History 101: Week 11 (Professor Messer-Kruse)
Apr. 10, 1995: Industrial Slavery in the Old South
I. Perhaps no portion of our national past is more mythologized than the Old South. In our national myth, the Old South was a strictly agricultural land of plantations, cotton, and slavery. In reality, the antebellum years were years of urban growth across the South, as well as years of industrialization. Neither of these trends reached the levels seen in the North, but they were, nonetheless, appreciable in their own right.
II. Urbanization: Southern cities well established by 1860. By that year the south had a total of 30 urban areas of over 8,000 population (mostly on its perimeter). New Orleans and Saint Louis both had over 150,000.
III. Industrialization: Beginning in the 1790s agricultural processing, turpentine, mining, and tobacco and hemp production became important southern industries.
A. Initially, such industries were adjuncts to the plantation economy and were often undertaken in rural or small village settings.
B. But in the 19c, more and more industries moved to the regional urban centers.
C. By the 1840s, about 20% of the nations industrial capital was located in the South. By 1860, the value of southern manufactured goods reached nearly 100 million dollars. By 1860, the south boasted 11,000 miles of railroad track (compared to the free states 20,000).
IV. Southern industry, like southern agriculture, relied upon slave labor. By the 1850s, about 5% of the southern slave labor force worked in industry. (200,000 out of 4 million). About 25,000 of these worked in the largest cities.
V. Ownership: 2 varieties - direct and hired. 4/5ths of all industrial slaves were directly owned by southern corporations. 1/5 were rented out by their owners on short term basis. By 1850s, Richmond had 54 corporations that owned at least 10 slaves each and a number of firms in the city each owned more than a hundred.
VI. Agricultural processing employed 30,000 slaves.
VII. Tobacco works employed 15,000 slaves.
VIII. 20,000 slaves worked in the fishing industry.
IX. 20,000 slaves worked for southern railroads. Almost all the railroads in the south, except for a few border state lines, were built exclusively by slave labor.
X. 10,000 slaves worked the souths steamboat fleet.
XI. Iron works huge employers of slaves: Across the south about 10,000 slaves worked producing iron.
A. Most owned several hundred and employed them in numerous jobs at varying skill levels. B. Tredegar ironworks of Richmond was the third largest ironworks in the country in the 1850s (by number of employees) employing 900, 1/2 of whom were slaves.
XII. Other industries, mining, salt boiling, lumbering, hemp cordage/bagging, shoemaking, tanning, turpentine production, brickmaking, printing, teaming, and virtually all crafts used slaves. A. slave masons, laborers, and carpenters built the nations first capitol, and after it was burned in the War of 1812, they reconstructed the second one.
B. federal and state agencies hired many slaves in the course of their business. Federal revenue cutters had slave crews, the war department used much slave labor at its forts, arsenals, and quarter-master departments.
XIII. Working and Living Conditions of Industrial Slaves.
Industrialization created harsh conditions for all workers subjected to it, free or slave. But industrial conditions added to the miseries and indignities of slavery created a doubly oppressive situation. A. Hours - great variation in treatment from employer to employer. One Memphis railroad demanded 365 days of work per year, while one liberal employer operated on an 8 hour day, 300 day year system. Most industries operated on a sunup to sundown routine (or 6 to 6 in winter months), allowing Sundays off. 1. But being slaves, they had no recourse but the dangerous one of flight if their master desired more hours. When markets were favorable and orders were pouring in, few managers had any quams against working their slaves long hours into the night to the point of physical exhaustion. 2. Some industries, such as marine trades, operated on a nearly constant "on-call" basis. 3. Some industries, such as agricultural processing, operated on a round-the-clock basis when the harvest was in and slaves were made to work eighteen hours a day for months at a time without a day's rest.
B. Safety and Conditions - in spite of the economic deterent of the risk of injury to slaves, the primitive state of industrialization, racism, and managerial ignorance combined to create a murderous environment in many industries. 1. Forest products industry extremely dangerous, with extraordinarily high death rates. 2. Cotton gins and presses (with their massive build up of flammable lint) were fire hazards that frequently burned, killing the workers around them. 3. Steamboat boilers frequently burst. About 10% of the fleet suffered such a disaster every year! Typically, with a crew of about two dozen, six to eight men would perish in such a disaster and all would be injured. Such accidents killed thousands of black men in the years before the Civil War. 4. Mining - inherently dangerous, especially in gold regions where the quick profits to be made tempted greedy white owners to force their black miners to dig deep tunnels without shoring.
