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l66CIVIL WAR HISTORY a discerning volunteer army officer is highly recommended to all students of the Civil War era. Joseph G. Dawson III Texas A&M University Sweet Chariot: Slave Family and Household Structure in Nineteenth-Century Louisiana. By Ann Patton Malone. (Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1992. Pp. xiv, 369. $39.95.) Sam Rock, a respected middle-aged slave widower with several grown or half-grown children in his charge, labored on the O'Connor plantation in upper West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. In the late 1820s, Sam's aging owner gave title of seventeen of her slaves, including Sam Rock, to her half-brother and heir, who owned a sugar plantation in bayoued St. Mary's Parish, more than one hundred miles to the south. As each of the laborers were taken from their home plantation gradually to their new home, family members left behind mourned, treating their once-respected mistress to stony silence or avoiding her altogether. For more than a decade, Sam would not see the family he was forced to leave behind, despite frequent requests to do so. Several of the other slaves who had been relocated left Grand Cote to return to their families but "were recovered, sent back, and punished for absconding" (2). Finally, in 1841, Sam Rock was granted his only visit to the O'Connor plantation , and his former mistress recorded that "the poor old man mourns the death of his son Leven and his daughter that died last year. Otherwise his joy would have no bounds. I felt much overcome at seeing him and his children meet" (2). This poignant vignette serves as an apt introduction to Ann Patton Malone's fine book which ' 'focuses on a single aspect of the experience of slavery in rural Louisiana—the ways slaves were constituted into families and households within a community" (13). By examining the records ofthree Louisiana slave communities—those of Oakland, Petite Anse, and Tiger Island plantations—Malone discovers evidence of "the mutability and yet the constancy of Louisiana slave household organization." Though seemingly contradictory, Malone finds these dual phenomena to be constant in the slave family experience; for while Louisiana slave domestic organizations "exhibited constants both in their preferred household forms and in the general developmental patterns" similar to those accepted by white society, they were forced to adapt in order "to fit the changing requirements and circumstances ofthe community . . . in their unending search for stable social organizations and sustained familial relationships" (5). In this, Malone's thesis will come as no great surprise to scholars of the slave experience: that enslaved people formed stable families (most often two-parent, nuclear, patriarchal), households, and communities despite the extreme vulnerability of even the most stable of such entities; and that slaves BOOK REVIEWS167 placed great value on family ties and community cohesion and struggled to maintain or reunite such strong bonds despite frequent disruptions of them by owners who recognized their slaves' intense familial attachments yet who were often forced to ignore them for economic reasons. Yet what is refreshing in Malone's work is her attention to the evolutionary nature of individual slave communities and, more important, her redefinitions of "stable" families and households in slave communities. Such stable units could and did consist of standard nuclear family households, single-parent households, solitaire households, and multiple family households. Malone notes that historians ' overemphasis of "the numbers of individuals encompassed in twoparent units detracts from the fact that the real strength of the slave community was its multiplicity of forms, its tolerance for a variety of slave families and households, its adaptability, and its acceptance of all types of families and households as functional and contributing" (258). Malone's well-written book is the most thoroughly researched study of slave family life to date and is an essential contribution to the scholarship of American slavery. If readers can find their way through the plodding statistical analysis and forgive the author's trite explanation of her book's title, they will find rich detail on the intimacy that Louisiana plantation slave families shared and a solid analysis of the family lives of those who reputedly languished in "social death...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 166-167
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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