9780813914244 / 0813914248

Cultivation and Culture: Labor and the Shaping of Slave Life in the Americas (Carter G. Woodson Institute Series in Black Studies)


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Publisher:University Press of Virginia, 1993



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About the book:

So central was labour in the lives of African-American slaves that it has often been taken for granted, with little attention given to the type of work that slaves did and the circumstances surrounding it. "Cultivation and Culture" brings together essays by leading scholars of slavery - historians, anthropologists and sociologists - to explore when, where and how slaves laboured in growing the New World's great staples and how this work shaped the institution of slavery and the lives of African-American slaves. Selected from a conference on comparative slavery at the University of Maryland that set the agenda for the next decades' research in this field, the essays focus on the inter-relationship between the demands of particular crops, the organisation of labour, the nature of the labour force and the character of agricultural technology. They reveal the full complexity of the institution of chattel bondage in the New World and suggest why and how slavery varied from place to place and time to time. What these scholars show is that although work in the slave owners' fields accounted for most of the slaves' labouring time, slaves also worked for themselves and their independent economic activities had far-reaching consequences. By producing food for themselves and others, tending cash crops, raising livestock, manufacturing finished goods, marketing their own products, consuming and saving the proceeds, and bequeathing property to their descendants, slaves took control of a large part of their lives. In many ways their independent economic endeavours offered a foundation for their domestic and community life, determining the social structure of slave society and providing a material basis for their distinctive culture. In exploring both the work that slaves performed for their owners and the work they did for themselves, "Cultivation and Culture" sheds new light on the origins and development of African-American culture and provides a new understanding of the African-American experience in slavery.

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