[Marxism] Notes on David Brion Davis' review

gregory meyerson gmeyerson at triad.rr.com
Wed Nov 1 16:15:07 MST 2006


I think what you say is false.


white and black servants were not treated by (whom?) property 
owners--some of whom were black as allen shows-- as essentially 
different at this time.  in the caribbean, the irish sent to the 
islands were certainly not treated differently.  in fact, the irish 
were barred from the militia because of their proneness to rebel.  you 
can find this in allen, blackburn or linebaugh/rediker.  africans were 
privileged over the so called "white" irish in this respect.


I taught poetry written by english (not "white") indentured servants 
after bacon (heath anthology) and they clearly did not see those of 
african descent as "essentially different." way too strong a term even 
in 1680s.
On Nov 1, 2006, at 5:45 PM, Austin, Andrew wrote:

> However, the point is that black and white servants were treated
> differently from the beginning because they were perceived as being
> essentially different.  It is true that conditions worsened as chattle
> slavery became institutionalized, but that does not change the fact 
> that
> before that institutionalization, blacks were thought to be
> fundamentally - racially - different from white Englishmen (or any 
> other
> European group that used slaves).  What is overlooked by those who want
> to make slavery an ideology justifying capitalist exploitation is that
> some system must have been in place that guided the selection of 
> slaves.
> As David Eltis argues in "Europeans and the Rise and Fall of African
> Slavery in the America: An Interpretation," The American Historical
> Review 98 (1993), it "is not slavery per se but rather which groups are
> considered eligible for enslavement and why this eligibility changes
> over time."  The question, then, of who could be enslaved and who could
> not operated from the beginning.  Those who were thought to be racially
> inferior we taken as slaves or, if servants, were regarded as inferior
> servants compared to white servants.  The logic of selection, and the
> character of the difference of treatment, Rakesh, shows us that
> prejudicial racial thinking was in place at least during the
> institutionalization of slavery.  This is why racism must be dated
> earlier than you are dating it.
>
> Andrew
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: marxism-bounces at lists.econ.utah.edu
> [mailto:marxism-bounces at lists.econ.utah.edu] On Behalf Of Rakesh
> Bhandari
> Sent: Wednesday, November 01, 2006 4:26 PM
> To: marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu
> Subject: [Marxism] Notes on David Brion Davis' review
>
> Thanks for the paper Andrew. I do look forward to reading it.
>
> To Zinn's statement in which racism seems to have been found
> anachronistically in early 17th Century Chesapeake , I would 
> counterpose
> this passage from John Cheng:
>
> http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-02-03.htm
>
> Although it was permanent servitude, slavery in the 17th century
> Chesapeake was not like slavery as it later developed and in some ways,
> was difficult to distinguish from indentured servitude. In an era where
> few laws defined slavery, slaves enjoyed limited rights including the
> ability to work land for themselves, to own property, including other
> slaves, and to marry. Children of slaves did not inherit their parents'
> bondage. Although it was not generally the case, slaves could earn or
> save enough money to purchase their own freedom. While indentured
> servants worked under temporary, as opposed to permanent, terms of
> service, the life expectancy in the early decades of the Chesapeake
> colonies was so low that almost two-thirds did not survive to the end 
> of
> their contracts. Indentured servants often worked with slaves under the
> same conditions - one reason why there was occasional intermarriage
> between the two groups, European and African.
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