Chapter 12
The Old South and Slavery
• Nat Turner’s Rebellion
– Aug. 1831
– 60 whites were killed
– Created a panic among whites about slave
– PBS Nat Turner
Introduction (cont.)
• Whites took indiscriminate revenge on blacks
• The VA legislature came close to passing an
emancipation bill (winter of 1831-1832)
– After the failure of the bill, white opposition to
slavery in VA and throughout the South
gradually disappeared
Introduction (cont.)
• The Upper South relied less on slavery and
cotton than the Lower South
• Upper South seceded from the Union more
• From 1832 on,what united and created the
region the “Old South” was its defense of
– Its “peculiar institution”
Introduction (cont.)
• We will cover the economy and society of the
Old South from 1800 to 1860
• 1.) How did the rise of cotton cultivation affect
the society and economy of the Old South?
• 2.) What major social divisions segmented the
white South?
Introduction (cont.)
• 3.) Why did nonslaveholding whites feel their
futures were tied to the survival of slavery?
• 4.) What were the distinctive features of
African-American society and culture in the
King Cotton
• Introduction
– The main cash crop of the colonial South was tobacco
• Tobacco declined in the late 1700’s
– Cotton culture revived southern agriculture
• Encouraged rapid expansion southward and westward
– Cotton growing was stimulated by:
• the growth of the British textile industry
• Development of the cotton gin
• Removal of Indians form southern and western lands
The Lure of Cotton
• The climate of the Lower South was ideal for growing
• Intense demand in Britain kept prices high
– Cotton could be grown profitably on any scale
• With or without slave labor
• Cotton cultivation and the institution of slavery did
increase side by side
• Cotton and corn were often grown together so that
the South did not have to spend money on imported
Ties Between the Lower and Upper
• The Upper South identified with the Lower South
rather than the free states:
– Many of the Lower South residents had migrated from the
Upper South
– All southern whites benefited form the 3/5’s clause in the
– Almost all southerners resented the criticism form
northern abolitionists
– The residents of the Upper South enjoyed a large,
profitable business in the sale of slaves to the Lower South
The North and South Diverge
• While the North was rapidly industrializing and
urbanizing, the South remained primarily rural and
• Slaves could be and were employed in southern
• Much of the South’s capital was tied up in slave
– Not available for investment in industrial development
The North and South Diverge
• Southerners believed that raising cash crops
through slave labor would continue to be
– They lacked the incentive to switch their capital
from land and slaves to financing industry
The North and South Diverge
• The South’s slave economy did not require a
high rate of literacy
• The Old South made less provision for public
schools than the North
– School attendance was not compulsory for
southern whites
– The law forbade teaching slaves to read and write
The Social Groups of the White
• Introduction
– In 1860
• 1/4 of southern whites owned slaves
• 1% of southern whites owned 100 or more
– The whites of the Old South fit into 4 classes:
• 1.) planters
– Owners of more than 20 slaves
• 2.) small slaveholders
• 3.) yeoman
– Nonslaveholding small family farmers
• 4.) people of the pine barrens
Planters and Plantation Mistresses
• The plantation was almost a factory in the field
– High degree of division of labor
• The pursuit of profit led planters to:
– look constantly for additional and more fertile land
– Organize their slave crews as efficiently as possible
– Seek favorable merchant-banker connections
Planter and Plantation Mistresses
• To supplement their income
– Many opened their homes to visitors
• Responsibility of hospitality falling to their wives
• Psychological strains that plantation agriculture
placed on planters and their wives included:
– Isolation from other whites of their class
– Frequent moves
– Crude living conditions
• Especially those who lived on the new frontier
– Responsibilities of running a major economic enterprise
Planter and Plantation Mistresses
• An additional stress on planters’ wives was the
sexual double standard
– Accepted illicit sexual relations between masters
and their bondswomen
– Demanded absolute sexual purity from white
The Small Slaveholders
• There were many more small slaveholders than
• “In 1860, 88% of all slaveholders owned fewer than
20 slaves.”
