Devan Brader February 3, 2017 An Analysis of “Myne Owne Ground” and its Implications for Race Today In their thought-provoking but generally well-received book, Myne Owne Ground: Race and Freedom on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, 1640-1676¸ authors T.H. Breen and Stephen Innes investigate a heretofore little-known community of free blacks. Despite the burgeoning slave trade and generally held racist beliefs in pre-Colonial Virginia, the authors argue, convincingly, that a community based more on land ownership than race as a social divider thrived, albeit only for a generation. They further explore the origins and eventual demise of this curious but egalitarian system. Though it goes against the broad swath of our cultural …show more content…
For example, the authors used, among other materials, the minutes of Council and General Court of colonial Virginia, which reveals laws passed such as one relating to the “punishment of runaway servants”, where following a multi-racial escape, the law drew little distinction between co-conspirators of different races (McIlwaine, 466). It is a very effective research strategy. The authors imply strongly that if we were to look at this culture objectively, without our presupposed notions of race relations in 17th century Virginia, we would assume that wealth, mainly property, was the dividing social characteristic, and not race, as it would be for the next couple centuries. Breen’s and Innes’ research strategy is compelling. By relying more on original source materials, as opposed to others’ summaries and compilations, they are able to achieve that objectivity. Any attempt to find facts or narratives counter to the most recognized ones can only hope to do so by using original sources. Aside from examples of free blacks, Myne Owne Ground also explores the historical quirk of white indentured servants. Though this was a common practice in the colonies, and elsewhere around the world, seen through the lens of a relatively racially equal society, questions of social
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The American Revolution resonated with all classes of society, as it stood to divide a nation’s loyalties and recreate the existing fabric of society. During the 1770s to mid 1780s, no group living in the British American colonies was left unaffected. For blacks enslaved in America, the war presented the fleeting possibility of freedom in a nation that was still dependent on an economic structure of oppression and bondage. For those blacks that were free, they chose their alliances wisely in hopes of gaining economic opportunities and improving their status in the American colonies. The American Negroes, whether free or enslaved, could be found on either side of the battlefront. They took on many different roles, some fighting on the
The subject of slavery in the early 1700s had the potential to elicit an array of opinions depending upon the race, gender, and political role of the individual in question. Like the majority of white land-holding men who owned slaves, William Byrd viewed the treatment of Africans as that consistent with livestock: slaves were to do the work they were assigned and give in to every whim of their masters for fear of being severely punished. Olaudah Equiano provides a contrast in opinion to this widely accepted viewpoint. By humanizing Africans and detailing the intimate emotions experienced by them, Equiano implicitly argues against the attitudes of typical slave owners.
Although it took almost fifty years after the American Revolutionary War was over, on July 4th and 5th, 1827, African American New Yorkers celebrated the passage of legislation that would finally free them from the bondage of slavery (11). In her book, In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863, Leslie M. Harris’s thesis is that class status was essential in the development of the black community in New York City from the moment they landed on Manhattan Island in 1626 (14). Harris also argued that the issue of slavery and emancipation of blacks in New York was an item that was brought up constantly, but elite white New Yorkers always hesitated on implementing legislation due to their constituent’s reliance on slave labor, their elite racist views of blacks (in general) as inferior (96), and the
Phillips writes that the defining characteristic of a ‘Southerner’ is a feeling of white racial solidarity which casts all other social considerations in the shade; it is the “cardinal test of a Southerner.” When Phillips touches upon the subject of non-slaveholding whites, he emphasizes their zeal for the primacy of white civilization as an end unto itself. He relates two contemporary accounts of non-slaveholders, one a tinner and the other an overseer, to demonstrate this fervor but pointedly devalues their economic attachments to slavery, writing, “Both of them, and a million of their non-slaveholding like, had a still stronger social prompting: the white men’s ways must prevail; the Negroes must be kept innocuous.” Phillips rejects out of hand the sway of overt pecuniary motives against the weight of racial ones and this rejection is so absolute in part because “it is otherwise impossible to account
While the first two sections of the book provide the historical context of the settling of the Virginia colony, the last two demonstrate Morgan’s theory of how racism was developed to ensure a sustainable workforce. The rise of the labor theory demonstrates how slavery itself became a necessary business venture in Virginia while at the same time justified the Revolutionary concepts of liberty and equality for all white men. The belief that only the men, or white Englishmen
In 1928 Ulrich B. Phillips wrote an argumentative essay about the reasons for the massive support that slavery received from both slaveowners and Southerners who didn’t possess slaves. The essay was well-received and supported by critics in the 1930-s. However, closer to 1950-s critics started doubting the objectivity of Phillip’s writing. It’s important to note that Ulrich B. Phillips is a white historian from the South, writing from a perspective of a white Southerner. When he was writing his article he failed to step back from his bias and provide fully objective support for the main theme of his argument, setting a doubt to the reliability of his work.
