Slavery in the Americas


History 165

Spring 2011

Tuesday 2-3, Wednesday 3-4, and Thursday 3-4, and by appointment, in Holland Hall 532 (down the hidden hall toward the windows facing the Library). In general, I'm readily available right after class for as long as needed, and I often read at the Cage between classes.  I welcome interruptions.  Also, I work a fair amount in my office, so you can look for me there. 

Office: x3162 (and my home phone is in the book.  Use it with discretion)

fitz (I try to check my e-mails morning and late afternoon weekdays, and sometimes on weekends too; if you have questions about the readings or assignments, this might be a useful tool. Also, e-mail me promptly if you see a problem with the syllabus or in getting access to the books)

Note: You should check your e-mail daily too. I sometimes send course announcements or reading assignments out this way.

This course provides an overview of historical methods through an examination of slavery, primarily in the New World, using first-hand sources from the era. Among the topics covered will be the transatlantic slave trade, the similarities and contrasts between American and Caribbean slavery, slave resistance, and emancipation. The central topic of this course is an exploration of slavery, what it did to African Americans, and what it did to American society.

In addition, the course aims to provide some basic experience in writing college-level papers. Incoming first-year students frequently need help in this area, so multiple short writing assignments should give students the chance to improve.  Finally, the course is intended to introduce students to the profusion of online resources available in this field, and how to utilize them.

: (any edition will do, as long as you check page assignments individually with me)

Charles Ball, Fifty Years in Chains

Harriet Jacobs [or Linda Brent], Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life. . . .

The Private Mary Chesnut

Ira Berlin, Families and Freedom

Other materials will be distributed in class or online from time to time as assignments.


READING SCHEDULE (this is tentative, it isn't a contract.  I can change dates as needed)


Feb. 7: Introduction to Class


Feb. 9: Lecture: African Society to the Slave Trade

Reading: handouts--to be distributed in class: Selection from Equiano's Narrative


Feb. 11: The Slave Trade, in Africa and the New World

Reading: handouts--Memoirs of Job Ben Solomon; Venture Smith, "Taken From the Guinea Coast as a Child"; Omar ibn Saud, "A Devout Moslem Sold to the Infidels."


Feb. 14: The Business of the Slave Trade

Reading: Hawkins, "An Alliance to Raid for Slaves, 1567"; Journal of the Slave Ship Arthur, 1677; Park, "West Africa in the 1790s"; Hair, African Narratives of Enslavement"; and "Views of

the King of Asante" and "Views of a King at Old Calibar."


Feb. 16: Slavery and Resistance in the West Indies

Reading: King, Steadman, etc., 298-319, 237-239


Feb. 18: Slavery and Law in the New World Colonies

Reading: Runaway Slave Advertisements, to be distributed in class.

Feb. 21: Slavery and Liberty--The American Revolution and the Issue of Human Bondage

Reading: Selections from Jefferson Notes on Virginia, 254-62, 277-279, 508-9, 594-5, 641-2


Feb. 23: Lecture--Comparative Slavery in the Americas 



Feb. 25: Slavery and Society after the Revolution


Reading: Ball, xix-81


Feb. 28: Slavery in the early 1800s

Reading: Ball, 81-161


March 2: Slavery and Society

Reading: Ball, 161-221


March 4: Slavery and Society

Reading: Ball, 221-331


March 7: Upper South Slavery

Reading: Douglass, Chapters 1-9


Mar. 9: Urban Slavery and Freedom

Reading: Douglass, Chapters 10 to end 


Mar. 11: Slavery and Women's Lives

Reading: Jacobs, 1-65 (Introduction to the end of Chapter XIII)


Mar. 14: Slavery and Sexuality

Reading: Jacobs, 65-118 (Chapter XIV to end of XXVIII)


Mar. 16: Life on a Deep South Plantation

Reading: Jacobs, 118 to end (Chapter XIV to end)


Mar. 18: In Class Film—To Be Announced



March 21, 23, 25: Spring Break--


March 28: Insurrections

Reading: Nat Turner's Confession.

Also, handouts from the Virginia and national press about the uprising


March 30: Accommodation and Resistance

Reading: Rawick, the American Slave, assignment to be announced 


Apr. 1: Abolitionism, White and Black

Reading: Handout of Selections from David Walker's Appeal

Selections from Garrison's Liberator,

Liberator II, 

Abolitionism and Women’s Rights, the Grimkes


April 4: The Great Reaction: Proslavery Thought in America

Reading: handout, Finkelman, 54-88

Apr. 6: Lincoln, the North, and Slavery

Reading: Selections from the Lincoln-Douglas Debates

Selections from Lincoln speeches

Apr. 8: Secession and Slavery

Reading: Selection from pro-Secession speeches


Online: Ordinance of Secession from Texas

Online: Ordinance of Secession from Texas and from South Carolina

April 11: One Female Slaveholder and the Outbreak of War

Reading: Mary Chesnut's Diary, 1-85

Apr. 13: One Female Slaveholder and the War

Reading: Mary Chesnut's Diary, 150-218

April 15: Lecture, War, Lincoln, and How Emancipation Happened


April 18: Wartime Liberation: The Family Implicatiosn

Reading: Berlin, 3-55


April 20: Black Soldiers and their Wives

Reading: Berlin, 55-117

April 22 and 25: EASTER BREAK


April 27: Soldiers and Refugees

Reading: Berlin, 119-191


April 29: Soldiers and Refugees

Reading: Berlin, 193-243


May 2: Southerners and the Last Days of Slavery

Reading: Chesnut's Diary, 218-263


May 4: First Freedom

Reading: Emancipation Narratives, and Southern White Views


May 6: Class Discussion—Online Resources and Doing History


May 9: The Black Codes and What Ex-Slaveholders Wanted

Readings to be announced


May 11: African Americans and Radical Reconstruction Reading: Recon


May 13: Class Discussion—No Reading



May 16: Reserve Day

Finals Week, May 23, Monday 2-4: FINAL EXAM

GRADING POLICY: Each paper is worth one sixth of the grade, as is the final exam and the participation portion of the grade. If you are one of those people who absolutely cannot talk in class, come see me.  We can work something out, but this is a seminar, you need to work on this.

PLAGIARISM: My wife is one of the primary authors of the campus plagiarism policy, so I’m obliged to honor it.  Plagiarism is using somebody else’s words, or their exact ideas, without acknowledgement.  Please consult me if an issue comes up.

SPECIAL ACCOMODATIONS: Students who have a certified disability probably already know the procedure for informing professors.  Please tell me early in the semester, with the appropriate documentation, and remind me periodically (especially before exams) that I need to respond to your situation. 

PERSONAL ISSUES: Professors get a lot of excuses from students, but if something is going on in your life that affects your classroom work, you probably should let me know privately.

OTHER NOTES: Attendance is mandatory, as is class participation and keeping up with the reading. Attendance is taken periodically, and unexcused absences (more than three times per semester) can affect the final grade. You are expected to be prepared by doing the reading for the day specified, ready to talk about it intelligently.  This isn't a lecture class; you do most of the talking.

E-mail is an excellent way to ask questions or follow up on issues that you don't want to raise in class, or think of after class. It can help with paper assignments too, when you need clarification. Feel free also to email to the class list, "history-165," if you'd like to do so. Just be polite when you criticize other people's ideas.

Also, check your e-mails regularly, because sometimes I have to communicate to class when something important comes up.

Final note: Most professors suspect themselves of some unusual virtue, and here’s mine: I tend not to mind when people disagree with me, or with one another, because it means you are paying attention.  Just be polite about it, and remember that we are talking about sensitive topics.