• In the upland regions
– Small slaveholders tended to identify with the more
numerous yeomen
• In the low country and delta
– They identified with the planters
– Aspired to rise into that class
• Sometimes they did
The Yeoman
Nonslaveholding family farmers
Largest group among southern whites
Most yeoman grew some crops for sale
A few were only subsistence farmers
Farms ranged in size from 50 to 200 acres
Congregated in the upland, hilly, and less fertile
• Proud
• Self-sufficient
The People of the Pine Barrens
Made up about 10% of white population
Did not own land or slaves
Squatted on unfenced land
Subsistence farming
– Grazed hogs and cattle
– Grew corn
• Refused to work as hired help for others
• Survived in this manner
Social Relations in the White South
• Introduction
– Southern white society showed a mixture of aristocratic
and democratic elements
– There were great differences in wealth between classes
– Most whites did own land
– Planters were overrepresented in state legislatures
– Did not always pass laws that only benefited themselves
Conflict and Consensus in the
White South
• Planters leaned towards the Whigs
• Yeomen towards the Democrats
• Other characteristics of the Old South were
minimized in conflict
– The 4 main social groups were clustered in different
regions and had little contact
– Yeomen and planters were independent landowners
– Whites rarely worked for other whites
– Many worked side by side with their slaves
Conflict and Consensus in the
White South (cont.)
• Planters dominated state legislatures
• All white men had the right to vote by 1820’s
– The planters could not ignore the desires of the
yeomen majority
Conflict over Slavery
• There was a potential for conflict between
slaveholders and nonslaveholders
• But the majority of nonslaveholding southerners
supported slavery
– Why?
• Some hoped to become slaveholders
• Many feared freedmen would demand social and political equality
with whites
• Feared a race war
Conflict over Slavery (cont.)
• Throughout the South there was a fear of a
race war
• Many whites also shared racist beliefs about
• Feared that emancipation would be followed
by a race war
– Which would endanger the lives of all whites
The Proslavery Argument
• The proslavery argument was also used as a tool to
unite southern whites behind the institution
• The proslavery argument was constructed by
southern intellectuals between 1830 and 1860
• The argument claimed that slavery was a positive
good rather than a necessary evil
The Proslavery Argument (cont.)
• It claimed that slavery was sanctioned by
history and the bible
• Southern slaves were treated better than
northern factory “wage slaves”
• By the 1830’s, most southern churches had
adopted the proslavery position
The Proslavery Argument (cont.)
• Southerners persuaded themselves of the
righteousness of their “peculiar institution”
• They also increasingly suppressed all public
criticism of slavery
– They seized and destroyed abolitionist literature
mailed to the South
– Smashed the presses of southern antislavery
Violence in the Old South
• During the colonial and pre-Civil War periods,
violence was more prevalent among southern
whites than it was among white people in the
• The murder rate was as much as 10 times
higher in the South
• Physical prowess became a badge of honor
The Code of Honor and Dueling
• Behind much of the southern violence was an
exaggerated notion of personal pride
• White men must “react violently to even trivial
insults in order to demonstrate that they had nothing
in common with slaves.”
• Among gentlemen this pride took the form of a code
of honor.
• Any intentional insult to one’s reputation had to be
redressed by a challenge to a duel
The Southern Evangelicals and
White Values
• The code of honor was potentially in conflict with the
values preached by southern evangelical churches
– Humility and self-restraint
• From the 1830’s on, evangelical religion grew in
influence to the point that some southern gentlemen
did denounce drinking, gambling, and dueling as unChristian practices
• On the other hand, southern churches partly
endorsed the gentry’s code of honor
Life Under Slavery
• Introduction
– Slavery was an exploitative institution that took by force
the life and labor of one race for the profit of another
– Slaves could be found in cities or on farms
• In the fields or around the house
– As the central units of an economic institution slave life
depended not only on the kindness or cruelty of masters
but also on unseen market forces
The Maturing of the Plantation
• The institution of slavery changed between
1700 and 1830
• In the earlier period
– the majority of the black population was recent
African or Caribbean arrivals
– Disproportionately young males
– Spoke little English
– Isolated on small farms
The Maturing of the Plantation
System (cont.)
• By 1830
– There was a more even balance between males
and females
– Most were American born and English speaking
– Most worked on large plantations
– These changes facilitated a more rapid natural
increase in the black population
Work and Discipline of Plantation
• No other 19th century Americans worked as many
hours under as harsh discipline as slave field hands
– Either worked in gang labor or under the task system
• Slave craftsmen and domestics on the plantations
– had higher status
– easier work
– but also were subjected at times to physical brutality
The Slave Family
• The slave family was not recognized or protected by
southern law
• Husbands and wives, parents and children were
separated by sale
• Sexual demands were made on black females by
masters and other white men
• Despite these problems, the black family did not
The Slave Family (cont.)
