were described as truant were not necessarily intending to leave the south. there is a woman named sally smith who describes some of her experiences with this. smith was interviewed in the late 1800s, after having survived emancipation. smith talked to an interview about her light in louisiana. as a slate. smith said that at one point she had a quota. she had to pick 150 pounds of cotton each day. if she didn't meet the quota she would be whipped. one night sadly smith decided
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she was going to try to take the hassle, avoiding the punishment avoid the hardship of labor, of picking cotton. so she went and hid in the woods. she described, basically, this perpetual practice that developed after she went to win the first time. smith said sometimes i would go so far off in the plantation i could not hear the cows moore or the roosters crow. sally smith is really getting away. she is out. she is not in a space where the plantation is really nearby. so smith would hideout for as long as she could. but sometimes she had to come back when she needed food. she talked about this one night, right, where she went back to the place where enslaved people lived. she knocked on the ladies door. she asked for some food. the lady says i have no pride
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but i can make you a corn cake. so sally smith is starting to feed herself, just as she's about to make her meal. they're a couple of an important things that you can see about truancy in this piece of smith's interview. the one thing is that u.n.c. was fostered by african american communities. smith is trying to use her connections to other enslaved people to help her stay away from forced labor and she is avoiding the work of the can cotton. she's coming back to the plantation to get food. and she says this is how i can help you. you can bake a corn cake. she tried to offer help in
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whatever way she can. she wears it was possible because of african american communities. connections between people, among enslaved people made it possible for individuals like sally smith to escape their owners grasp for a few nights, for a few weeks at a time. so smith ran away. and she didn't really get away and she was punished when she went away. the overseer here catches sally smith, smith can tell that he is upset. he had a big barrel. the overseer has a barrel, what he does as smith describes it is continue to take a bucket of
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nails, hammer those nails in, out from the inside of the barrel to the out. the nail heads are wrapped around inside the barrel. then he put sally smith in the barrel, rolls around. essentially sally smith was beaten up by a barrel full of nail heads. another interesting piece of this is that once she is out, she is sore, bruised all over and there's another nice old lady that looks out for her. a poor old woman, greased all over, helped her get over her bruises. so that she would be able to go back to work. as she was required. you can see community dimensions of what is happening. but it's important to recognize this punishment was a horrific experience. so i want to talk about this particular punishment because i think that truancy can feel like a really odd act.
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right? like why go away if you're not going to get away, right? what does it matter if sally smith leaves the plantation but then she gets caught and she gets punished in this horrific way? right? truancy can feel like a thing that is not all that meaningful. if we start thinking about in those terms. so the interviewer is maybe thinking about this as well. right? after sally smith tells the interviewer about this punishment rogers asks, i suppose that was the end tuesday in the woods. sally says now. i did not stay more than a month before iran away again. i tell you, i could not stay there. there were some important reasons why enslaved people went truant. right? sally smith dealt with this brutal punishment, decided that again and again she would
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continue to try to leave. people like sally smith, one of the reasons people may pursue truancy as a strategy they might have thought that they might not be able to run to freedom and some other place. so one way is to think about it geography. she's in louisiana. if you want to get to pennsylvania where abolition laws are taking effect that is a really long way to go because yes a run through a lot of slavery to find a potential life in freedom. right? it's sally smith stay close to the plantation like she did in this case, if she stayed close she could come back to borrow food. she could come back and try to get things from neighbors. if she left, she ran through alabama, mississippi, try to find her way to the north, she lost that potential support system. so one of the reasons that truancy happen, we will talk more about this in the weeks to come one, of the reasons it happened is because running away from a plantation,
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escaping slavery was incredibly difficult. also, another way to think about how truancy happened, enslaved people understood running away from a plantation often meant leaving behind family in france. so as much as enslaved people hated their bondage they were not always ready to a blend in the place they might have seen us home. think back to halle. he seems to be sad to be leaving the place he feels is his home in north carolina. part of it is because he is leaving his wife. part of it might be because he's leaving his friends. part of it is just because he's got a familiar place. even if that familiar place is a plantation where he's held as a slave. it is the place that he knows. so running away from slavery
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was a decision that with separate enslaved people from a lot of what they understood, a lot of wet they knew. a lot of when they appreciated about their lives, family, friends, community. but i also want to encourage you guys to think about truancy as an act, as a phenomenon that was really tremendously meaningful. both two and slaved people and enslaved owners. there are important things between truancy and escape. truancy in-flight. for enslaved people, truancy could feel liberating. think about the way we talked about the possibilities for freedoms for gabriel, right? sally smith is experiencing similar kinds of moments, flashes of freedom.
