Thursday, July 29, 2010

A little more of a review

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’ve been reading the essays in Escott’s North Carolinians in the Era of the Civil War and Reconstruction. A couple of days ago, I finished Barton Myer’s essay on Wild’s December 1863 raid in North Eastern North Carolina - good essay and I really don’t have much to add. Myer does what Brown should have done – he uses the census records to examine a portion of the Confederate force that Wild (and other Federals) were dealing with.

Last night, I finished reading Professor Judkin Browning’s essay entitled “Visions of Freedom and Civilization Opening Before Them: African Americans Search for Autonomy during Military Occupation in North Carolina.” Browning has divided his essay up into different ways that former slaves sought autonomy, like education, enlisting in the Union army, employment, and escape. My difficulty with this essay is that there is no consideration given of the slaves who did not seek autonomy. Yes, there were some slaves who, although given their freedom, choose to remain with their former masters and on their former plantations or farms, still working. I once thought that this was a phenomenon that occurred just in the mountain counties, as I have come across this “choice” from time to time in my research in the area. However, having spent some time reading the slave narratives put together by the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s, I now understand that this “phenomenon” occurred elsewhere.

I seem to have noticed a trend. While it is acceptable to use the slave narratives to back up ideas of mistreatment and abuse, when talking about slaves who never left, or those who left and came back, well, those obviously cannot be credible occurrences or sources. Should not the words of Mary Anderson, a former slave in Wake County, who thought that “slavery was a mighty good thing” be any less credible than those of Jane Arrington, also a former slave in Wake County, who said: “I know slavery wus a bad thing”?

1 comment:

North Carolina Census Numbers said...

Another interesting point is that practically every volume devoted to Reconstruction, whether to North Carolina or the entire South, often times disregards the census records from 1870 and after. (Is this intentional?).

For example, many authors, with much enthusiasm, state that there was a mass exodus of both free blacks and slaves (whether freed or escaped) during the Civil War. Most of the authors don't apply any primary source to support their claims or numbers for the so-called mass exodus theory; I call it a theory because it is just that.

Fact: The African American population in North Carolina experienced a 'boom' from 1870 - 1880. (See assigned link.)

I hope that you and yours are enjoying a peaceful and joyous summer. We all look forward to reading your much anticipated 58th! Kudos!

Respectfully, Matt Parker