Wednesday, January 9, 2013

History stuffs: the South

Every Wednesday (or thereabouts), I want to post random spots of history for either the begninnings of research, or as inspiration, or for fun. Because trivia is always cool.

This week, I will post about the Southern* culture. And slavery. And stuffs like that.

Some Truths about Slavery:
  • Less than 10% of the 8 million people in the South owned slaves.
  • 1/2 of all slaveowners owned 4 or less.
  • 15% of that original <10% owned 30 or more.
  • Less than 2,000 people owned more than 100.
  • Less than 14 people owned more than 500.
  • Only one person owned more than 1,000 slaves.
  • (Source: 1860 census)

The Hierarchy:
  • "Slaveocracy" (plantation farmers) vs. the "Plain Folk" (white yeoman farmers) -- 6 million people.
  • Black freemen -- 250,000 people.
  • Black slaves -- 3,200,000 people.
  • poor whites -- unknown (to me, at least). These were the "hillbillies": landless, living in barren, swampy lands, and were usually diseased (malaria, hookworm) because they didn't wear proper clothing.
So, rich and white middle class on top, black freemen beneath them, then the black slaves and the landless whites.

Southern Economy
  • dependent on imported clothes, foodstuffs, and furniture; they exported mainly cotton, tobacco, rice, and sugar.
  • debtor's region -- needed Northern capital.
  • Most of South's assets were tied up in land, slaves
  • Slavery was supposed to die out early 1800s, but the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 made it profitable. so, they bought more land and produced more cotton with more slaves, so they could buy more land and slaves to produce more cotton to keep up with demand and competition.
  • More than 1/2 of American exports came from the South, esp. cotton.
  • There was little industry, few cities in the South -- about 10% of overall manufacturing came from the South.

Why so Pro-slavery?
  • Slaves were considered property, yes. But they were valuable property -- most wouldn't beat their slaves too badly/kill them: 4 million slaves in the South = a $2 billion investment.
  • A couple of slave rebellions in the early 1800s (i.e. Nat Turner's rebellion) and a northern abolitionist newspaper (written by a man named William Lloyd Garrison) called the Liberator spooked the Southern elite into paranoia, so they began supporting slavery with the Positive Good Theory.
  • Some of their arguments: master-slave relationships were like family. Slavery is supported in the Bible and by Aristotle. Slaves were better off working in the sunshine without fear of unemployment instead of working in a Northern factory on minimum wage. (This was before labor laws -- children worked, workplaces were unsafe and unclean, people worked twelve-hour days for minimum pay and could be replaced arbitrarily.)  
  • Northerners, in this time period, didn't actually even like blacks. In fact, the US actually set up a colony in Africa, called Liberia, for free blacks. After all, free blacks would take even more jobs away from white citizens, and most still thought they were inferior, but they deserved basic human rights. So, the solution was to ship them somewhere where they could acclomplish both.
  • The North depended on South for cotton for their textile industries. Abolitionism rocked the economical boat; it was hated there, too. But the evilness of slavery daunted Northern mindset, and quite a few opposed letting slavery become part of the new Western territories (i.e. Oregon, Nebraska/Kansas, California).

I know it's a common misconception that all of the South used a ton of slaves for only cotton, but that is not the case. There was a somewhat diversity of crops and few had slaves. It's also a misconception that all the people of the North were extreme abolitionists, who were bent on making the South see the evilness of slavery and supported equality. Most were on the edge: the common factory worker.

In all truth, all the hype about racism and slavery? Racism was really started with a concept called White Supremacy. By the British and Europeans. You know, the original white people? They entered a technological boom circa 1600s-1700s, when they colonized Africa and America. The Africans were already trading slaves among themselves, and the Europeans butted into that market and took it over, using them in the South where it was warmer than Britain and the slaves somewhat had a chance of living. Also, it was cheaper than all those indentured servants, who eventually grew out of their contract anyways.

There was one place in South Carolina that tried to refuse slaves in the 1700s -- but Britain forced them to keep using it. Therefore, in the 1800s, after the Revolutionary War, slavery was something of a habit. Slavery was needed for the large tracts of lands used by the rich. Somewhere along the line, the truth became distorted, and the Southern stereotype became that horizonless tract of slaves and cotton. The Northern stereotype became that of an abolitionist willing to resort to violence to get what they wanted.

And thus the Civil War started. Because people looked at stereotypes, and their own Racial Supremacy feelings, and things became kinda hazy.

Yes, this is what I learned in AP American History: how to defend the South (of which I am a part). All of this came from my school notes and my AP American History textbook. I apologize for my semi-relevant rant on racism, but I want you to understand that slavery and racism isn't a Southern thing, it's no one's fault, etc. History is a big ole set of extenuating circumstances, where people did what they thought was best for their future, and obviously there were... discrepencies.

Have a blessed Wednesday and don't hate people! :)

*It comes to my attention that not everyone actually capitalizes North and South when talking about America. Or really, anytime. I've always capitalized them, whether I'm talking about directions or America. And I will continue to because I'm more stubborn than a mule.

No comments:

Post a Comment