Penn Press at AAIHS 2024

The Enslaved and Their Enslavers

The Enslaved and Their Enslavers

Power, Resistance, and Culture in South Carolina, 1670–1825

by Edward Pearson

  • Hardcover
  • 9781512824384
  • Published: September 2023



In The Enslaved and Their Enslavers, Edward Pearson offers a sweeping history of slavery in South Carolina, from British settlement in 1670 to the dawn of the Civil War. For enslaved peoples, the shape of their daily lives depended primarily on the particular environment in which they lived and worked, and Pearson examines three distinctive settings in the province: the extensive rice and indigo plantations of the coastal plain; the streets, workshops, and wharves of Charleston; and the farms and estates of the upcountry. In doing so, he provides a fine-grained analysis of how enslaved laborers interacted with their enslavers in the workplace and other locations where they encountered one another as plantation agriculture came to dominate the colony.

The Enslaved and Their Enslavers sets this portrait of early South Carolina against broader political events, economic developments, and social trends that also shaped the development of slavery in the region. For example, the outbreak of the American Revolution and the subsequent war against the British in the 1770s and early 1780s as well as the French and Haitian revolutions all had a profound impact on the institution’s development, both in terms of what enslaved people drew from these events and how their enslavers responded to them.

Throughout South Carolina’s long history, enslaved people never accepted their enslavement passively and regularly demonstrated their fundamental opposition to the institution by engaging in acts of resistance, which ranged from vandalism to arson to escape, and, on rare occasions, organizing collectively against their oppression. Their attempts to subvert the institution in which they were held captive not only resulted in slaveowners tightening formal and informal mechanisms of control but also generated new forms of thinking about race and slavery among whites that eventually mutated into pro-slavery ideology and the myth of southern exceptionalism.