Against all odds : slavery and enslaved families in the making of the antebellum Chesapeake

Schermerhorn, Jack Lawrence, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Ayers, Edward L., Department of History, University of Virginia
Miller, Joseph, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, University of Virginia
Onuf, Peter, Department of History, University of Virginia
Warren, Heather, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia

This project investigates how members of enslaved families sought to protect blood kin from forced separations in markets for slave labor. In an atmosphere of commercial intensification, enslaved people sought to use the market to defend themselves from market-made separations, either through sale or hiring. They experienced slavery increasingly in terms of networks. This project therefore investigates America's oldest reproducing slave society as it integrated itself-and slavery along with it-into an emerging industrial society. Enslaved people were deeply implicated in that initial industrialization. They manufactured commodities, forged iron, constructed railroads, and performed domestic service. On the roads and on rivers, enslaved workers were at work building the antebellum Chesapeake, passing coffles of the enslaved sold off to finance that redevelopment. Faced with separation, families broadened to include anyone who could help in emergencies, and some enslaved people cultivated networks of patrons and allies who could help keep loved ones out of slave markets, even becoming wives and concubines of slave traders. Enslaved workers cemented those alliances through the property they accumulated from their work, and sometimes they bought or rented relatives to prevent forcible separations.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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