What kind of greens and how are they cooked?
I really appreciate your point about the West Indies as a stopping off point for some slaves and a destination for others. It struck me as I read both selections, but didn’t pursue it. I really wonder what Equiano felt like to not be chosen at the first stop and amidst the horrific experiences he was enduring if there was a little element similar to when we used to number off in PE class and I was chosen last. I don’t think that anyone wants to be the first picked slave, but when one’s world is turned upside down, to not be purchased meant that he moved on to a place where he knew absolutely no one. I just wonder if not being chosen added to his feelings of isolation.
The map works so much better in Chrome. On my old Mac using Safari, the map and legend are mushed together. I had two computers going to follow along which made the mapping and the live broadcast much easier to follow.
Had a glitch, the attachment didn't upload correctly. I tried again and was successful. Scroll up a bit for the successful upload.
You are forgetting the rivers and waterways for shipping. One important factor is the lack of irrigation in much of the South so farming near a river may not be as important as in other parts of the world. The climate map can also show that necessity. Coming from California, I couldn't imagine enough rain to water crops.
Thomas Jefferson is a study in contrasts. A man who writes about these high ideals in the Declaration of Independence, like "all men are created equal" and also calling for the end to slavery in his original draft of the Declaration. On the other hand, owning slaves and being the typical Southern aristocrat even having children with one of his slaves. I also find it difficult to teach about Jefferson knowing all of his inherent contradictions. But like many other plantation owners he was not willing to suffer the economic consequences of emancipation even though some of his writings called for it. And I also agree he is not the only historical figure to have that dilemma.
Thanks, I will check it out!
I completely agree with your message of Jefferson's inconsistency. Author of the Constitution, owner of slaves. But given the era in which the Founding Fathers were forming this nation, it is a little more understandable, though no more palatable. The quotes that have drawn such admiration over the years - "all men are created equal", " give me liberty or give me death" - by Jefferson and Patrick Henry seem to be somewhat tarnished given the reality of pre and post Revolution in the South. The economic justification of slavery as spelled out by Jefferson would place him in a completely different light today as opposed to during his time. But the same can be said for many from our history books - Columbus comes to mind.
I wanted to read your blog post after you made the comment of duality in the readings on mine. As it turns out, that was my original thought for the theme of my post as well! I think you bring up some really interesting points, my favorite of which is the perfumer. I read that and just glossed over it, but you are completely right. Why would anyone in a colony that is on a razor's edge in terms of survival think that a perfumer is necessary! I also much preferred Morgan's take on the Jamestown colony as opposed to Kupperman's.
Jefferson is always a fascinating subject, because he seems to embody the term "duality". If you study him on a number of topics, this becomes evident. He simply cannot stay within one viewpoint. It is like two people are sharing the same incredible brain. I don't know how the other Founders did not tear their hair out, (Or maybe their wigs apart?) when they were working with him. I do think you are right in that he seems to see the results of slavery "bearing a terrible fruit", but he doesn't have a real solution to the problem, hence his "Wolf by the ears" comment about slavery on multiple occasions.
Vivian, I like your approach to these texts. I think that I use too few maps in my sophomore history class, but I agree that cartography and geography are important to any history lesson. I also believe that field trips are a valuable tool. It sounds like you might take your classes to Jamestown. Might I recommend that you check out Bartram's Gardens in Philadelphia? The home of the Bartram brothers is in great shape, and the docents do a great job of explaining the role of the Bartrams as scientists and businessmen!
I agree with your assessment that students’ understanding is deepened by the connections they make with the feelings of historic characters. The personal narrative of Olaudah Equiano and the details of Richard Randolph’s story similarly display their points of views regarding slavery. Both detest slavery, but approach the topic from different stances: one from personal experience and the other moral conviction. If students can relate on some level to Equiano’s and Randolph’s stories, the information becomes personal knowledge. That knowledge is a structure for greater understanding of deeper thought and critical thinking.
I like the way you highlight the defense of slavery as a reason for the Revolution. The Stamp Act and tea tax get a lot of ink in textbooks, but rarely is slavery raised in this context. At the time of the Declaration, slavery is legal just about everywhere so the Patriots must rationalize. And the rationalization continues through the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia where slavery is enshrined in the Constitution.