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smith got punished when she got caught. while she was in the woods she spent a few days not picking cotton. not having her pickings weighed. not being whipped. not being watched over very carefully to see whether she was actually doing the work that she was being compelled to do. right? sally smith got a few days off of work. on the most basic level. sally smith also spent a few days living for herself. right? she writes about, she talks in this interview about bugs, snakes, all kinds of scary outdoors stuff she's dealing with. she's sleeping in the woods. she is not camping. but even with all of that she is saying that this is something she came to enjoy. right? she came to appreciate the time that she spent out in the woods on her own. she was living outside of the oversight in the violence of the plantation. so truancy on one level is
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important because it helps us to see some of the strategies enslaved people used to claim power over their own lives. sally smith went to the woods because it made her feel good. truancy also points to how powerful enslaved peoples actions could be in relation to the larger system of slavery. let's think about this. in the eyes of slave owners, we might think about slavery as -- let's make sure it's nice and solid. in the eyes of slaveowners, slavery was like a fence. it was a bound space. right? the idea for slaveowners was that they could put a person in the space and compel them to do particular things right?
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you go to this place, you do this particular work for this long. right? six days a week, more intensity at particular times of the year, right? the idea of slaveowners, slaveowners ideas of slavery was that it was a fence that dictated where and how enslaved people lived their lives. every time a slave did something they were not supposed to do, every time and enslaved person went somewhere they were not supposed to be, they poked a hole and that fence. when sally smith runs to the woods she is poking a hole. when she's punished and runs again she's poking a bigger hole. right? acts like truancy challenge the idea that slave owners had absolute control over slaves. again, it's important that this is slaveowners idea of slavery.
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let me just ... this is how people who owned slaves wanted to imagine slavery, right? a solid fence. the reality was is that it was poked through, shot through with holes. right? enslaved people used those to live lives in ways they wanted to. sally smith truancy was a threat to her owner's belief that he controlled the people he owned. there are all sorts of ways enslaved people could seek power in their lives. sometimes they would break tools. sometimes they would destroy crops. right? sometimes they would just work a little slower, right? the mic take breaks, they might plot, right? sometimes people like matt turner would rise up. we will talk about him in the weeks to come. sometimes grave rule would plot
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a conspiracy. sometimes a group of an slaved people in like south carolina would come together, share cultural practices, tried to escape to freedom in florida. right? every day enslaved people did things different from what their owners wanted them to do. one of the most frequent things they could try to do, that they did, was try to control the pace of their work. some of the songs and slipped people might say could be used to try to regulate or influence the pace of labor on a plantation. i want to play a little piece of one of the songs. it will allow us to think about this a little bit. ♪ ♪ ♪
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♪ ♪ ♪ who appreciates music, generally, can understand that songs that might be intended for one place can be enjoyed in other places, right? this is a song that historians understand as it works on. that is how you hear some there. the leaders are suggesting this is the work we are doing. we are going to sing about it, maybe enjoy it. right? but the song doesn't have to be confined to the cotton field. we can imagine a sun like this
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might be some at home, it might be some at a party, it might be fast, like ... it doesn't totally different then it sounded there, right? it could sound like it's august 28th, it's really hot, it is alabama, it is miserable out there. people are out in the field, working, they are trying to make sure that nobody makes anybody else look too bad. they might saying ... so that we can see with this song, we can think about another way that we can understand it, the connections between labor, politics, african american communities. the song is important because it's a cultural development that was shaped by the work of slavery. it was also a cultural
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development that allowed enslaved people to try to shape the work they were doing. so the song was a way they tried to shape some of their labor's and this is just one example of one of the tools that enslaved people might use in pursuit of some control over their lives. so the institution of slavery was a constant struggle between slave owners trying to extract as much liberals possible from enslaved people and enslaved people looking for, finding ways, individually and collectively, to control their own lives. so if we look back at solemn north rupp's writing, we can see it play out. lashes flying from morning tonight the hold a long. the prevalence of whipping with
