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Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas (Harvard Historical Studies) 0th Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674004702
ISBN-10: 0674004701
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Using a variety of sources, Hadden (history, Florida State Univ.) thoroughly analyzes the public regulation of slavery in Virginia and the Carolinas, focusing on slave patrols between 1700 and 1865. Adding new details, the author's in-depth analysis provides an understanding of the daily enforcement of slave laws and an awareness of how Southern police forces were influenced by slavery and white dominance. The book is thematically organized, with chapters addressing topics that range from the formation of the original patrol groups, responses during crises like slave revolts, and the impact of the Civil War on patrols. She concludes that after the Civil War, the oppressive and brutal roles of the slave patrols were absorbed by other Southern institutions, such as police forces and the Ku Klux Klan. Hadden employs lots of primary sources and detailed notes on each chapter in this excellent, long-needed synthesis to supplement works like H.M. Henry's The Police Control of the Slave in South Carolina (1914. o.p.). This is essential reading, with much to offer all scholars interested in American history, slavery, and race relations. Edward G. McCormack, Univ. of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Lib.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

History professor Hadden offers insights into a part of U.S. history that has been little studied, despite the fact that it is an integral fact of that history. Although slave patrols are most associated with the South, they were initiated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by Spanish and English colonists in the Caribbean. Once slavery took substantial root in the American South, local authorities began to adopt patrols as a means of policing slaves. The patrols were coordinated with other militia used to protect white colonists from Indians and other outside threats. With the rise of absentee plantation owners and the growth of towns, authorities used various carrots and sticks from fines to tax abatements. Patrols also changed from voluntary vigilante type groups, sometimes impromptu mobs, to paid civil servants. Whatever their structure, the patrols became part of the violent force used to react to slave revolts, the threat of such revolts, and runaways. Despite the bravado attached to their image, slave patrols were "an unequivocal manifestation of white fear." Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: Harvard Historical Studies (Book 138)
  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (March 26, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674004701
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674004702
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,623,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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I grew up white in the Jim Crow South. I did not understand the violence against blacks and whites alike. My kin and their friends spent more energy and money trying to keep the blacks under, quite often depriving themselves and familes of education, recreation, jobs, etc. I also did not appreciate the manner in which the law intimidated (although I saw it regularly) primarily blacks and sometimes whites. My education was the usual truncated, incomplete set of lies about how my world had come to pass (and the Civil War was still very relevant as was white power indoctrination). Race was a primary consideration in everything, always first having fear of blacks.
Ms. Hadden has laid out how 250-300 years of fear of their own slaves conditioned many generations of whites of all classess to use violence routinely and casually, against blacks and then one another. The beneficent slave owner was a total lie. The story of arms in America and our high murder rates cannot be fully told without reference to the slave patrols and their successors, and into this century where we have a mindless lack of control over a population which has more than one gun for each person. The colossal, monumental political and social, not to mention moral, cowardice and religious collaboration of the South, and the North with an evil system is largely beyond comprehension without works like this one. What do whites today owe blacks? A total respite from their now inbread fears stemming from 300 years of violent, socially approved and state-enforced discriminatory practices, some still blatantly even today. And what are we to make of rates of incarcertationl, particularly black, today, if not an extension of bias and violence from another age.
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Format: Paperback
I am interested in the connection between slave patrols and state militias. I gleaned these quotes from the book for my research. Fascinating (and troubling)!

p. 4 "in the south ... most law enforcement was, by definition, white patrolmen watching, catching, or beating black slaves"

p. 43 "The variegated protections that the colonial militia provided were obvious to Lieutenant Governor Drysale of Virginia [who served as governor 1722-1726], who said that a strong militia could simultaneously appear terrifying to 'Slaves, [and] formidable to the Indians.'".

p. 45 "No observer of musters seems to have been overawed by the military prowess of those involved. Their inability to follow orders, shoot well, or turn out with the required equipment provoked repeated appeals for better discipline. ... Despite their members' sometimes unkempt appearance, however, regular musterings and selections for patrol duty formed a regular pattern of civic duty for eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century males. Interspersed with planting, tending, and harvesting, intermittent calls to militia duty were normal for most Southern white men."

p. 46 "Although militia companies experienced a decline ... in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, their gradual weakening did not signal the demise of slave patrols. On the contrary ... patrols continued to be active even as militias appeared to atrophy."

p. 67 "The militia is a safe national guard, essentially anti-monarchical and republican in its character. The institution of slavery requires that we should keep up the patrol, and it is intimately connected with and based upon the militia system."
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Format: Paperback
This is a scholarly book, that is to say, there are many details that, as a casual reader, I skimmed. However, there is also very, very much that is fascinating and important. This book strongly reinforces the knowledge that slavery could only be maintained by a police state. Every nook and cranny of the Confederacy had organized, government sanctioned, viciously violent patrols out of sheer necessity, or else the white people wouldnt have been able to sleep at night. (How they could sleep at night, considering what their wealth depended on, is beyond me.)

I have read elsewhere that the Second Amendment "right to bear arms" and "well-regulated militias" were actually sops to the Southern states, allowing them to keep their slave patrols in return for joining the United States. After reading this book, my personal thought (not addressed by the author) is that the violent nature of modern America is rooted in the violence used to maintain slavery. I'm sure this isn't an original idea (after writing this, I saw that another reviewer also refers to this), but I'm certainly convinced now.

Every book I've read about American chattel slavery has opened my eyes to a greater understanding of our national history, and of why the Confederate states today are what they are politically. This book was well worth the read; if you find yourself getting bogged down occasionally in statistics or details, I suggest you just skim those sections and move on. There is much of interest here.

It's vitally important that we all try to educate ourselves about the history that our school history books ignored. It's astonishing that the Confederacy is still a voting block, 150 years after the end of one of the greatest wars ever fought over human rights.
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