In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

280CIVIL WAR HISTORY In My Father's House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina. By Orville Vernon Burton. (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1985. Pp. xxi, 480. $29.95.) This handsomely produced book analyzes household and family structure in one large South Carolina county during the middle and late nineteenthcentury . Burton, a native of the Edgefield region, sees his as "one of the most historically significant local communities in America" (p. xviii). He hopes that a close study of Edgefield will reveal much about the South, confirming Eudora Welty's observation that "one place comprehended can make us understand other places better" (p. 7). Without doubt Edgefield has produced more than its share ofnotorious politicians: James Henry Hammond, who taunted Northern free laborers as "mudsills"; Preston Brooks, Charles Sumner's assailant; "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman, the pseudo-populist; and in more recent times, the Dixiecrat turned Republican, J. Strom Thurmond. But Burton's principal concern is social rather than political history. The thirty-year period between 1850 and 1880, so attractive to social historians because of available census data, is obviously of special pertinence for Southern studies. During these three pivotal decades, the durable social order of the slave plantation experienced wrenching changes. Yet Burton convincingly traces significant continuities in social values and domestic arrangements. No other historian has investigated so carefully nineteenth-century Southern households and families. Also distinctive is Burton's commitment to study both whites and blacks, and to draw comparisons. His emphasis for the antebellum years is on masters and slaves, a reasonable approach for a region in which more than halfofwhite households included slaveowners, and in which blacks substantially outnumbered whites. Burton also devotes a chapter to the minute number of free AfroAmericans in antebellum Edgefield. Burton depicts a cohesive white community, linked by ties of family, neighborhood, and church, and strongly committed to a patriarchal social order. He suggests how considerations of"honor, patriotism, and nationalism " intersected to reinforce white male strivings for "individualism and independence" (pp. 97, 102). Family and community flourished because ordinary and elite whites largely shared the same value systems. In concluding that South Carolina yeomen posed no serious threat to planter control , Burton anticipates an important forthcoming study of the subject by Lacey K. Ford. Burton contends that black society embraced and tried to emulate white patriarchal values. He judges that slaves were committed to "the family ideal" (p. 189), and surmises from scattered evidence that slave households were typically headed by males. But is a male household head a sufficient definition for "patriarchy"? Burton appears to think so, even though male BOOK REVIEWS281 slaves could not participate in the rituals of personal display and the transmission ofproperty that underlie white patriarchy. Burton's own evidence suggests that slaves more often reformulated white value systems. In an interpretation parallel to that advanced by John Blassingame and odier pioneering scholars of slave life, Burton suggests that slave families comprised a slave community, which found expression especially in the black church. Slaves frustrated white hopes that religion could serve as a means of social control by identifying with the Jews of the Old Testament, whom God delivered out ofbondage. Loyalties to family and church intensified among Edgefield blacks following emancipation. Indeed, postwar black households were more often headed by males than white households, even diough black males had significantly shorter life expectancies.than white males. Only among the small town population in Edgefield village, where black males faced restricted employment opportunities, were a significant number of black households female headed. Burton spotlights his discoveries about male headed black households, challenging E. Franklin Frazier and Daniel Moynihan's ideas about black matriarchy, and giving more solid historical underpinnings to the general argument advanced by Herbert Gutman. Burton's comparative assessment ofwhite and black households rests on a massive statistical foundation. Only those who have struggled through reels of barely legible microfilm census forms can begin to appreciate the time and pains invested. Many historians would have used a sampling technique when confronted by four different censuses, each ofwhich recorded at least twenty-five hundred white households, with die last two including twice that many black...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 280-282
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.