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Slavery in North Carolina, 1748-1775 By Marvin L. Michael Kay and Lorin Lee Cary University ofNorth Carolina Press, 1995 402 pp. Cloth, $45 Reviewed by Timothy J. Lockley, lecturer in early American history at die University of Warwick. Completed at Cambridge University in 1996, his dissertation explores race relations between African Americans and nonslaveholding whites in die Georgia low country between 1750 and 1830. Marvin Kay and Lorin Cary's new book is an important study of die system of slavery in colonial North Carolina. As the authors correcdy point out, most monographs on slavery concentrate on the antebellum period, often focusing exclusively on the last twenty years of southern slavery. This bias in the scholarship frequendy results in historians drawing conclusions about colonial slavery from antebellum evidence. This practice overlooks the peculiarities of colonial slavery, and Kay and Cary have done a great service by reminding us of diat distinctiveness . Their work is even more welcome considering that diere are few studies of colonial slavery that focus so exclusively on the eighteenth rather than the seventeenth century. The basic conclusion ofthis book is that colonial slavery was primarily African in character, in contrast to antebellum slavery, which was largely Creole. The African heritage ofthe first generation ofslaves influenced every aspect ofblack life in colonial North Carolina. Slave naming practices, resistance patterns, religion, family life and marriage rituals were largely based on African approaches. The authors ' knowledge of African customs is impressive and enables diem to offer substantive revisions ofthe work ofearlier scholars. They argue, for example, that many slave names previously thought to have been given to slaves by their owners were in reality Anglicized corruptions of African names. If this concept is correct, then Africans retained more of their individuality in die Americas than previously thought. I stress "if" because, as the audiors themselves acknowledge, there is no way ofbeing certain how many ofthe names now seen as English were in reality African or vice-versa. This scholarship proposes to make us reconsider our viewpoint in this matter—and that is surely a good thing. The most controversial part of Kay and Cary's argument deals with the theme of hegemony, or the ways in which owners exercised control on the plantation. 8 2 Reviews During the 1970s the question ofhegemony on the plantation became a hot topic among American scholars. Eugene Genovese, for instance, described die practices ofpaternalism throughwhich planters sought to acculturate their slaves, and dirough which both masters and slaves laid claim to customary rights and responsibilities . Kay and Cary believe that the idea of paternalism has been overstated for the colonial period. They posit a different relationship between masters and slaves, especially when the slaves were African-born. Instead of bringing slaves into white culture, and establishing control over them by acculturation, colonial owners preferred to marginalize slaves from white society and separate them from white culture. The evidence offered is interesting, especially with regard to religion. The authors note that a majority of planters throughout the colonial South resisted attempts to evangelize their slaves, and that African American Christianity only took off in the years after the American Revolution. Kay and Cary spend considerable time discussing the treatment of slaves by the court system, and their data on the prosecution of slave criminals is informative and extensive. It is surprising, however, that they give comparatively litde attention to the informal economic activities of slaves in North Carolina. Twenty years ago our knowledge of that subject was extremely limited, but work by Philip Morgan, Ira Berlin, and Betty Wood has in the last ten years substantially revised our understanding of slaves' market-related activities. It would have been interesting to see how the African heritage, otherwise so visible in eighteenthcentury slave life, affected die informal economy. Did slaves produce African foodstuffs to trade witii other slaves, were their handicrafts based on African models, and were the marketing strategies they pursued based on African practices ? This sort of inquiry would have enriched Kay and Cary's examination of the colonial slave experience. Kay and Cary note that slaves traded with poor whites and diat slaves and poor whites often worked alongside each other, yet...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 82-84
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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