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The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South Revised, Enlarg Edition

27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195025637
ISBN-10: 0195025636
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Editorial Reviews


"Has excellent chapters to use regarding slave culture and community... Goes a long way in building a base in understanding the uniqueness of the Black experience in America."--Russell Wigginton, University of Illinois

"This is probably the best introduction to American slavery available, perfectly suited to undergraduates, and indispensable to anyone interested in the subject."--Joseph Urgo, Bryant College

"Students find the material very helpful in focusing on the differences between the cultural life of the slave labor system and that of the northern labor system, as ably presented in Sean Wilentz's Chants Democratic."--Wayne Cutler, University of Tennessee

"My students always find this a fascinating introduction to the institution of slavery in the U.S. It spurs much discussion."--Nemata Blyden, University of Texas, Dallas

"Excellent."--Katherine Barber Fromm, Iowa State University

"An excellent and thorough study. The most useful volume available as a college text giving a 'black perspective' on the slave experience."--Robert F. Engs, University of Pennsylvania

"It is doubly welcome, both for its intrinsic worth in describing slavery as it must have been for those inside and for its meaning and scholarship....A book all American historians could read with profit."--The Journal of American History

About the Author

John W. Blassingame is at Yale University.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Revised, Enlarg edition (November 1, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195025636
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195025637
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.8 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By mwreview on January 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
I read this book for my history of American slavery class and I really enjoyed it. It is one of the books I did not sell back to the college when the semester ended. Blassingame focuses on the slave culture and uses such sources as folk songs, fugitive wanted posters, slave interviews and correspondence, diaries, and memoirs (from slaves and slave holders) to bring insight on life on the plantation. The author offers an extensive, well-organized bibliography which, alone, makes this book valuable.
The chapters cover the topics of enslavement and acculturation, the Americanization of the slave and the Africanization of the South, slave culture, family, rebels and runaways, stereotypes and institutional roles (i.e. the "Sambo" role), plantation realities, and slave personality types. This work also includes appendixes on such subjects as African words, numerals, and sentences used by former slaves, and a comparative examination of total institutions. The book is well-written and also offers numerous illustrations.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Terance R. Johnson on April 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
Blassingame succeeds in sheding light on the real-life culture of the black slave in the Antebellum South: his African heritage, culture, family, acculturation, behavior, religion, and personality. Rather than concentrating solely on the planter - the traditional way of approaching the subject - Blassingame attempts to clarify and distill the essence of slave life through the filter of three eyewitness accounts. Two of them, the planter and the slave, give an insider's view of the plantation while the third witness, the traveler, views the relation between slave and master from the perspective of an outsider. Blassingame then utilizes the raw material of these personal observations to construct a detailed account of the day-to-day life of a slave - providing the reader with an insightful glimpse into the Negro's African heritage, the development of an Americanized culture, the formation of families, acculturation and behavior patterns when not under white supervision, religious preferences and beliefs, and personality traits.

The author makes the assertion that there were several types of slave personalities. Sambo - the submissive half-man, half-child - is the most well-known but was mostly a stereotypical manifestation of planter class racism and insecurity. Yet this caricature is the clearest portrait the southern planter has drawn of the slave, according to Blassingame. Sambo was actually but one of many variations, and was not even the most dominant slave personality. "Such stereotypes," asserts Blassingame, "are so intimately related to the planters' projections, desires, and biases that they tell us little about slave behavior and even less about the slaves' inner life, his thoughts, actions, self-concepts, or personality.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Gunia VINE VOICE on February 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
A historical analysis of an institution is always a difficult thing to write. Extensive works must be read and analyzed, both primary and secondary in order to find trends within similar institutions. Furthermore, the longer the institution was in existance, the more documentation exists that must be sifted over in an effort to see how the institution has evolved over time.
With the difficulty of the task in mind, John Blassingame has done an excellent presenting his research in "The Slave Community." He successfully has used primary accounts of plantation owners, slaves and visitors of the Antebellum South to illustrate how plantation life really was. I use the term, "illustrate" as opposed to "paint a picture" because it more accurately describes what Blassingame has done in his book. He is straight forward in his approach. His attitude is "this is how it is. Here is how I know."
But more than explain how plantation life was for the slave, he shows how African-American culture assimilated to general European-American culture over the generations. He also makes extensive use of other social science disciplines including anthropology and psychology (especially when examining how plantation owners maintained order on their farms and how the slaves resisted the plantation owners). Furthermore, I admire how Blassingame has respect for his reader. In his forward style, he resists the temptation to moralize about the condition of the slaves and/or the barbarity of the whites. Instead, he has respect enough for his reader to let him make up his own mind about the various aspects of the "peculiar institution." After reading this book, I have a hard time picturing anyone attempting to support the plantation owners.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Cannon on January 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
Blassingame wrote this book in the face of the insurmountable problem that a community can only be fully understood through tapping the thoughts and feelings of its members. Since slaves thoughts and feelings were so seldom recorded, the book tends to be based mostly on observations by whites. Nevertheless, even in observations of how slaves behaved, there is much that is not well understood. As a result, Blassingame devotes a lengthy section of the book trying to determine the degree of basis in fact of the stereotypical image of slave as demure and subservient. Ultimately Blassingame uses the example of Nazi-operated concentrated camps in World War II to reason through analogy to try to arrive at some kind of definitive conclusion.
This portion is not the bulk of the text, but there are several other points of discussion in the book that seem equally inconclusive in this same way. Nevertheless, there are also some very enlightening discussions such as the structure of marriage and the family, religion, slave rebellions, and miscegenation.
I found Blassingame's writing style very easy to read, and the material compelling. Despite my belly-aching on the inconclusiveness of many of the points in the Slave Community, I felt that this was a shortcoming imposed by the subject of the book, and not Blassingame's fault per se, and I still think it deserves four stars.
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