And even while many in the North deplore slavery, there are few White people talking about equality. In 1838, Pennsylvania specifically banned Black men from voting, And if you’ve seen Eric Foner’s new book on the Underground Railroad, Gateway to Freedom, the political and economic elite of NY did little to oppose slavery in the decades leading up to the Civil War. And things did not improve much in the North until the New Deal and WW II.
I shared similar thoughts on the fear of economic dependence as part of Jefferson's philosophy in my post and found in your post clarity in the differentiation of thought processes. The contradictory nature of Jefferson’s personal and political life is something I find fascinating and you do an excellent job of analyzing the timeline from its economic roots. In conjunction with his views on slavery, I find Jefferson’s inconsistency in his trust of the people hard to justify. During his presidency and vice-presidency, he chastises men like Adams and Hamilton for not putting enough trust in the people. I find this ironic, as he never had to grow up in a Northern society such as Adams or Hamilton where they had exposure to a lower class of people who constantly threatened rebellion (at least in their eyes). It at least justifies Jefferson’s overextended idealism, but does not excuse his hypocrisy in my eyes.
I agree that the Bartram accounts seem too good to be true. The ease at which he travels through the mountain wilderness is doubtful, but it is true that the New World was rich in unspoiled resources as hinted by Morgan. Morgan states one of the reasons the Indians did not chase the English out of Jamestown, is because the English did not drain the vital resources of the Indians (Morgan p. 75). After some thoughts I concluded that Bartram's constant references to Greek mythology may be hinting at the fact that America was a new democracy (an idea that originated in Ancient Greece). Not only can one person thrive in this New World because of its resources; but a person’s ideas and beliefs can flourish in America as well.
I like Lindsay's response to your essay, Kate, and would like to add a couple things. Jefferson and Sally and the Enlightenment ideas of "life, liberty, ..." cause great confusion for my sophomores and for me. He is so good at recognizing the evils of slavery ("I tremble for my country ..."), yet he does nothing.
I use Howard Zinn's People's History as my text, so the choice of "comfort over integrity ..." is clear to my students. What I found particularly interesting, though, is Morgan's explanation of Virginia's, and ultimately the US's, "conversion" to slavery (297-315).
I agree with you that Jefferson is guilty of being a man born in his time. We often think he should have been better because of what he represented. But I think he was more progressive in that he was quoted as saying that his first memory was being carried on a pillow by his families slave, but think deep down he knew it was more wrong than most southerners. He represented children of slaves pro bono when they were attempting emancipation. He even tried to pass a bill that would eliminate slavery in any new state. Most of this is overlooked.
We tend to worship our American heroes without question. We overlook their flaws and accept pop culture poetic tales as reality, such as Paul Revere. With Jefferson his contributions to the nation were enormous. But his one glaring flaw is difficult for many to overlook. I feel we need to embrace all aspects of our historical figures. Their achievements and their flaws are both worth studying to aid us in historical analysis. I very much appreciated your take that Jefferson was very much a product of his time.
My post emphasized the same irony/disconnect/hypocrisy in the colonial South. One of the realizations that my students are always intrigued by are the Revolutionary cries of freedom and liberty in a country that practiced actual slavery, as opposed to the figurative slavery that many of the "Founding Fathers" espoused in the buildup toward war with Great Britain. Although Jefferson is far from alone in his attitudes toward slavery and liberty, the Equiano and Jefferson readings do offer a stark contrast of the colonial South.
I think that you make a good point that the society created was in many was a copy of English society at the time. While England did not have large plantations worked by slaves, they were not shy to use the labor of their tenants in a similar fashion. Especially those who held estates in Ireland and Scotland, where the enclosure movement during the 16th century had reduced the peasants to a dependent state, could easily adapt those practices to a new situation. Justifications of the system even echo one another, with some of the slave owners’ arguments of protection and care for “their people” echoing the rhetoric of noblesse oblige in England. The English measure of success was inherently unequal, so it is not surprising that their new system was as well.
