Life and Labor in the Old South

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Univ of South Carolina Press, 2007 - History - 375 pages
This book represents three decades of research and reflection on the social and economic systems of the antebellum South by the early twentieth century's leading historian of African American slavery. In this social history, Ulrich Bonnell Phillips (1877-1934) includes populations neglected in earlier scholarship--Indians, Latinos, Yeomen farmers, and Mountain folk. Underscoring the region's complexity and diversity and the importance of human interaction, Phillips viewed slavery as unprofitable but necessary for maintaining racial control in the South, emphasizing degrees of loyalty between masters and slaves and pointing to slavery's benign and cruel characteristics. He also espoused a belief in the slaves' inherent inferiority and saw the institution as an education for African Americans. "All in all," he concluded, "the slave regime was a curious blend of force and concession, of arbitrary disposal by the master and self-direction by the slave, of tyranny and benevolence, of antipathy and affection." This book represents the strengths and weaknesses of first-rate scholarship by whites on the topics of antebellum slavery during the Jim Crow era. Deeply researched in primary sources, focused on social and economic facets of slavery, Phillips's account set the standard for his contemporaries. Simultaneously the work is rife with elitism, racism, and reliance on sources that privilege white perspectives. Such contradictions between its content and viewpoint have earned this work its place at the forefront of texts in the historiography of the antebellum South and African American slavery.

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I spent forever trying to find a way to read this book, after returning it to the library and later realizing I will need it for my research. Looking back on it, it's really hard to pull out good facts from this book. It really is what it is. It describes the labor the slaves had to deal with, but other than that, it's not very good for research. Other than another item to slap into my bibliography, the only thing this reading truly did for me was disappoint me. 


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