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a response to enslaved people seeking power over their own lives. slaveowners, overseers, used the whip because they understood they needed to force enslaved people to do the things they wanted to do. before we wrap up, i want to talk about one more piece of solomon northrop's narrative. after he describes the violence of the plantation, writes about the hardship of being forced to pick cotton, he leaves readers with what i think is a stunning observation. he writes there are few sites more pleasant to the eye then a wide cotton field when it's in bloom. it presents an appearance of purity. like an immaculate expanse of the light. excuse me, like an immaculate expanse of light, new fallen snow. it's compelling to me that solomon northrop could reflect on the beauty of this
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landscape. at the same time he's thinking about the horrific circumstances that shaped it, right? the cotton crop that is described was violently extracted from enslaved people forced to work. when he suggests here is that it's critical to think about the conditions that produced cotton and the crop that it became, right? to think about both the horror and the beauty that are embodied on a plantation. in the same way, i think, it's important to think about complex terms about the wealth and power of the united states in relation to the institution of slavery. the u.s. became a wealthy nation, a global economic power in large part because of brutal violence, perpetrated against people like this. used to forced and slave people
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to produce cotton. the labor produced and cotton, the violence that was used to extract that labor never made a slave people more than -- they were treated as property, but canceled as if they had no wells, they were always negotiating, always struggling for control over their lives. even as slaveowners tried to use them as tools to generate wealth for themselves. right? so i want to wrap up their. i want to turn to our big questions. make sure that we are all on the same page, right? broadly, a couple things we want to think through here, that we thought through today, how did labour shape the lives of enslaved people in the u.s. out? what can we understand, how can we understand the power struggles between enslaved people and slave owners? what were some of the tools that were used in the struggles? what do we know?
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u.s.. >> with the growth of cotton in the deep south, especially, we saw a lot of families get broken up. you said only one third of marriages were broken up. obviously that can be pretty traumatizing for a family. especially with kids separated from their families. i guess tough times for people when there was the growth of cotton. >> yes, the demands of slave owners, the power of slave owners to move people around broke families. it broke communities. right? among enslaved people. other thoughts here, what do we know? >> so in a sense, they developed communities and culture for them to be able to, i guess, not only cope with but to create some power about how
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they saw themselves in relation to their environment? and each other? >> yes. so i like this. communities really critical for enslaved people but it's not just a way for people to cope. it's not just a way for people to deal with slavery but to strategize. to develop tools and tactics. to run away for a little while. right? that would enable them to feel some kind of power over their lives. what other thoughts on power and its manifestations here? what are some of the things that slave owners did that empower them? what were some of the things that slaveowners did that empowered them? john, yeah. some >> carry a weapon or punish slaves that would try to run away. so that they wouldn't do it again but also to show an example to the other slaves, so
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they would be less likely to do with they did. >> yeah, so violence was critical here. violence was a way to repair this offense being punctured by enslaved people. also the tools of wealth, tools of political power, in some ways we will see, the tools of the law, they were employed by the state as a way to enhance their strength and secure their title to their human property. so broadly, what you guys have gotten that here, is the reality that -- again, to reiterate, slavery was a constant struggle between slave owners and enslaved people. they wrestled every day over control of an enslaved person's body, and control over an enslaved person's time. we will see in the weeks to come how some of that struggle developed and the tools and techniques, and some interesting and vivid stories about how that struggle played out. cool? okay, that's what i have for
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today, i will see you guys next week.
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1800s. he describes how people travel to california, the physical geography of the area and the evolving technology used to mind goal. >> good morning everyone. we're going to talk about the history of the gold rush, i'm going to talk mainly about california and the years following 1948. but they have played a very important golds, think all the way back to conquistadores. one of the things they are fascinated by was the quest for gold. the history of their conquest first with the as tax and then of the incas, is of an quintuple desire for precious metals, gold and silver. when the first english settlers came to jamestown in 1607, while they are hoping to find some


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