Culture, Struggle, and Contradiction: A Black Majority in Colonial South Carolina

Over the past several decades one of the main themes in the history of American slavery has been that of contradiction.  Social and cultural historians have skillfully laid bare the institution’s tensions, and have exposed its paradoxes.  How could slaveowners declare slaves powerless while simultaneously depending on slaves’ labor? Or how could slaveowners deny slaves’ humanity while simultaneously recognizing the danger posed by slaves’ agency?  Before such questions became widespread among American historians, they served as the centerpiece of Peter Wood’s 1972 doctoral dissertation.  In his groundbreaking Black Majority[1] Peter Wood argued that race-based chattel slavery was not inevitable, but…
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