A board the Hudibras in , in the course of a harrowing journey from Africa to America, a popular woman died in slavery. Yet he did note that her passing caused a minor political tumult when the crew herded the other enslaved women below decks before they could see the body of their fallen shipmate consigned to the water. This woman was no alienated isolate to be hurled over the side of the ship without ceremony. The first to die on that particular voyage, the woman was laid out on the deck while the sailors awaited flood tide to heave her overboard. What happened aboard the Hudibras was an uncommon but not unimportant event.
Specters of the Atlantic Generative topic slavery a compellingly sophisticated study of the Generative topic slavery between the epistemologies underwriting both modern slavery and modern capitalism, but the book's discussion of the politics of anti-slavery is fundamentally incomplete. Like Hartman, Smallwood sees social death as a by-product of commodification. Many slaves were the offspring of slaves. Atlantic slavery continues to be manifested in black people's skewed life chances, poor education and Generative topic slavery, and high rates of incarceration, poverty, and premature death. The History of Emotions and Conceptual Approaches There is a fundamental tension in how historians conceive of fear and other emotions in the past. Black Codes Black codes were restrictive laws designed to limit the Geenerative of African Americans and ensure their availability as a cheap labor force after slavery was abolished during the Civil War.
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Between and How about receiving a customized one? Sexual Slavery and Pornography In four pages this argumentative essay takes a moral stance against pornography and cites its dangers and negativity. For example, among the goals I might set for Generative topic slavery secondary school history course are that I want my students to be able to use primary sources, formulate hypotheses and engage in systematic study, be able to handle multiple points of view, be close readers and Generative topic slavery writers, and pose and solve problems. In a paper consisting of five pages the ways in which each author expressed his views in these respective texts are compared. Constitution Facts Home Site Map. Charles Parish, Louisiana This article about the Freedmen's Bureau "home colonies" or agriculture collectives, appeared in the Fall issue of Prologue. Freedom Suits Case Files, These suits, heard in the Saint Louis Circuit Court, "were brought by or on behalf of persons of color held in slavery within the St. What were the economical, social and political consequences which resulted from Hyper dating changeover of tobacco to sugarcane in the 17th Century? Constitutional Topics - The U. Canonically, serfdom was the dependent condition of much of the western and central European peasantry from the time of the decline of the Roman Empire until the era of the French Revolution. Slavery in America was held in place by a complicated network of legal precedents. An unknown error has occurred. A Sample Topic Map.
Slavery , condition in which one human being was owned by another.
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Slavery , condition in which one human being was owned by another. There is no consensus on what a slave was or on how the institution of slavery should be defined. The slave was a species of property ; thus, he belonged to someone else. In some societies slaves were considered movable property, in others immovable property, like real estate. They were objects of the law, not its subjects. Thus, like an ox or an ax, the slave was not ordinarily held responsible for what he did.
He was not personally liable for torts or contracts. The slave usually had few rights and always fewer than his owner, but there were not many societies in which he had absolutely none. The slave was removed from lines of natal descent. Legally, and often socially, he had no kin. No relatives could stand up for his rights or get vengeance for him. Slavery was a form of dependent labour performed by a nonfamily member. The slave was deprived of personal liberty and the right to move about geographically as he desired.
There were likely to be limits on his capacity to make choices with regard to his occupation and sexual partners as well. Slavery was usually, but not always, involuntary. Slaves were generated in many ways. Others were kidnapped on slave-raiding or piracy expeditions. Many slaves were the offspring of slaves. Some people were enslaved as a punishment for crime or debt, others were sold into slavery by their parents, other relatives, or even spouses, sometimes to satisfy debts, sometimes to escape starvation.
A variant on the selling of children was the exposure, either real or fictitious, of unwanted children, who were then rescued by others and made slaves. Another source of slavery was self-sale, undertaken sometimes to obtain an elite position, sometimes to escape destitution.
