History 17A Exam 3

An undated photograph of children who were lik...

History 17A – United States History (Spring 2007)

History 17A Exam 3

[ Students and professors, please read. ]

Slavery w/o Submission & the Other Civil War

2. How were force, segregation and religion used as methods of controlling the slave population?

Due to an overpowering dependence on free labor, especially in the agriculture industry, the U.S. laws, courts, armed forces and prejudiced political leaders backed a network of ways, including force, segregation, and religion, to control the slave population.  Force was used, for example, in the administration of routine whippings as work disciplines, in the attacks by U.S. army and militia forces against slave uprisings, in the executions of conspiracy leaders and those who resisted whippings, in sternly enforced laws providing for the return of fugitives to slavery, and, after the Emancipation Proclamation, in binding contracts that favored the employer, in wages that were inferior to the labor, in white gangs exacting their idea of justice in executing blacks the court found innocent, in stiffer penalties for blacks than for whites for equivalent crimes, and in the suppression of the black vote.  Segregation was used in building the Brunswick canal to keep separate the blacks from the Irish workers (see answer to question 3), in paying poor whites to be overseers of black labor (also see 3), and in keeping blacks and whites separate by the railroad as long as the facilities were equal (Plessy v. Ferguson).  Religion was used to keep slaves docile, patient, accepting of what could not be helped, and from the perspective of the slaves – alive, healthy, and surviving.  There was the potential there for preachers to speak in a liberating language – later used by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Civil Rights movement.

3. How effective were these methods in controlling the poor white population? Why was it important for masters to keep poor whites and slaves apart?

The poor, white, non-slaveholding population suffered miserable living conditions, were not allowed to vote, were stuck in unfair contracts, had no power over pricing, and were executed when they went on strike (the Molly Maguires) — so they revolted against the upper class when methods failed to keep them at bay.  Such revolts were met the same way slave revolts were met:  by the militia.  Irish Catholics faced religious persecution.  Poor whites worked in semislave conditions but were used to fight for the emancipation of black slaves, who were used to break their futile strikes, when rich whites could use their wealth and privilege to avoid joining the war, all of which bred resentment against blacks.  When they revolted about this, they were met by Union soldiers.  White people like John Brown, who set off slave revolts in the south, caused fear among the slave-owners.  Such revolts were met by the U.S. army and militia soldiers, followed by executions of rebellion leaders.  Slaveholders were always suspicious that non-slaveholders would encourage slave rebellion out of jealousy or sympathy, helping to explain the strict police measures against whites who socialized with blacks.  Segregation was used in building the Brunswick canal to keep separate the blacks from the Irish workers, in paying poor whites to be overseers of black labor, and in keeping blacks and whites separate by the railroad as long as the facilities were equal (Plessy v. Ferguson).  However, when trade unions were forming, they were segregated, but when blacks began to form their own successful unions, the National Labor Union decided to include women and blacks.  When railroad workers rebelled in Philadelphia, a rebellion that only occurred where there was no racial jealousy against including blacks, Philadelphia troops and the entire National Guard of Pennsylvania were called out.  The rebellion was put down for that day by the federal troops.  The next day, police attacked the crowd with clubs.  The day after, the police attacked again, with clubs and guns.  But at a huge Workingmen’s part meeting, it was expressed that they would strike regardless of color.  The chapter, “The Other Civil War” ends with a cliffhanger that, though the efforts of blacks and poor whites had so far failed, there was more to come.

4. Why was the Emancipation Proclamation called “morally wanting yet politically flawless”?

I do not recall reading that in either chapter, but I would agree with that assessment, and here’s why:  ending slavery was more of a profitable concession to white abolitionists and slave uprisings than a radical reconstruction in favor of blacks.  The clash between North and South was not about slavery, it was a clash between the goals of two elites:  the North (including Lincoln) wanted free land, free labor, a free market, a high protective tariff for manufacturers, and a bank of the United States, whereas the South (slave interests) saw all that as interrupting their prosperity.  So when Lincoln was elected, and tried to repossess federal land in South Carolina, the South seceded and the Civil War began.  Lincoln declared he had no intention of interfering with the institution of slavery and that he was not in favor of social and political equality for blacks, and that the white race should be superior.  He used the Emancipation Proclamation as an ultimatum to threaten the South to stop rebelling, and it only applied to slaves in areas still fighting against the Union.  When these slaves were freed, the Emancipation Proclamation spurred antislavery forces and in January 1865 the Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery for the whole country.  Slavery was ended under conditions favorable to whites.  Freed blacks faced all the hardships of poor whites, together with racial segregation and prejudice, and they were as dependent as they were before upon their former masters, who remained in control of the South.  Still, the war was marketed with the language of liberty.

Jezebel and Mammy:  the Mythology of Female Slavery

1. How was female slavery “more terrible” than male slavery?

Slave women and girls were not shackled in the holds of slave ships, but were on the quarter deck, making them accessible to seamen who would molest them.  They were subjected to public humiliation when they were inspected for their child-bearing capacity before being bought.  Part of their sexual exploitation included pressure to procreate.  Their pregnancies and the needs of their children chained them to the plantation and made them unlikely to run away to freedom, but if they left children in slavery, their freedom from physical pain paled in comparison to their mental anguish.  However, most slave women stayed put, because they were unfamiliar with anything outside the plantation.  Many white male slaveholders gave females a choice:  submit sexually or be sold to work on the worst plantation.  Hard plantation labor may have contributed to sterility and miscarriages, and so may have birth control and abortion motivated by, among other human reasons, not wanting to raise children who would become slaves for profit.

2. How did Jefferson justify the rape of slave women?

On page 30 it is disgusting to hear that Thomas Jefferson said the orangutan preferred “the black woman over those of his own species.”  There is no other mention of Thomas Jefferson that I can recall.  I don’t see a connection between his statement and an attempt to justify the rape of slave women, unless his statement was meant to represent black women as sexual animals.  He didn’t say anything about white men justifiably taking advantage of black women on account of this.

3. What purposes did the Jezebel and Mammy stereotypes serve?

The Jezebel stereotype served the purpose of justifying white male advances toward and exploitation of female slaves.  It excused white men having sexual relations with black females, and the resulting mixed-race offspring.  But, it caused fears surrounding moral degeneration, “mongrelization” and a woman’s emasculating sexual powers, fears calmed by the Mammy stereotype.  The Mammy stereotype helped to sooth the consciences of slaveholders defending attacks from abolitionists that slavery had morally degraded the south, and also served as the model of both the ideal slave and the ideal Victorian woman from the perspective of a white male slaveholder.

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