Thank you for your post about Thomas Jefferson. The same thoughts ran through my head as I was reading these documents. Teaching middle school students, we are often driven towards using the school wide text. These texts are at the students reading levels so we are encouraged to use them by administrators. I have been implementing more and more primary documents into my curriculum recently. This is to get the students to dig deeper in their thinking as well as learning about history through a different lens. The documents have not been easy and a lot of annotations need to be made. But it has been worth it. These primary documents have allowed students to raise questions instead of just reading facts from the text. I know that when I teach U.S. History next year, I will sure be using Notes on the State of Virginia.
Dear Michael, Thank you for making the time and effort to read my post. I share your belief that the perpetual bondage and replacement labor from offspring hit a tipping point as the health of the colony improved, and from that point on there was no turning back. Again, thank you.
I too found the first assignment very intimidating! I spent days on it and still feel like I missed the mark. I would have liked to read everyone elses thoughts and ideas too...another opportunity to learn.
I wrote about the Thomas Jefferson we learn about in textbooks versus the man we discover in primary sources.
The issue of "doublethink" (your word) and ambiguity over slavery (in both Morgan and Taylor) is the key issue for colonial and revolutionary Virginia. As the colony depended on Natives at first for survival, they came to see slavery as a "necessary evil" that in fact produced a good, dealing the the problem of poverty. Taylor makes clear how republican ideals clashed when the Somerset case and then Dunmore pointed to a stark contrast between England and Virginia. This fear of central authority undercutting slavery described by Taylor, becomes a root of states' rights (as you point out). In his "Notes," Jefferson suggests that race was such a wedge that those freed ought to be removed from the country (hence the establishment later of the American Colonization Society and Liberia).
I think that your post is spot on. The reason for African enslavement was driven by economic pressures. As you say “mortality rates went down, however, and the colony turned to the production of tobacco, planters began to recognize the advantages of investing in African slave labor.” In addition to the decrease in mortality rates, one distinct advantage of slavery over indentured servants was that slavers were in perpetual bondage. Indentured servants would eventually earn their freedom while slaves could be owned forever. In addition, subsequent generations would supplement in the initial investment. Not only could you count on the labor of one generation of slaves but also future generations.
I agree with your analysis regarding the unfortunate and obvious hypocrisy of many of the Founding Fathers. I support the premise that, "the Founding fathers such as Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry understood the contradictions of their actions, yet made no attempt to correct these moral wrongs because personal greed drove them more than any claimed morality." I came to a similar conclusion in my essay. Thomas Jefferson wrote about the evils of slavery throughout his life. However, he owned hundreds of slaves and only freed a hand full during his life and upon his death. This contradiction is the definition of hypocrisy. Thomas Jefferson once said that, "having slaves was like holding a wolf by the ears, you didn't like it but you couldn't let go." I guess that was Jefferson's way of rationalizing the practice of slavery. As horrific as slavery was it helped run the country and nobody in power had the courage to abolish it.
I am glad you brought in the additional push toward revolution in Somerset v. Stuart (1772.) I found a citation that explains it a little further from an abolitionist point of view and have added it to my materials to hand out about the revolutionary war next year in class. It adds a great deal to my thought process of why the deep south would have been ready to revolt, as they were generally more closely tied to old England. http://testaae.greenwood.com/doc_print.aspx?fileID=GR3144&chapterID=GR31...
Roxanne, every year this is always a very interesting line of research for my students: the acknowledgement from the founding fathers and their contemporaries of the private concerns about slavery but the public necessity of maintaining the slave system. Your observations on the public versus private debate over slavery and the concerns of “danger” are a good framing of this concern for students to grasp some of the beginning complexities around the relationship of slavery to the founding of our nation. Thomas Jefferson’s “Notes on the State of Virginia” is a great example of this debate and the hypocritical ‘reasoning’ that Jefferson employed to justify slavery. Understanding the political and economic necessity for slavery in the colonies, as according to the privileged white upper class at first, helps students to trace the shift to violent chattel slavery that Jefferson and others worked to justify through racism and the social changes that occurred with this.
I liked reading that you are more aware of creating insightful teaching lessons for students to understand the plight of the Natives and enslaved Africans in Early Jamestown. I too think it is essential to avoid placing the Europeans who first settled in Virginia on a pedestal. Using the primary sources you mentioned, can be of great value when teaching students about Jamestown. I use the DBQproject.com resources as well as many primary sources I've had the pleasure of being introduced to through the Gilder Lehrman Institute. It is truly essential, as you elude to, to focus on all the aspects of our past in relation to America's beginning rather than focusing only on the greatness of the few who first came to America. I guess, "The Good the Bad and the Ugly," must be addressed.