• Despite these problems, the black family did
not dissolve
• It evolved in ways that were different from
those of middle-class whites
• In the place of the nuclear family, fictive kin
networks allowed slaves to assimilate to new
The Longevity, Diet, and Health of
• Slaves in the Old South lived longer and
reproduced faster than those in Brazil or the
– More even sex ratio
• Adequate diet
• Southern slaves had a higher mortality rate
than their white countrymen
Slaves off Plantations
• The majority of slaves worked on plantations
• Other jobs for slaves
– Mining
– Lumbering
– Manufacturing
– Performed a variety of skilled artisan jobs in cities
and villages
Life on the Margin: Free Blacks in
the Old South
• Not all blacks in the Old South were slaves
• More than 250,000 free blacks in 1860
• From the 1830’s on, the position of the free
black in the South deteriorated
• Southern law forbade teaching blacks (free or
slave) to read
Life on the Margin (cont.)
• Obstacles were put in the way of manumission
• Free blacks were barred from entering or
remaining in many states
• Many of the post-Civil War black leaders came
from this group
Slave Resistance
• Nat Turner’s 1831 rebellion was the only one
in which whites were killed
• 2 earlier planned insurrections were betrayed
before they got underway
– Gabriel Prosser’s (1800)
– Denmark Vesey’s (1822)
Slave Resistance (cont.)
• The Old South experienced far fewer uprisings than
South America and the Caribbean
Slaves did not form a large majority anywhere in the South
Whites had all the weapons and soldiers
Blacks were reluctant to endanger their families
Black rarely had allies in southern Indians and never in
nonslaveholding whites
Slave Resistance (cont.)
• An alternative way to
freedom was to try to
escape to the North
• Black abolitionists
who escaped
– Frederick Douglass
– Harriet Tubman
– Josiah Henson
Slave Resistance (cont.)
• Underground Railroad
– Way to help slaves escape to the north
– Underground railroad map
– PBS summary
• Relatively few slaves made it to the North
Fugitives Arriving at Indiana Farm
Slave Resistance (cont.)
• More than be either running away or violent
– slaves resisted slavery by furtive means:
Work stoppages and slowdowns
The Emergence of AfricanAmerican Culture
• Introduction
– American blacks under slavery developed a
distinctive culture
• Drew on African and American cultures
– But was “more than a mixture of the two.”
The Language of Slaves
• During the colonial period, verbal communication
between slaves was difficult
– Variety of African languages they spoke
• By the time most slaves were American-born, they
had developed their own language
– Pidgin English
• This was an indispensable tool for communication
• A bridge to a distinctive black culture
African American Religion
• The first Africans brought to the South were Muslims
or followers of a variety of indigenous African
• By 1800 many had been converted to Christianity
– Methodists and Baptists
• Masters hoped that by preaching Christian humility
and acceptance to their slaves, they could make
blacks docile and obedient
– This did not work
– Many of the rebels and their followers were devout
African American Religion (cont.)
• While Christianity did not turn most slaves
into revolutionaries
– It did serve as a unifying force among blacks
– A source of hope and comfort
Black Music and Dance
• Compared to the cultural patterns of upper-class
whites in the Old South, the culture of blacks was
“extremely expressive”
• Expressed their feelings in shouts, music, and dance
• They composed work songs and religious songs
– PBS songs
• Slavery is what unified the Old South
• Though the majority of white southerners
owned no slaves, they had become convinced
that the perpetuation of the “peculiar
institution” was in the best interests of the
entire South
Conclusion (cont.)
• Northerners believed that slavery made the
South backward and bankrupt
• Southern whites reacted to outside criticism
by defending slavery as a benevolent way to
handle the innate inferiority of the black race
– Few slaves agreed
Conclusion (cont.)
• While most of slaves did not revolt or escape
successfully, they did engage in covert resistance
• White masters hoped black conversion to Christianity
would render their slaves submissive
• When blacks accepted Christianity, they read into it
the message that slavery was a gross injustice

Chapter 12