C. Food and Shelter - whether living in a city, a village, a plantation, or an isolated industrial enclave, industrial slaves received treatment little different from their plantation neighbors. 1. Food: Standard fare was corn, pork, and molasses. Since food was the single greatest maintance cost for slave labor forces, managers cut allotments as low as possible, and juggled the balance of the provisions by market prices. Still, crude management and accounting techniques created often led to of even these staples.
2. Clothing: basic garb replaced twice a year. But many parsimonious owners shorted even this meager provision. One iron works manager wrote in a report, "Many of [my] ...servants are suffering for cloaths. The practice ...of giving to the Negro everything he may want to desire is one [which] must prevent the growth of any industrious habits. I have therefore, as has been seen, only supplied what I consider absolutely necessary for [their] health and endurance."
XIV. Resistance: Like agricultural slaves, industrial slaves resisted their exploition in numerous ways, from feigning incompetance and ignorance, to pilfrige, sabotage, and shoddy work. But occassionally, workers risked severe punishment, even their life to protest their conditions. A. running away such a problem in cities, that urban industries often housed their workers in near prison conditions. 1. New Orleans Gas Works owned fifty slaves and housed them in the plant surrounded by iron gates and fifteen foot brick walls. Tredegar Iron Works also erected barracks on the plant grounds and surrounded the entire works with ten foot walls. B. numerous accounts of slaves refusing to resume work and being brutally attacked by their overseers. C. Occassionaly, slaves dramatically fought back: 1. RR workers riding with their brutal overseer on a handcar failed to warn of an approaching locomitive and jumped to safety at the last minute leaving their master behind. 2. almost all the leaders of the major slave revolts from 1790 to the eve of emancipation were artisans and industrial workers.
XV. Discipline: The industrial sector developed a unique system of cash and holiday incentive and rewards to ensure discipline among its workers. But these should not be confused for wages as they were not for work performed but for extraordinary work performed, they were not given regularly but at random and by the whim of the owner. But the incentives were always, ultimately, backed up with the threat of beating and torture. A. So common was whipping and beating in these industries, that runaways were identified in advertisements by the pattern of scars and marks upon their bodies. B. While it was technically illegal to beat a slave to death, few if any prosecutions exist in the records. Many murderous owners were not only acquitted (if prosecuted at all) but even commended by the white community. 1. One large tobacco industrialist was actually tried for torturing to death a 15 year old slave girl. He was acquitted and promptly went on to beat two other of his slaves to death without any penalty. 2. A tobacco overseer who shot one of his slaves once for each day he was absent from work was commended by the local press for his actions.
C. Urban areas had different discipline regimines, as municipal authorities regulated not only the slaves' behavior at work, but in the public sphere. Many southern cities erected workhouses (some with draconian treadmill apparatuses) and public whipping posts and met out punishments for infractions of an increasingly detailed code of public conduct. 1. (A code that not only aimed at reinforcing white supremacy at every turn, but also for preventing any private gathering of blacks outside of church and especially preventing blacks from drinking, gambling, or other activities that were deemed both immoral and dangerous by the authorities.) 2. Badges and passes required for movement from place to place. Private masters bought badges from the municipality. Industries often had printed forms to use a passes. 3. Masters were encouraged to send their own slaves to the public warden for punishment rather than doing so in their own homes for the disruption it caused to quiet neighborhoods.
XVI. A small number of industrial slaves acquired skills in their trades and through incredible enterprise and sacrifice, struck bargains with their masters for the privilege of "self-hire".
A. Hiring out was a common system in the antebellum years for industrial slaves. Each year masters would advertise or visit a municipal trading market to employ their slaves to needful firms. A contract, usually for a years labor was signed and the slave then faced the dangerous prospect of working for a master who didn't actually own them, and whose interest in their physical well-being was even less than that of their owner. B. Some slave craftsmem won the privelege of securing their own employment and paying their owners a weekly or monthly rent for their liberty. Frederick Douglass was one who had done so: "I was to be allowed all my time; to make all bargains for work; to find my own employment, and to collect my own wages, and, in return for this liberty, I was required, or obliged, to pay...three dollars at the end of each week, and to board and clothe myself, and buy my own calking tools. A failure in any of these particulars would put an end to my privilege. This was a hard bargain."
