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Cultivating Race

The Expansion of Slavery in Georgia, 1750-1860

Watson W. Jennison

Publication Year: 2012

From the eighteenth century to the eve of the Civil War, Georgia’s racial order shifted from the somewhat fluid conception of race prevalent in the colonial era to the harsher understanding of racial difference prevalent in the antebellum era. In Cultivating Race: The Expansion of Slavery in Georgia, 1750–1860, Watson W. Jennison explores the centrality of race in the development of Georgia, arguing that long-term structural and demographic changes account for this transformation. Jennison traces the rise of rice cultivation and the plantation complex in low country Georgia in the mid-eighteenth century and charts the spread of slavery into the up country in the decades that followed. Cultivating Race examines the “cultivation” of race on two levels: race as a concept and reality that was created, and race as a distinct social order that emerged because of the specifics of crop cultivation. Using a variety of primary documents including newspapers, diaries, correspondence, and plantation records, Jennison offers an in-depth examination of the evolution of racism and racial ideology in the lower South.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Series: New Directions in Southern History


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

For more than a decade, Georgia, as Ray Charles memorably sang, has been “on my mind.” Hardly a day has passed during that time when I did not consider some aspect of the state’s rich history. Indeed, Georgia has been on my mind, in my head, and, occasionally, even in my dreams. In...

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pp. 1-10

Austin Dabney was unique among Georgia’s Revolutionary War heroes. He was black. One of the original settlers of the upcountry, Dabney came to Georgia from North Carolina in the early 1770s. He accompanied a white man named Captain Richard Aycock, reputedly his father, and moved...

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1. From a Common Man's Utopia to a Planter's Paradise, 1732-1776

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pp. 11-40

Georgia’s founders established the colony as a haven for the common man, but within a generation their vision had evaporated. The countryside, once filled with inhospitable swamplands, gradually transformed into income-producing rice plantations. The transition to slavery came...

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2. The Contagion of Liberty, 1776-1804

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pp. 41-88

Americans inaugurated the age of revolutions with their War of Independence in 1776. Patriots were not the only people who sought liberty from tyranny. Slaves took the opportunities provided by the American Revolution to escape from their plantations and seek their freedom. In...

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3. The Trans-Oconee Republic, 1794

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pp. 89-125

The author who penned this poem in late 1790 expressed the resentment felt by many Revolutionary veterans in Georgia who believed that their contributions on behalf of the nation had not been rewarded. The men had received promises of land in return for their service during the...

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4. The State of Muskogee, 1799-1803

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pp. 127-155

The short-lived State of Muskogee, in existence from 1799 to 1803, constituted a threat to the expansion of American plantation slavery. Members of the nation came primarily from the Seminoles in the Mikasuki towns situated along the Apalachee River, but also included a significant...

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5. Borders of Freedom, 1812-1818

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pp. 157-188

John Spaniard escaped from his master in Georgia sometime in early 1812. Carrying “several kinds of clothes” and possessing the ability to speak English, Spanish, and French, Spaniard most likely hoped to remake himself into a freeman.1 To achieve this objective, he did not have...

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6. Making Georgia Black and White, 1818-1838

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pp. 189-224

The defeat of the Seminoles in 1818 brought peace to the southwestern frontier. White Georgians had long claimed the territory as their own, and now they could finally begin settling the area. Indians, however, remained on the lands white Georgians had long coveted. Although...

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7. The Democratization of Slavery, 1820-1860

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pp. 225-276

In the wake of the removal of the Creek and Cherokee Indians from Georgia, plantation slavery quickly spread throughout the interior of the state. In short order, cotton plantations emerged from the forests where Indian warriors had hunted for game not long before. The slave society that...

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8. Rewriting Georgia's Racial Past, 1850s

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pp. 277-320

By the 1850s, Georgia had become a black and white society. The state’s population had changed dramatically from its colonial beginnings. New arrivals to Georgia between 1820 and 1840 had become an important constituency and had shifted the balance of political power in the state...


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pp. 321-402

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 403-416


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pp. 417-428

E-ISBN-13: 9780813134468
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813134260

Page Count: 448
Illustrations: 5 b&w photos, 8 maps
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: New Directions in Southern History