Master–Slave Relationships - Oxford Scholarship
The relationship between slaves and their masters could, at one and the same time, be governed by exploitation and affiliation, submission under the master's. Slave women were property; therefore, legally they could not be raped. Often slavers would offer gifts or promises of reduced labor if the slave. ♥The relationship between slave and owner was filled with fear on both sides. ♥ The fear of slaves, taken from their native Africa and taken to.
From tostate and federal lawmakers steadily barred slavery from Western territories and newly admitted states, simultaneously enacting provisions for gradual emancipation of bondpeople in the northern states. Equally important, they blocked access to fresh importations of Africans by closing the transatlantic slave trade to America after though South Carolinian protests gained their state congressional dispensation to import slaves until Both parts of this strategy were predicated on whites' realistic calculation that the warfare state that existed eternally between masters and slaves could be reined in for a time, but never finally mitigated.
With no more blacks making the Middle Passageslavery's ranks would gradually dwindle—all slave populations had shown a steady tendency to decline over time without fresh imports—, its territory would shrink, and eventually, effortlessly, bondage would disappear from the American republic. The terrible irony was that, across the next three generations, slavery did not die.
On the contrary, it exploded, both territorially and demographically. Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase of vaulted the peculiar institution across the Mississippi River and laid the basis for five decades of sectional controversy. More astounding still, between andthe number of enslaved blacks in the United States did not dwindle—it quadrupled, from 1 to 4 million souls, outpacing the rate of population increase among whites and free blacks both.
The sources of this remarkable, perplexing turn of events remain understudied, but leading slavery scholars to attribute it to changes in the political character of the master-slave relation itself, a shift from the so-called warfare state to what historian Eugene Genovese has called an ideology of paternalism. Paternalism Whereas colonial slavery essentially depended on the ability to beat blacks into submission, paternalism relied upon the political and psychological power of the blow that did not fall.
Pre-revolutionary overlords had been tyrants in the truest sense, accepting—and demonstrating—few or no limits to their terrifying power. For eighteenth-century elites, steady profits and obedient labor, white and black, had provided ethic enough to justify this brutal course of action. By perhapshowever, Anglo-American ruling classes had increasingly turned toward abstract equations of right, duty, and submission that denied class antagonism between rich and poor, slave and free, and described a harmonious—if rigorous—interaction that pleased God and served all.
There were ethical limits to what overlords and underlings might demand from each other, a paternalist bargain of rewards and punishments, constantly renegotiated, that seized and surrendered measures of freedom in exchange for mites of order and security. In justifying themselves to themselves, however, masters accorded slaves an elevated status and an enlarged sphere of rights and customs.
Blacks were not brutes to be compelled and restrained by vigilance and violence, southerners now declared: They existed interdependently with their overlords, combining their brawn with the master's brain—and heart—to the mutual benefit of all.
The slave owed the master faithful labor and due submission under this scheme; the master provided all the gifts of law, material security, moral guidance, and managerial direction. Just as the bondman might err in a score of ways, including sloth, sauciness, willful obtuseness, or "drapetomania" the supposed tendency of blacks to run awaymasters might wrongly give way to tyrannous passions or an equally egregious spirit of inconsistent leniency.
Though never realized in practice, and spelled out only in piecemeal fashion in political, agricultural, and religious documents of the antebellum era, paternalism held both master and man to a doctrine of reciprocal rights and duties. Paternalism became pervasive especially in the seaboard South and on smaller slaveholding units where such personalism was unavoidable, not simply because of the material prosperity it generated. Cotton's kingdom made slaveholders incomparably the richest segment of the American ruling class, then or thereafter.
It also materially improved the lives of slaves themselves over their colonial counterparts, as far as surviving evidence shows.
Slave houses became more substantial and often larger. Family units grew in size and complexity, marriages were more frequently respected, and many slaves managed to acquire skills, property, and even a smattering of education.
