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Hunting and Fishing in the New South

Black Labor and White Leisure after the Civil War

Scott E. Giltner

Publication Year: 2008

This innovative study re-examines the dynamics of race relations in the post–Civil War South from an altogether fresh perspective: field sports. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, wealthy white men from Southern cities and the industrial North traveled to the hunting and fishing lodges of the old Confederacy—escaping from the office to socialize among like-minded peers. These sportsmen depended on local black guides who knew the land and fishing holes and could ensure a successful outing. For whites, the ability to hunt and fish freely and employ black laborers became a conspicuous display of their wealth and social standing. But hunting and fishing had been a way of life for all Southerners—blacks included—since colonial times. After the war, African Americans used their mastery of these sports to enter into market activities normally denied people of color, thereby becoming more economically independent from their white employers. Whites came to view black participation in hunting and fishing as a serious threat to the South’s labor system. Scott E. Giltner shows how African-American freedom developed in this racially tense environment—how blacks' sense of competence and authority flourished in a Jim Crow setting. Giltner’s thorough research using slave narratives, sportsmen’s recollections, records of fish and game clubs, and sporting periodicals offers a unique perspective on the African-American struggle for independence from the end of the Civil War to the 1920s.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science


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p. v

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Introduction: Hunting, Fishing, and Freedom

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pp. 1-9

In 1937, former Alabama slave Heywood Ford recounted to a Works Progress Administration interviewer the escape of a fellow slave named Jake Williams. For Williams, who hated their plantation’s overseer “case he was so mean an’ useta try to think up things to whup us for,” the last straw came one day when the overseer, after seeing him playing with his “ole red-bone houn” dog Belle instead of working...

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1 “You Can’t Starve a Negro”: Hunting and Fishing and African Americans’ Subsistence in the Post-Emancipation South

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pp. 10-44

In December 1900, farmer George Washington Trimble of Augusta County, Virginia, received a letter from a fellow landowner voicing a complaint common among landed Southerners in the decades after the Civil War: the difficulty in keeping and managing African-American farm labor. The letter recounted an incident involving a laborer both men knew, William Carter. Mrs. Bell, a neighbor...

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2 “The Pot-Hunting Son of Ham”: White Sportsmen’s Objections to African Americans’ Hunting and Fishing

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pp. 45-77

Agricultural employers and landowners had allies in their campaign to represent black independence as the biggest problem facing the post-Emancipation South. These other groups, although not tied as directly by economics to the need to circumscribe blacks’ subsistence activities as a way of cultivating labor tractability, nonetheless detested former slaves’ ability to freely exploit the natural environment. Led by the growing ranks of Southern and visiting sportsmen, these...

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3 “The Art of Serving Is with Them Innate”: African Americans and the Work of Southern Hunting and Fishing

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pp. 78-108

White sportsmen had long criticized African Americans’ sporting practices as a threat to wildlife and as flouting the codes and methods guiding “proper” sporting behavior. They believed such conduct symptomatic of general black inferiority, testimony that former slaves ravished the Southern wilderness, and further proof that freedom threatened Southern prosperity. Yet, despite the venom with which sportsmen decried blacks’ hunting and fishing practices, they did not wish...

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4 “With the Due Subordination of Master and Servant Preserved”: Race and Sporting Tourism in the Post-Emancipation South

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pp. 109-136

By 1902, Theodore Roosevelt was America’s best-known sportsman. Cofounder of the world-famous Boone and Crockett Club and a key figure in the rise of the conservation movement, Roosevelt had hunted all over the world. Yet despite his many conquests as big-game hunter, he had yet to land one of the United States’ most famous trophies: the Southern black bear. A living symbol of sporting privilege...

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5 “When He Should Be between the Plow Handles”: Sportsmen, Landowners, Legislators, and the Assault on African Americans’ Hunting and Fishing

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pp. 137-167

By 1915, after half a century of controversy over African Americans’ use—or, as whites saw it, misuse—of Southern wildlife, several key components came into alignment. Landowners, who for decades had broadcast the connection between former slaves’ independent subsistence and the problem of labor intractability,...

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Conclusion: Contradiction and Continuity in the Southern Sporting Field

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pp. 168-175

In October 1911, a group of wealthy Lowcountry denizens gathered in Berkeley County, South Carolina, for a meeting of the St. John’s Hunting Club, an organization founded before the Civil War. Since 1900, the organization had ceased to be a functioning hunting club and had become solely a social club for wealthy South Carolinians. But although the club had abandoned hunting as its central...

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pp. 177-179

Research and writing can be a daunting and isolating experience at times and, for that reason, is never a truly individual endeavor. This study could not have been completed without the intellectual, emotional, and moral support of many fine people, and it is a great pleasure to acknowledge my debts. My deepest appreciation and gratitude goes to my family, friends, and colleagues for their help,...


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pp. 181-214

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Essay on Sources

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pp. 215-222

Research into hunting and fishing in the post-Emancipation South required a great deal of digging through a broad range of sources. This essay provides a brief tour of the most important primary and secondary sources that informed the study. It is not intended as a comprehensive guide, but rather as a focused discussion of the key materials that most aided my work....


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pp. 223-231

E-ISBN-13: 9781421402376
E-ISBN-10: 1421402378
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801890239
Print-ISBN-10: 0801890233

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 7 halftones
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science
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OCLC Number: 794701436
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Hunting and Fishing in the New South

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Hunting guides -- Southern States -- History.
  • African American men -- Southern States -- Social conditions.
  • Southern States -- Race relations.
  • Hunting -- Social aspects -- Southern States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Hunters -- Southern States -- History.
  • Southern States -- History -- 1865-1951.
  • Hunting -- Social aspects -- Southern States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Fishing -- Social aspects -- Southern States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Fishing -- Social aspects -- Southern States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Men, White -- Southern States -- Social conditions.
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