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Slavery and Resistance in America. Another look at the period of slavery? What can it do for us?. Questions to Consider. How did African-Americans provide for themselves? How did they get along with each other? How did they find meaning in their lives?. Awesome Web Resources.

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slavery and resistance in america

Slavery and Resistance in America

Another look at the period of slavery?

What can it do for us?

questions to consider
Questions to Consider..
  • How did African-Americans provide for themselves?
  • How did they get along with each other?
  • How did they find meaning in their lives?
awesome web resources
Awesome Web Resources..
a basis for understanding
A Basis for Understanding..
  • Economics (both sides) + Social Dynamics (both sides) = Complex Story of Slavery and Resistance
  • Sources of Knowledge:
      • Freedman’s Bureau records, Plantation Records (Diaries, Letters, etc.), Federal Census Records, Interviews and Testimonies (Federal Writers Project of “New Deal”), Autobiographies and Biographies,etc.
resistance according to steven hahn s a nation under our feet
Resistance according to Steven Hahn’s - A Nation Under Our Feet

Community Resources for Rebellion?

Everyday Resistance, Wisdom, Trust, Concessions, Organization, Collective Intelligence, National Political Knowledge, Literacy, Rumor…

Hahn’s words

greatest slave rebellion in modern history
“Greatest Slave Rebellion in Modern History..”
  • Political pressures were ahead of Federal Government policies and Lincoln’s views
  • “Contraband Camps” were like “mobile cities”
  • “Nature of Rebellion” was based on a complete understanding of plantation circumstances.


- Most lived in two-parent “households” (John Blassingame ’70)

- Children often “deprived of childhood” – started work early and subject to treatment as adults (Wilma King ’95)

- “Culture of Resistance” – sense of identity apart from roles imposed by masters

- Some personal value based on work activities

- Family relations were critical to sense of self and personal strength (Jacqueline Jones and Deborah Gray White ’85)


Domestic Life (within Slave Quarters)

- “Matrifocal” not “Matriarchal” family structure

- Male / Female roles were mostly complimentary

- Adaptation of African practices with European customs – for example:

Christian beliefs and African religions, naming practices, burial rituals, marriage ceremonies (“jumping the broomstick”) – all show Assimilation (or Syncretism)

- Male / Female work roles were mostly defined (Jones & White ’85)


Marriage and Kinship ties

- Many norms for marriage and kin were transferable to lives of freedom

- Women working in domestic setting – child rearing, laundry, sewing, and field work considered key to survival

- Men provided supplement to diet for families by hunting and fishing

- Men protected children and women from punishment when possible

- “Sanctity of Marriage” recognized despite laws or master’s rules

- Strong affectionate ties (Eugene Genovese ’74)

- Extended Kin – Uncles, Aunts, and Cousins were important part of identity (Herbert Gutman ’77)

self actualization john hope franklin 96
Self-Actualization (John Hope Franklin ‘96)

Key Examples

- Jean Baptiste Point du Sable (1790) – African-French created first building in place now known as Chicago

- Henry Blair (1835) –of MD, received patent for invention of corn harvesters

- Benjamin Montgomery (1858) – w/ Jefferson Davis of SC, invented boat propeller (both men lost patent rights)

- Celia of Cumberland County MO – story

  • Slave Community with norm of “dignity, humanity, and self-determination” (Blassingame ’70)
self actualization


a. Recreation and Relaxation

- singing, dancing, telling stories, playing games, strumming of banjo, drinking, etc.

b. Religious Activities

- Mixed Churches common – with segregated seating

- Methodist and Baptist camp meetings – often with socializing between Blacks and Whites

- Black Churches w/ Black Preachers not uncommon

c. Schooling / Education

- Northern settings first – MD, DE, MA

- Also Black Schools in GA, SC, KY, VA, TN – mostly under white control of curriculum and lessons

- Plenty of “Informal” Education – strong desire to gain literacy

self actualization1


- Self- Injury

  • Starvation – two boats at Charleston in 1807 all starved
  • Taking one’s own life
empowerment john hope franklin 96
Empowerment(John Hope Franklin ‘96)

Running Away

  • - Underground Railroad - particularly with Harriet Tubman
  • - St. Louis was a key stop – Meechum story

Revolting (JHF reading)

  • - Gabriel Prosser
  • - Denmark Vesey
  • - David Walker’s “Appeal”
  • - Nat Turner

Day-to-Day Resistance

- Contaminating Food w/ Urine, Poison, Glass

- “Slow-Downs” of Work

- Breaking Tools

- Damaging Crops, Animals, and other Possessions

Separate Lives - Back to points about Community

“Quasi-Free” Blacks

- Some African-Americans lived and worked in urban settings with some measure of freedom

final quote
Final Quote
  • V. Final Quote on Community, Self-Actualization, and Empowerment
  • - Thomas Holt (Historian) – African-Americans (those enslaved) were able to create “institutions and cultural ethos that were functional to their needs, that enabled them to survive the rigors of slavery and bequeath a legacy of resistance to their posterity”
historiographical work
Historiographical Work

IV.Historiographical Work:

- “Hamitic” Curse

- Historical “Emasculation” of African-American Men

Local History