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Slave Community

For discussion

How important were African influences to 19thC slaves?

What role did Christianity play?

Did family life survive slavery?

How gendered was slave life?

How were status differences among slaves created and mapped out?


There are many sources for slave life in the antebellum South in the library and even more online esp at the Documenting the American South page: – see in particular:
  • John Blassingame, Slave testimony
  • Robert Starobin, Blacks in Bondage, the letters of American slaves
  • Charles Ball, Life of a Negro slave / Fifty years in chains [perhaps the best runaway slave narrative, with lots of details and a varied experience of slavery]
  • Rawick, ed, Autobiography of the American Slave [30 vols of interviews from the 1930s with former slaves, organized by state – many online at the Library of Congress]


Again there’s a great deal of secondary reading in the library, and more listed online here: See in particular:
  • John W. Blassingame, The slave community: plantation life in the antebellum South.
  • Lawrence W. Levine, Black culture and black consciousness: Afro-American thought from slavery to freedom.
  • Leslie Howard Owens, This species of property: slave life and culture in the old South.
  • Sterling Stuckey, Slave culture, nationalist theory and the foundations of black America
  • Charles Joyner, Down by the Riverside
  • Michael Gomez, Exchanging our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South
  • Eugene D. Genovese, Roll, Jordan, roll: the world the slaves made.
  • Roger Abrahams, Singing the master, the emergence of African American culture in the plantation South
  • Roger Abrahams, Afro-American folktale: stories from black traditions in the New World
  • Sylvia Frey, & Betty Wood, Come Shouting to Zion:African American Protestantism in the American South and British Caribbean to 1830