Resilience! Yes, resilience is the word I emphasize whether I am teaching slavery, segregation, or Civil Rights movement. I learned last summer during a workshop on slavery that it is not uncommon for African American students to feel uncomfortable discussing it, as if somehow the topic makes them feel something less than proud. When I heard this from the presenter, I immediately had a flashback of a student two years back. She was the one of two African American student in class. She was hunched over with eyes down on her desk. I did not even realize that image was stored in my mind all that time. I don't know what she was feeling but it made me reflect about my teaching and how I should approach the topics. I think it is absolutely necessary for teachers to emphasize the strength, perseverance, and the resilience of African Americans when we discuss these topics.
Your essay could be a great way to introduce the hypocrisy of slavery in terms of religion. The quote from the Bible opens up a great discussion about slaves as property and the fact that most owners gave no thought about breaking up families. With the use of Equiano's words of never seeing one's relations again in combination with the view that many in the South had that slaves were commodities, these contradictory beliefs of the time can be examined. Since most slave owners claimed to be Christians, their role as slave owners is even more heartbreaking.
Your analysis captured the avarice and hypocrisy of Virginia planters. Jefferson is so complex because some of his words are ahead of his time and some perfectly reflect his time. We want Jefferson to be like Robert Carter, but he falls short. Your “founding father’s approached the concepts of slavery and liberty” statement reminded me of what historian Philip Morgan said in a GLI Seminar at Johns Hopkins. I am paraphrasing him here, but he said that as white looks brighter against black, the founders' view of liberty looked brighter against the backdrop of the institute of slavery.
Again, I love your analysis…Great essay Ian!!!
I am with you 100%! I managed to pare down the number of words for the essay and got it uploaded and was lost about what to do for the blog thinking it's a response to the essays. Your blog made me feel a little better. Although I'm not even sure I'm blogging (is blogging even a word?)in the right place! I guess we'll all figure it out soon enough.
Jefferson has benefited form the Great Man Theory in the American history books. Just about any student can tell you how Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, his views on the yeoman farmer or how great a scientist he was. However, as pointed out in the article that appeared in the Smithsonian Magazine the “Darker Side of Jefferson” in October 2012 all men are more complex and flawed than history books often teach. He not only owned slaves and profited from their labor (his nail foundry was one of the most profitable aspects of his plantation), but he also profited from selling his slaves to other plantations and counseled others in the profitability of the slave trade. While there is no doubt he did great things he also maintained and benefited from the institution of slavery.
I read both Kupperman’s and Morgan’s accounts with interest. Morgan’s was the one I’m most familiar with, and I tend to give it some credence. Didn’t John Smith (who maybe wasn’t always as truthful and unbiased as he ought to have been) write about the trouble he had getting men to work? However, I can see Kupperman’s point, too: being the first, Jamestown was bound to have some failures before they had successes. I suspect the truth lies somewhere between them. Even with a blueprint, Plimoth struggled. There’s probably no way to get it right the first time. People bring their shortcomings, prejudices, and fears with them wherever they go. Stress and hardship bring out the worst in everyone regardless of their social status. Does time help? It’s been 407 years since Jamestown, and we still haven’t gotten race relations right. God help the Martians if we ever get there.
In your essay you identify a critical aspect of studying history, the untangling of myth from remembrance. You note that both Bartram and Jefferson engage in romantic interpretation of certain aspects of the southern region. I found, as you did, that Kupperman offers an excellent deconstruction of this type of remembrance by dispelling several myths in her introduction. I can see several commonly-held dichotomies emerge throughout these readings (such as the North-South dichotomy of Jefferson, and the Jamestown-Plymouth dichotomy in modern interpretations of the colonial era). I am looking forward to more readings similar to Kupperman that directly acknowledge and reexamine these myths.