Slavery existed in a large number of past societies whose general characteristics are well known. It was rare among primitive peoples, such as the hunter-gatherer societies, because for slavery to flourish, social differentiation or stratification was essential. Also essential was an economic surplus, for slaves were often consumption goods who themselves had to be maintained rather than productive assets who generated income for their owner.
Surplus was also essential in slave systems where the owners expected economic gain from slave ownership. Last, some centralized governmental institutions willing to enforce slave laws had to exist, or else the property aspects of slavery were likely to be chimerical. There have been two basic types of slavery throughout recorded history. Although domestic slaves occasionally worked outside the household, for example, in haying or harvesting, their primary function was that of menials who served their owners in their homes or wherever else the owners might be, such as in military service.
Slaves often were a consumption-oriented status symbol for their owners, who in many societies spent much of their surplus on slaves. Household slaves sometimes merged in varying degrees with the families of their owners, so that boys became adopted sons or women became concubines or wives who gave birth to heirs. Temple slavery, state slavery, and military slavery were relatively rare and distinct from domestic slavery, but in a very broad outline they can be categorized as the household slaves of a temple or the state.
The other major type of slavery was productive slavery. It also was found in 9th-century Iraq , among the Kwakiutl Indians of the American Northwest, and in a few areas of sub-Saharan Africa in the 19th century. Although slaves also were employed in the household, slavery in all of those societies seems to have existed predominantly to produce marketable commodities in mines or on plantations.
A major theoretical issue is the relationship between productive slavery and the status of a society as a slave or a slave-owning society. It seems clear that it was quite possible for a slave society to exist without productive slavery; the known historical examples were concentrated in Africa and Asia. Slavery was the prototype of a relationship defined by domination and power.
But throughout the centuries man has invented other forms of dependent labour besides slavery, including serfdom , indentured labour, and peonage.
The term serfdom is much overused, often where it is not appropriate always as an appellation of opprobrium. Canonically, serfdom was the dependent condition of much of the western and central European peasantry from the time of the decline of the Roman Empire until the era of the French Revolution. Whether the term serfdom appropriately describes the condition of the peasantry in other contexts is a matter of vigorous contention. Be that as it may, the serf was also distinguished from the slave by the fact that he was usually the subject of the law—i.
The serf usually owned his means of production grain, livestock, implements except the land, whereas the slave owned nothing, often not even the clothes on his back.
A person became an indentured servant by borrowing money and then voluntarily agreeing to work off the debt during a specified term. In some societies indentured servants probably differed little from debt slaves i. Debt slaves, however, were regarded as criminals essentially thieves and thus liable to harsher treatment. Perhaps as many as half of all the white settlers in North America were indentured servants, who agreed to work for someone the purchaser of the indenture upon arrival to pay for their passage.
Peons were either persons forced to work off debts or criminals. Peons, who were the Latin American variant of debt slaves, were forced to work for their creditors to pay off what they owed.
They tended to merge with felons because people in both categories were considered criminals, and that was especially true in societies where money fines were the main sanction and form of restitution for crimes. Thus, the felon who could not pay his fine was an insolvent debtor. The debt peon had to work for his creditor, and the labour of the criminal peon was sold by the state to a third party.
Peons had even less recourse to the law for bad treatment than did indentured servants, and the terms of manumission for the former typically were less favourable than for the latter. Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Introduction Historical survey Slave-owning societies Slave societies Slavery in the Americas The international slave trade Ways of ending slavery The law of slavery Sources of slavery law Legal definitions of slavery Master-slave legal relationships Family and property Legal relationships between slave owners Legal relationships between slaves and free strangers Laws of manumission The sociology of slavery The slave as outsider Attitudes toward slavery: the matter of race Slave occupations Agriculture Slave demography Slave protest Slave culture.
Written By: Richard Hellie. See Article History. Start your free trial today for unlimited access to Britannica. Load Next Page. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students.
