The study of American slavery has undergone hundreds of years of analysis and change. This great stigma is now interpreted as a disgrace on the landscape of American History. This was not always the case.
Although historians have engaged in great deal of scholarly debate over many years, the consensus of this “peculiar institution” has changed. The older argument that slaves were a racially inferior, rootless, but happy group of people has been destroyed. The history of slavery is now seen in a decidedly different light. Although some slaves- no doubt- responded to bondage with docile acquiesce and others with outright violence, most worked out their lives in a tenuous reciprocity with the white people who were dependent upon them, giving and taking as the individual occasions required.
At the same time, back in their quarters, slaves were creating unique blends of African and American customs and values, a new culture which separated and saved them from white society and all the while nurturing a rich family life which provided them with love, affection and emotional security. We have come a very long way, yet we have far to go.
-Jon Bachman, Educational Events Coordinator
*Thanks to the work and insights in James S. Olson’s Slave Life in America: A Historiography and Selected Bibliography, University Press of America, 1983.