Perhaps the most common forms of resistance were those that took place in the work environment. If they have not already done so, students will usually recognize that running away was the most common way of overtly rejecting slavery. Or, did they really believe that they could be the exception and overthrow white supremacy?
After all, slavery was ultimately about coerced labor, and the enslaved struggled daily to define the terms of their work.
Aptheker, who never held a permanent academic position in the United States, was rejected by many as a radical communist. These customs dictated work routines, distribution of rations, general rules of comportment, and so on.
Before his case could be heard, a group of black citizens invaded the court room and stole Minkins to freedom in Canada, where he helped establish a community for runaway slaves in Montreal. He was a National Humanities Center Fellow in — These everyday forms of resistance vexed slave masters, but there was little they could do to stop them without risking more widespread breaks in production.
For those who remained enslaved, resistance took on more familiar everyday forms. These questions also begin to point students toward the psychology of enslavement, an important and often neglected aspect of the institution and responses to it. Between andat least nine slave revolts erupted in what would eventually become the United States.
Did the master have to prohibit a particular cultural form in order for its practice to be considered resistant?
Slaves pilfered fruits, vegetables, livestock, tobacco, liquor, and money from their masters. The formation of families defied notions of property, sometimes making it difficult for masters to sell husbands, wives, and children, who vehemently protested separation from their loved ones.
Finally, as one last consideration of everyday forms of resistance, you might ask your students whether cultural forms like the speaking of African languages, the formation of families, or the practice of religion constituted resistance to slavery.
The most spectacular, and perhaps best-known, forms of resistance were organized, armed rebellions. For this majority of slaves, resistance took a variety of forms. Elkins did not argue that slaves were naturally this way; rather, he argued that the institution of slavery transformed their personalities in much the same way as occurred among prisoners in Nazi concentration camps.
Or were they cleverly manipulating the contradictions inherent to the institution? Some slave masters recognized the potential dangers in these cultural expressions and attempted to curb their practices.
If organized physical violence was not the solution for most slaves, then how did the majority find ways to address their condition? Rucker, The River Flows On: In this way, the enslaved often negotiated the basic terms of their daily routines. Other rebels were gibbeted alive, burned alive, or broken on the wheel.
These are important questions to consider.Freedom’s Story is made possible by a grant from the Wachovia Foundation. Freedom’s Story Advisors and Staff Slave Resistance. James H. Sweet. Exploring the French Revolution with 12 Topical Essays, Images, Text Documents, 13 Songs, a Timeline, and a Glossary.Download