Top Skip to main content. In some societies slaves were considered movable property, in others immovable property, like real estate. Artist "Paints" with Artificial Life and Computer Viruses Joseph Nechvatal's video and large-scale works explore the relationships between the technological and the biological. Alyssa Buffenstein. If coverage remains the goal, performance tasks tend to be too limited. It was rare among primitive peoples, such as the hunter-gatherer societies, because for slavery to flourish, social differentiation or stratification was essential.
Generative topic slavery. Slavery in the United States
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A board the Hudibras in , in the course of a harrowing journey from Africa to America, a popular woman died in slavery. Yet he did note that her passing caused a minor political tumult when the crew herded the other enslaved women below decks before they could see the body of their fallen shipmate consigned to the water.
This woman was no alienated isolate to be hurled over the side of the ship without ceremony. The first to die on that particular voyage, the woman was laid out on the deck while the sailors awaited flood tide to heave her overboard. What happened aboard the Hudibras was an uncommon but not unimportant event.
If slave funerals occasionally occurred on slave ships, they were hardly ever mentioned. Bodies were usually dumped unceremoniously into the ocean, cast to the sharks that followed the slavers with anticipation. Generally, there was no recognized ritual at all, no closure, only the continuation of disorientation on a cosmic scale. Yet stories about slave ship funerals are unlikely not only because such ceremonies occurred infrequently, but because discussions of them have been seen as unpromising, likely to fail as explanations for any significant developments within the history of slavery.
In other words, scholars are not well prepared to understand such funerals, because they do not really suit the prevailing ways we write about slavery's past—and its presence in our concerns. Certainly, the popular woman's rite of passage could be seen as evidence of African cultural retention, following the interpretive path hewn by Melville J.
In this sense, one could see the event as an example of the agency of the enslaved. The protest leading up to the burial at sea could also be interpreted as an act of resistance against the constraints of enslavement, or at least of claim-making; but this was not a claim that threatened slavery as such, and so it rests uncomfortably within the terms that have traditionally governed the analysis of political activity on the part of the enslaved.
In fact, the funeral was an attempt to withstand the encroachment of oblivion and to make social meaning from the threat of anomie. As a final rite of passage and a ritual goodbye, the ceremony provided an outlet for anguish and an opportunity for commiseration. Yet it also allowed the women to publicly contemplate what it meant to be alive and enslaved.
The death rite thus enabled them to express and enact their social values, to articulate their visions of what it was that bound them together, made individuals among them unique, and separated this group of people from others. The scene thus typifies the way that people who have been pronounced socially dead, that is, utterly alienated and with no social ties recognized as legitimate or binding, have often made a social world out of death itself.
The funeral was an act of accounting, of reckoning, and therefore one among the multitude of acts that made up the political history of Atlantic slavery.
This was politics conceived not as a conventional battle between partisans, but as a struggle to define a social being that connected the past and present. It could even be said that the event exemplified a politics of history, which connects the politics of the enslaved to the politics of their descendants. Slavery and Social Death was widely reviewed and lavishly praised for its erudition and conceptual rigor.
As a result of its success, social death has become a handy general definition of slavery, for many historians and non-historians alike. Slavery and Social Death took shape during a period when largely synchronic studies of antebellum slavery in the United States dominated the scholarship on human bondage, and Patterson's expansive view was meant to situate U.
At the same time, the extreme nature of the institution naturally encourages a pessimistic view of the capacity for collective agency among subjugated people. In turn, this division frames a problem in the general understanding of political life, especially for the descendants of the powerless. It might even be said that these kinds of studies form different and opposing genres—hopeful stories of heroic subalterns versus anatomies of doom—that compete for ascendance. A fascinating book by Ian Baucom has illuminated the persistence of slavery's forms of being in our own time.
Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History excavates the history of the massacre aboard the slave ship Zong in , which came to light as a dispute over an insurance claim for lost cargo, and the reactions to that event in subsequent legal trials, social movements, and literary and artistic discourses.