I enjoyed your analysis on the science and morality of early Jamestown. Tobacco became a lucrative business for the early settlers of that region. The justification for the use of African slaves and your argument that slaves came to adjust to their surrounding, but had to give up their freedom in exchange for shelter is an interesting debate. These types of arguments would be valuable in a classroom discussion. One could also use this example when covering slavery and womens' rights along with the Declaration of Independence. Though women came to America with more freedoms than that of women in Europe, African slaves had to endure decades of racial discrimination. Thanks for your analysis.
Emily, I agree with you that the development of slavery in America is a challenging topic for students to grasp. I think one of your most important observations was that being torn from their homeland and away from their families resulted in many slaves giving up instead of fighting. The perceptions of a student living in the 21st century trying to comprehend the mindset of those who lived hundreds of years before is difficult. My students have so many labor saving devices and are so used to the ease with which we can acquire more food and sundries, the struggles and privations the Jamestown settlers endured is almost incomprehensible. Jefferson is one of the most morally complex American presidents to present. His soaring words promoting liberty stand in stark contrast to his casual racism and the profound inequity of his life and those of his slaves.
I enjoyed reading your response. I agree that in some writings racism is subtle, and in others it is overt. I had always known Jefferson as a figure who hoped slavery would end over time but was also himself racist. I had not, however, ever read the particular excerpt provided this week that portrays in such vivid detail his racial views. You accurately point out the irony in the fact that those who see themselves as superior are unable to provide for themselves without subjugating those who are able to do the manual labor. As Jefferson explains, he is one of God's chosen people, because he is an agrarian farmer. But indeed, he is not the one doing the farming at Monticello.
Michael, I like your phrase "authentic understanding of US history" in relation to the student's perception of the Founding Fathers. We have been guilty of mythologizing the men and women who helped start our country. As an elementary teacher, I have been occasionally guilty of that myself. I think your idea of presenting a more rounded perspective to students is valuable. People and events are more complex than our histories sometimes reveal. When I taught junior high school students, some of our best discussions revolved around the juxtaposition of America’s defenders of liberty who, nonetheless, also owned slaves. The justifications Jefferson offers as to why slavery exists and the purported differences in the intellectual capacities between whites and other races never ceases to amaze!
I appreciate your analysis that the South has a complex history. As I read from Beltram, I too felt captivated at the beauty, bounty, and serenity of the place. I also like how you point out that the story of Jamestown has usually been told from one point of view, mostly attending to the miseries of slavery. I appreciate that you noted that although slavery had a great deal to do with the success of the colony, there were other seeds planted there as well- those that became part of the roots of democracy. There certainly is a complex story to tell.
The relationships between all parties: colonists, Indian, and slaves are vital as are their differing relations with the land. I agree that the readings you cited are accessible and would encourage an inquiry into these dynamics – especially the economic ones. I always find it ironic that the colonists seem unable to grow corn to survive but settled on tobacco, a non-edible plant. One of the concepts that we have our 5th graders wrestle with is that of interdependence which hits some of your economic focus for our younger learners. Another concept that we explore is that of organization which I thought also popped out in these readings as well. Once those colonists figured out how to organize, everything just took off. It's one of those messages that seems to work for students in their own lives at that age and for colonists!
I was also struck by Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia and wonder how to better deal with the issue of the "real" founding fathers with my students. It seems like it's not enough to say "it's complicated" and yet it is. Yes, there was economic motivation and historical momentum. And there was also the notion of gradual emancipation when it came to ending slavery, so Jefferson in the context of his time may have been seen as an perceived himself as progressive for simply desiring an eventual end to slavery. There was "scientific" justification of racism that amounts today to what we consider at best a hypocritical and willful blindness. And yet...I think we can and should still appreciate Jefferson. We look at Kennedy both positively and negatively (Excellent work with the Cuban Missile Crisis but what about those extramarital affairs?) We look at Nixon positively and negatively (He opened up China and started the EPA, but had to resign due to corruption). Why not the Founding Fathers as well? But first, they have to be disentangled from the idealized, morally pure, deified characters we would prefer.
