In the first half of this course (units 1-6), we explored three key skills that students of history must develop: source evaluation, perspective taking, and historical empathy. In the unit 7 discussion, we will again use of all three to make an argument about the possibilities for and limits of slave agency (agency is the ability of someone to act on their own behalf). You will then reflect on how incorporating new voices into the historical record can lead us to reconsider what we “know” about the past.
Review the John Green video posted here:
Crash Course: Slavery
In the video you just watched, Green states, “The truth is, sometimes carving out an identity as a human being in a social order that is constantly seeking to dehumanize you, is the most powerful form of resistance. Refusing to become the chattel that their masters believed them to be is what made slavery untenable and the Civil War inevitable, so make no mistake, slaves fought back.”
In other words, violent revolt was not the only form of resistance available to slaves. Nor was it the most common or effective form, as evidenced by many of these excerpts from slave narratives:
Read: Slave Resistance
(Excerpts from the WPA Slave Narratives)
Using the readings and resources provided in Unit 7 as well as the video and primary sources linked above, discuss the forms of resistance that were available to enslaved people in the pre-Civil War United States. In constructing your answer, consider the following:
In what ways did enslaved people resist the authority of their enslavers?
How did some resist the self-definition of “slave”?
What acts and attitudes of invisible subversiveness did enslaved people pursue?
How did they create a separate world on the plantation?
Remember that high-level (A) responses will not just answer each of these questions in turn (like a worksheet). Instead, you should consider your answers to the questions and then synthesize them into an overarching argument. You may combine the answers to some questions in a single paragraph or spread them out.
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