Writing against the view that would see the massacre as an isolated tragedy, Baucom situates the story of the Zong within a logic of violence that underpins a long Atlantic cycle of speculative capital accumulation that began in the eighteenth century and continues today. Indeed, the logic that governed the transformation of slaughtered human beings into modern abstract forms of property derives in part from social death, which Baucom glosses as the state of being permanently subject to death by the master's hand.
It is therefore within reason for him to identify the Zong as a tragic part of our present and future. Specters of the Atlantic is a compellingly sophisticated study of the relation between the epistemologies underwriting both modern slavery and modern capitalism, but the book's discussion of the politics of anti-slavery is fundamentally incomplete.
Social death, so well suited to the tragic perspective, stands in for the experience of enslavement. While this heightens the reader's sense of the way Atlantic slavery haunts the present, Baucom largely fails to acknowledge that the enslaved performed melancholy acts of accounting not unlike those that he shows to be a fundamental component of abolitionist and human rights discourses, or that those acts could be a basic element of slaves' oppositional activities.
In many ways, the effectiveness of his text depends upon the silence of slaves—it is easier to describe the continuity of structures of power when one downplays countervailing forces such as the political activity of the weak.
So Baucom's deep insights into the structural features of Atlantic slave trading and its afterlife come with a cost. Without engagement with the politics of the enslaved, slavery's history serves as an effective charge leveled against modernity and capitalism, but not as an uneven and evolving process of human interaction, and certainly not as a locus of conflict in which the enslaved sometimes won small but important victories.
Specters of the Atlantic is self-consciously a work of theory despite Baucom's prodigious archival research , and social death may be largely unproblematic as a matter of theory, or even law. Rather than eschewing the concept of social death, as might be expected from writing that begins by considering the perspective of the enslaved, these two authors use the idea in penetrating ways.
Both authors seek a deeper understanding of the experience of enslavement and its consequences for the past, present, and future of black life than we generally find in histories of slavery. In Hartman's account especially, slavery is not only an object of study, but also the focus of a personal memoir.
Confronting her own alienation from any story that would yield a knowable genealogy or a comfortable identity, Hartman wrestles with what it means to be a stranger in one's putative motherland, to be denied country, kin, and identity, and to forget one's past—to be an orphan.
Such a judgment is warranted, in Hartman's account, by the implications of social death both for the experience of enslavement and for slavery's afterlife in the present. No less so than had she never belonged to the world. It is the perilous condition of existing in a world in which you have no investments. It is having never resided in a place that you can say is yours. Staying implies transient quarters, a makeshift domicile, a temporary shelter, but no attachment or affiliation.
This sense of not belonging and of being an extraneous element is at the heart of slavery. Like Baucom, Hartman sees the history of slavery as a constituent part of a tragic present. Atlantic slavery continues to be manifested in black people's skewed life chances, poor education and health, and high rates of incarceration, poverty, and premature death.
Disregarding the commonplace temporalities of professional historians, whose literary conventions are generally predicated on a formal distinction between past, present, and future, Hartman addresses slavery as a problem that spans all three.
This is because for all of her evident erudition, her scholarship is harnessed not so much to a performance of mastery over the facts of what happened, which might substitute precision for understanding, as to an act of mourning, even yearning. She writes with a depth of introspection and personal anguish that is transgressive of professional boundaries but absolutely appropriate to the task.
Reading Hartman, one wonders how a historian could ever write dispassionately about slavery without feeling complicit and ashamed.
For dispassionate accounting—exemplified by the ledgers of slave traders—has been a great weapon of the powerful, an episteme that made the grossest violations of personhood acceptable, even necessary.
This is the kind of bookkeeping that bore fruit upon the Zong. Death was simply part of the workings of the trade. Like them, she is concerned with the dead and what they mean to the living.
It is this mournful quality of Lose Your Mother that elevates it above so many histories of slavery, but the same sense of lament seems to require that Hartman overlook small but significant political victories like the one described by Butterworth. Here Hartman is undone by her reliance on Orlando Patterson's totalizing definition of slavery.