Whites on occasion still betrayed jittery nerves about the possibility of massive slave revolt, but with the passage of time those fears came to seem increasingly unrealistic, not least because nothing more than the most disorganized, localized, and suicidal risings ever took place. The success of paternalism as a political strategy, the failure of blacks to emancipate themselves through violence in the antebellum era, and the improvement of blacks' material lives under antebellum slavery all derive finally from the judicious and unrelenting struggle over the rightful limits of the masters' power.
When planters portrayed themselves as good masters, blacks struggled to hold them to that ideal. In doing so, however, they were compelled to identify with the master, performing in rough outline the characteristics of the good slave. By a constant work of artifice, negotiation, bluff, and self-deception, masters and slaves struggled for hegemonic control of day-to-day life in the antebellum South.
It is inevitable and obvious that this political coupling of love and hate—real, feigned, self-contradictory, and half-realized—created enormous strife, tension, and torment among and between enslaved blacks and enslaving whites. Historians have done much to ponder—and avoid pondering—just what the master-slave relation cost Americans and how it shaped generations to come.
For Ulrich Phillips, a pioneer of modern slavery studies, bondage was usually mild and educative for blacks; it was white masters who were truly liberated by emancipation. Writing forty years later, Kenneth Stampp accentuated the enduring brutality of slavery, suggesting that nothing like a paternalist bargain was ever played out in practical terms. Indeed, writers such as Stanley Elkins and Willie Lee Rose chimed in, the infantilization Phillips described and the cruelty Stampp discovered were two sides of the same coin: Slavery had been more horrific than elites let on, and the consequences left blacks scarred, socially, culturally, and psychologically, long after emancipation.
In response to this damning—and depressing—indictment, an outraged circle of white and black liberal researchers described how slaves avoided cultural damage by creating their own world of the slave community beyond the master's control, where a countervailing ethos reigned from sundown to sunup.
Most complex of all has been Genovese's view, detailed in Roll, Jordan, Rollthat paternalism did spread broadly across the South by the s, and that it exacted perilous costs and yielded ambiguous benefits to both blacks and whites, ultimately leading to secession and civil war.
Relationships between Masters and Slaves: An Overview
Nothing like consensus currently exists among scholars on these questions, and much closer consideration of the warfare state, paternalism, and the transition between the two—if such indeed took place—is needed. Beyond these broad considerations, closer attention to how the master-slave relation was shaped by region, crop choice, farm unit size, race, gender, market access, and many other factors will focus research in years to come. Likewise, greater attention to questions of attachment and loss generated by object-relations theorists, kinship and property considered by anthropologists, and the formation of social movements, debated by political scientists and sociologists, will enrich discussion.
Despite a century of research, scholarly understanding of the master-slave relation, its meanings, changes, and consequences, remains in its infancy. My Life and Times, — . Masters forcibly paired "good breeders" to produce strong children they could sell at a high price. Berry, a scholar of African American history, "where powerless enslaved males and females became the victims of reproductive abuse to which they did not willingly give their consent. These selections are drawn from the nineteenth-century published narratives as well as the twentieth-century interviews of former slaves compiled in the s by the Works Progress Administration WPA Slave Narrative Project.
A recurring theme in these selections is the dehumanizing effect of slavery on both slave and master—the slave due to his being oppressed, the master due to his power to oppress. Discussion questions In these readings, how and when did the enslaved become aware of their place in the master-slave relationship?
How did their awareness influence their attitudes and behavior? What adjustments did they make or refuse to make? What role did reflection and religious faith have in their adjustments? What role did other slaves' advice and experience have in their adjustments?
What were the consequences? What is the difference between adjustment and resistance? Where do they overlap? What aspects of slavery do these writers emphasize to rebut the view that slavery was beneficial to the enslaved and that most slaveowners were humane?
Why does Frederick Douglass conclude that his growing awareness of slavery as a child, while deeply painful, was "knowledge quite worth possessing"?
Relationship between Master and Slave by on Prezi
What aspect of the slave's awareness does Douglass call "a constant menace to slavery"? In what situations did slaves choose to submit to the master's authority without resistance? When did they choose not to submit? See also Topic 7: What were the consequences of resistance or submission? What forms of sexual abuse did enslaved women and men experience, as documented in these accounts?