Culture Conflict and Community on the Antebellum Plantation

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position on: Culture, Conflict, and Community on the Antebellum Plantation For many people, the idea of a slave culture or of slaves exercising control and autonomy within the context of the master-slave relationship seems impossible. After all, the entire concept of the system of slavery is based upon the ownership of another person, which implies total control. However, Drew Gilpin Faust's essay, "Culture, Conflict, and Community on the Antebellum Plantation," which is based upon meticulous records kept by slave-owner James Henry Hammond, reveal that the master-slave relationship was far more complex than one might believe. Even when faced with rigid systems of control, slaves exercised some autonomy. Even with a rigid master, such as Hammond, these efforts at self-control frequently modified behavior on the plantation. In fact, while it is almost certain that some masters ruled through tyranny alone, it appears that the back-and-forth nature of the master-slave relationship meant that masters had to provide some inducements to produce work from their slaves. Hammond had little experience as a slave-owner when he married into a wealthy family and took control of a plantation that belonged to his wife. Though he had owned two slaves, he had not ever worked in a plantation setting. Moreover, he moved onto a plantation where the slaves had not been accustomed to dealing with the presence of a master; the original plantation owner had been content to visit

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