I like your pairing of Kupperman and Jefferson. In our 8th grade Social Studies course we contrast Jamestown and Plymouth- not favoring one over the other, but presenting each as a "creation story from hell" that was motivated by one or the other of two key American themes. Those themes are economic opportunity which drove the long term investment in and settlement of Jamestown and the desire for freedom which led the Pilgrims to head for the northern parts of Virginia. We also emphasize what Kupperman does, that America was built by trial and error through the interactions and conflicts between Europeans, Africans, and Natives that Jefferson seems to struggle to categorize fairly in his Notes on the State of Virginia. However, we challenge Kupperman's thesis that the Jamestown model became that for all future successful colonies. We see Jamestown being the model for the American South, and Plymouth being the model for New England and what becomes the American North. From our Connecticut Western Reserve vantage point here in Northeast Ohio I suppose that's biased, but it is consistent with the state curriculum that we are directed to teach as engagingly as we can.
I can appreciate you comments here. As a teacher of American Literature, Equiano's text is very significant. However, he begins this excerpt from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano with the words, "My father, besides many slaves, had a numerous family, of which seven lived to grow up. . . ." So in writing about American slavery, we learn that his own family in Africa were slave owners there. This also leaves students "astounded" as you said. Anyone have ideas on how to better approach Equiano's text?
Creation Story From Hell
I really agree with your questioning for student understanding. They need to grasp the true beginning of colonial America (Jamestown), not what we want it to be (Plymouth). I think students and many teachers fall into the trap of going with the general consensus when the truth is left out. Your other point about Jefferson being someone who we hold very high in esteem (all men created equal) is also a person who allowed the enslavement of others. Students are told so many times about how many great things these Founding Fathers did, when in reality they also allowed and did some very bad things. Seeing this hypocrisy for students would be a beneficial lesson that not everyone is perfect, including the Founding Fathers. Overall I thought your essay was very clear and the objective using these documents would really help foster student learning.
I very much enjoyed reading your post. I totally agree with the argument that historians have created myths regarding our nation’s founding. Kupperman and Jefferson’s writings really would work well together in the classroom in terms of highlighting the conflicting ideals that grew our country. Some of the writing in Jefferson’s piece was so very disturbing (i.e., when he compares and contrasts the qualities of whites and blacks (Ayers and Mittendorf, 15-16), and students would benefit from confronting these realities. When I teach about George Washington, my students are always shocked to learn that he owned slaves. Jefferson’s engagement in the less agreeable aspects of colonial society definitely poses some important ethical and social questions for students to ponder and discuss.
I remember many years ago reading an introduction to a book of folk tales. The idea that struck me was “…our stories become us and we become our stories…” Jefferson told his story of the founding and of his home state of Virginia in what he believed to be its best and true light. He explained the institution of slavery again as he believed it truly was.
Throughout history, individual and cultures have told their stories. In reading history, we need to hear these stories in terms of the perspective of the people and their times. We may disagree vehemently; we may point out all the chinks in the armor; but first we need to listen. This is a skill we need to teach our students and one we need to remember ourselves. It is necessary for the study of the past; it is necessary in our national life today. And like Jefferson’s Declaration, it is easier said than accomplished.
I have used parts of the Equiano piece in my high school classroom before because I think it gives a deep understanding and perspective of what it was like for a person being forced into slavery. I, too, find that it is difficult to find resources that really show the depth of despair and heartache slaves felt being captured and forced into slavery. I also find it interesting for students to use Equiano’s words to explore point of view, and to examine the impact slaves had on the economy of the south.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this important topic.
Kathleen, like you, I find Mr. Jefferson to be the most confounding of our founding fathers. The ideological contradictions of the 18th century in America are given a eloquent voice by Jefferson. In Notes on the State of Virginia it is apparent that Jefferson’s is conflicted, and we can point out many contradictions in the short excerpt we read for our class. It seems impossible that Jefferson looked at the world the way he did. Like you say, it seems ludicrous. But our reading complicated it even further for me. One of the most insightful passages we read from American Slavery, American Freedom showed the enlightenment idols of Jefferson like John Locke, James Burgh, and Andrew Fletcher advocated something close to slavery for poor people. After reading that section of American Slavery, American Freedom Jefferson and American Freedom during the founding era became even more complicated for me.
LOVE IT LOIS!
Please do send me the lesson. That will be perfect to use with students. I am sure the imagery invoked by the dog is powerful with students. My dog is Baxter by the way.