For my piece on tragedy and the Civil War (or rather lack thereof) I'm going back over Edmund S. Morgan's classic American Slavery, American Freedom. The book basically demonstrates how the slave society, and systemic white supremacy, was pioneered in Virginia.
In an act that created perhaps the most invidious distinction between them, the assembly protected the property of servants while confiscating what belonged to slaves. During the seventeenth century it had been common for masters to give a cow or a pig to a favored slave or to allow slave to acquire such property by extra efforts of their own.But in 1705,in the same act that authorized the dismemberment of unruly slaves, the assembly provided that servants were to have the sole use, benefit and propriety of any property they owned or that came into their possession by gift or any other lawful means, but that "all horses, cattle and hogs, now belonging, or that hereafter shall belong to any slave, or of any slaves mark...shall be seized and sold by the church-wardens of the parish...and the profit therof applied to the use of the poor of the said parish."Thus even the small property previously allowed to slaves who had the excess energy and industry to work for it was handed over to poor whites--a highly effective device for dissociating the two.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.