XVII. Free blacks: Another common myth of the Old South is that all blacks were slaves. About 6% of the black population in 1860 in the South were technically free. Most were decendents of people freed when the manumission laws in the south were still liberal in the 18c. A few were manumitted more recently. An increasing number were incredibly self-purchased, an astounding and dangerous feat. Often, far-flung family networks pooled their resources to purchase the freedom of a loved one. A. But even after accumulating the money to pay the price, there was no legal remedy if the master simply stole the money. B. The free black community was also lived under the constant threat of kidnapping by "man-stealers". In some areas these criminals operated quite openly with the connivance of local officials. Rarely was there any active pursuit or prosecution of them. C. Freedom in a racist slave society was a tenuous thing. No free black institution, from shops to schools, to churches were free of legal and extra-legal assault. Many southern states forbade black schools, and others closed black churches. By the 1850s, free black communities in southern cities had largely won their long battles to keep their own churches (Baltimore in 1850 had 15 black churches in 5 denominations!) but this same victory was not shared in rural areas. 1. The existence and stubborn resistance of the free black community provided the impetus for the grown of racial segregation in the South. The North had instituted a harsh regime of racial segregation earlier than did the South, largely because the caste system of slavery made a legal system of segregation less desirable to whites both pyschologically and socially as well as economically. But the independence and material mobility of free blacks in southern cities led the rise of legal segregation that by the eve of the Civil War followed free blacks through every part of their lives from birth to the grave.
Apr.12, 1995: North of Slavery:
I. It is common to think of the Old South as the bastion of white supremacy and racism in American history, and the north as the defender of liberalism and humanism. Such are the distortions of the victor. In fact, the South had no monopoly on racism or discrimination before or after the Civil War. Many of the institutions and practices of segregation were first introduced in the North and only later spread to the South. It is to the civil rights record and the history of the Northern black community that we will examine today.
II. Except for the new western states that abolished slavery in their constitutions, northern states did not abolish slavery outright, but provided for its very gradual extinction. In 1800 some 36,505 slaves lived in the north. By 1830, 90% of these slaves had become free, but 10% of these remained in bondage, most in New Jersey.
III. But emancipation seemed to be the stimulus for discrimination. Immediately after approving emancipation in Massachusetts, the legislature passed laws banning interracial marriage, and the expulsion of blacks who were not citizens of one of the states.
IV. Colonization: Many Americans, both southerners and northerners, wanted to rid their societies of their black communities under the guise of charity. In 1817 the American Colonization Society formed with the purpose of "aiding" the repatriation of blacks to Africa. Some colonization proponents envisioned their work as a form of emancipation. Colonizationists often both supported discriminatory legislation towards the black community and then defended their colonization schemes with the argument that blacks had to be returned to Africa to protect them from the racism and discrimination of whites. A. colonizationists also hoped that Christian black Americans would prostelitize "heathen" Africans and spread Christian "civilization" throughout Africa.
B. By the 1820's, colonization was popular with most Americans and with virtually all politicians of all parties. 14 state legislatures passed resolutions supporting the idea. 1. 1822, the ACS with federal and state appropriations founded the colony of Liberia. Over the next ten years fewer than 1200 blacks consented to go. Most died within a few years of residence in Africa. 2. The only people who publicly denounced it were radical abolitionists and black people themselves. A few months after the founding of the ACS, 3,000 black Philadelphians rallied at Bethel Church, oppossing the idea as against American democratic principles, as a further stigmatization of their community, and as a continuation of the bondage of their people.
"This is our home and this is our country. Beneath its sod lie the bones of our fathers; for it some of them fought, bled and died. Here we were born, and here we will die." wrote one black opponent of colonization.
V. Legal Discrimination: A. Though the Constitution does not mention race (though it sanctions slavery), the founding politicians wasted no time in sending a clear message that this was to be a white mans country. 1. 1790 Congress limits naturalization to white aliens. 2. 1792 Congress limited participation in federal militia to white citizens. (Though in times of crisis and war, the US has always turned to the black community for recruits, and did so in the War of 1812).
3. 1800, a society of black Philadelphians, led by the Reverend Absalom Jones, petitioned Congress to take additional steps to end the slave trade, and provide for gradual abolition of slavery. Congress was thrown into turmoil by this piece of paper - after all, wasn't it a Constitutional guarentee that every citizen has the right to petition the governement? Both northern and southern Congressmen oppossed accepting the petition. Harrison Gray Otis of Massachusetts, argued that to consider their petition "would have an irritating tendency, and must be mischievous to America very soon. It would teach them the art of assembling together, debating, and the like and would soon...extend from one of the Union to the other." a. The House debated for two days and then voted 85-1 (the one being George Thatcher, Mass. a staunch opponent of slavery) to not recieve the petition. 4. 1810 Congress banned blacks from carrying US mail. 5. 1820 Congress authorized the DC government to limit office-holding to white males, and to pass discriminatory racial codes. 6. Congress approved of every state constitution that was presented to it that contained racial bars to voting. (Every state after Maine to the Civil War contained such clauses in its Constitution.).
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