Revisiting a Classic: Roll, Jordan, Roll and Hegemony

A spectre continues to haunt the historiography of slavery in the United States – the spectre of Eugene Genovese’s “nettlesome” classic on enslaved people’s culture in the antebellum United States.  That classic is Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made. Over the past decades Genovese’s masterpiece has been subject to a number of different criticisms, but none more common than one I consider to be a vulgar misreading of Genovese’s work. It’s a misinterpretation voiced by Walter Johnson in his 2001 revisiting of the book for the online journal Common Place, and it goes something like this. In trying to understand why…
Read more