And indeed, Hartman's understandable emphasis on the personal damage wrought by slavery encourages her to disavow two generations of social history that have demonstrated slaves' remarkable capacity to forge fragile communities, preserve cultural inheritance, and resist the predations of slaveholders.
This in turn precludes her from describing the ways that violence, dislocation, and death actually generate culture, politics, and consequential action by the enslaved. As Hartman notes, the event would have been unremarkable had not Captain Kimber been tried for murder on the testimony of the ship's surgeon, a brief transcript of the trial been published, and the woman's death been offered up as allegory by the abolitionist William Wilberforce and the graphic satirist Isaac Cruikshank.
Imagining the experience as her own and wistfully representing her demise as a suicide—a final act of agency—Hartman hopes, by this bold device, to save the girl from oblivion. Or perhaps her hope is to prove the impossibility of ever doing so, because by failing, she concedes that the girl cannot be put to rest. It is a compelling move, but there is something missing. Hartman discerns a convincing subject position for all of the participants in the events surrounding the death of the girl, except for the other slaves who watched the woman die and carried the memory with them to the Americas, presumably to tell others, plausibly even survivors of the Hudibras , who must have drawn from such stories a basic perspective on the history of the Atlantic world.
They held back from the girl, steering clear of her bad luck, pestilence, and recklessness. Some said she had lost her mind. What could they do, anyway? The women danced and sang as she lay dying.
Hartman ends her odyssey among the Gwolu, descendants of peoples who fled the slave raids and who, as communities of refugees, shared her sense of dispossession. Saltwater Slavery has much in common with Lose Your Mother. Both books work with the concept of social death.
Like Hartman, Smallwood sees social death as a by-product of commodification. Whereas for Hartman, as for others, social death is an accomplished state of being, Smallwood veers between a notion of social death as an actual condition produced by violent dislocation and social death as a compelling threat.
On the one hand, she argues, captivity on the Atlantic littoral was a social death. If social death did not define the slaves' condition, it did frame their vision of apocalypse. In a harrowing chapter on the meaning of death that is, physical death during the Atlantic passage, Smallwood is clear that the captives could have no frame of reference for the experience aboard the slave ships, but she also shows how desperate they were to make one.
Their view of the danger that confronted them made their mourning rites vitally important, putting these at the center of the women's emerging lives as slaves—and as a result at the heart of the struggles that would define them. The historians Carter G.
Woodson and W. Du Bois and the anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits argued the opposite. Their research supported the conclusion that while enslaved Africans could not have brought intact social, political, and religious institutions with them to the Americas, they did maintain significant aspects of their cultural backgrounds.
Franklin Frazier, a student of Park's, who emphasized the damage wrought by slavery on black families and folkways. For these scholars, the preservation of distinctive cultural forms has served as an index both of a resilient social personhood, or identity, and of resistance to slavery itself.
Scholars of slave resistance have never had much use for the concept of social death. The cultural continuity and resistance schools of thought come together powerfully in an important book by Walter C. In Rucker's analysis of slave revolts, conspiracies, and daily recalcitrance, African concepts, values, and cultural metaphors play the central role.
Like scholars of resistance before him, Rucker effectively refutes any contention that the enslaved were socially dead. At the same time, his focus on the making of African American culture obscures a crucial dimension of the politics of slavery. In The River Flows On , resistance is the expression of culture, and peoplehood is the outcome of resistance, but Rucker places much less emphasis on the kinds of existential problems highlighted by Hartman and Smallwood.
He does not ignore the violence of slavery, but he invokes bondage and its depredations as the antithesis of black self-making, rather than as a constitutive part of it. Here is where scholars of retention and resistance may yet have something to learn from the concept of social death, viewed properly as a compelling metaphysical threat.
African American history has grown from the kinds of people's histories that emphasize a progressive struggle toward an ultimate victory over the tyranny of the powerful. Consequently, studies that privilege the perspectives of the enslaved depend in some measure on the chronicling of heroic achievement, and historians of slave culture and resistance have recently been accused of romanticizing their subject of study. Nevertheless, some of the criticisms are helpful.