Breen and Innes do a great job suggesting that a person’s conduct, not necessarily their race, played the major role in early Virginia. They make an inadvertent argument that dominance and submission were the real issue when it came to owning property at the time, not race. The large plantation owners intimidated the smaller farmers and landowners. Blacks were on the same playing field when compared along with the small farmers and landowners. Sadly, this did not last with the entrance of racial mindsets as aforementioned. There is also an argument that even though the hardest working blacks could work their way out of slavery and into freedom, they could maintain the wealth it took to perpetuate that freedom. The growing plantation system and the growing black population is what brought an end to the equal status of the free, black
Edmund S. Morgan's book, American Slavery, American Freedom, is a book focused on the Virginian colonists and how their hatred for Indians, their lust for money, power, and freedom led to slavery. The Virginian society had formed into, as Morgan put it, a republican society towards the end of the 18th century. This society believed in a certain view of freedom and liberty that would define America, through the realization of how this republican freedom depended on its opposite, slavery. How had the Virginia, a society that originally never incorporated slaves into their workforce, become so dependent on them to the point that they feared them? This question and the republican belief of
In the book titled The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South, author John Blassingame’s theme, focused on the history of African slave experience throughout the American South. After much research, the author said in the preface that most historians focused more on the planter instead of the slave. He also pointed out that most of the research on slaves by previous historians was based on stereotypes, and do not tell the real history of slave life and a slave’s inner self. Most of these historians, who focused on antebellum southern history, left out the African-American slave experience on purpose. Through much gathering of research, Blassingame hoped to correct this injustice to the history of African-American slaves, and show how slavery affected slaves, but also American life, culture, and thought.
Anthony Johnson was a black man who arrived in Virginia around 1621 and was purchased to work as a slave in the tobacco fields of the Bennett Plantation. At that time he was merely known as “Antonio a Negro”, as it wasn’t common for black slaves to have last names. On March 22nd, 1622, an Indian attack on the Bennett plantation left only 12 surviving slaves, one of them being Anthony. In that same year a woman named Mary arrived at the plantation. Being that she was the only woman living at the Bennett plantation in 1625, Anthony could be considered fortunate to have received her as his wife. Together they had at least four children. It isn’t known how Anthony received his full name of Anthony Johnson, but the
“Myne Owne Ground” is a book that basically tells the readers how African “indentured servants” were treated by the colony in 1600s. Overall, this book is touching and vivid for those readers whose ancestors were not African. The authors used lots of examples throughout the entire book to describe the images that how African “indentured servants” got treated. That is very persuasive for readers to believe what happened during that time, and that can be regarded as one of the
The limitation of this book is that this book could only dedicate about 10 pages in the slavery in Virginia. Since it covered so much time period, some details were overlooked.
Slavery is a contradictory subject in American history because “one hears…of the staid and gentle patriarchy, the wide and sleepy plantations with lord and retainers, ease and happiness; [while] on the other hand on hears of barbarous cruelty and unbridles power and wide oppression of men” (Dubois 2). Dubois’s The Negro in the United States is an autoethnographic text which is a representation “that the so-defined others
The controversies surrounding slavery have been established in many societies worldwide for centuries. In past generations, although slavery did exists and was tolerated, it was certainly very questionable,” ethically“. Today, the morality of such an act would not only be unimaginable, but would also be morally wrong. As things change over the course of history we seek to not only explain why things happen, but as well to understand why they do. For this reason, we will look further into how slavery has evolved throughout History in American society, as well as the impacts that it has had.