"John David Smith's introduction is an absolutely essential companion to the original text, because it illuminates the conditions of life on El Destino and Chemonie in ways that the original editors were incapable of doing. He also shows readers how the papers came to survive and be published, and provides a balanced account of U.B. Phillips' own changing response to the documents of enslaved people's captivity."--Ed Baptist, Cornell University
This re-issue of the classic 1927 documentary edition by historian Ulrich Bonnell Phillips and his doctoral student, James David Glunt, features a new introduction by John David Smith about its publishing history, its editors, and its scholarly value to southern historiography. Originally published by the Missouri Historical Society, it documents the plantation records of George Noble Jones and his two Florida plantations, El Destino and Chemonie, both located near Tallahassee, Florida. Considered one of the most accurate and comprehensive accounts of plantation management ever published, it remains one of the best primary source documents on plantation overseers and management.
Phillips was the leading American slavery historian in the early 20th century; Glunt went on to become a history professor at the University of Florida. “Most of the writings here published are from the pens of men of little schooling,” Phillips and Glunt explain; “. . . these plantation overseers presumably could not have written in better form than they did. And yet the editors have a duty to make the text reasonably easy to read.” Principally covering the middle years of the 19th century, Florida Plantation Records provides a rich array of details essential to understanding slavery and plantation life in Florida—from slave names, ages, and work loads, to medical bills and weather reports, to production records, slave family genealogical information, and post-Civil War tenant agreements.
In addition to defining the historical value of the primary text, Smith’s introduction evaluates the work of the editors within the context of 1920s editorial practice and historiography. Phillips held a proslavery, paternalistic view of African Americans—a bias shared by most leading historians and social scientists of the pre-civil rights era. But as Smith shows, Phillips’ views did not undermine his role as a groundbreaking researcher who held himself and his contemporaries to the highest standards. Renowned for his determination and success in locating and preserving plantation manuscripts, Phillips was among the first historians to base their work on “scientific” methods. His significant publications helped to establish American slavery as a sub-field of southern history. This important volume—still relevant to scholars today—will be welcomed by historians of slavery, African American studies, the Old South, Florida, U.S. economics, and the Reconstruction era, as well as students, teachers, and libraries.