Slave Religion, Slave Hiring, and the Incipient Proletarianization of Enslaved Black Labor: Developing Du Bois’ Thesis on Black Participation in the Civil War as a Revolution

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Abstract

WEB Du Bois argued that black participation in the US Civil War was “the largest and most successful slave revolt,” but he did not link the causative agents of black participation in the war to those that motivated other major slave revolts in the antebellum USA. In this essay, I focus on how two factors contributed to such revolts: (1) slave religion, which provided an ideological justification for overthrowing the slave system and mobile slave preachers to articulate it, and (2) the system of hiring out slaves—especially slave artisans, which increased their disaffection with the slave system, while expanding networks across plantations and rural and urban slave and free black communities. I argue that these two factors provided ideological motivation and institutional coordination for the antebellum revolts and for the slave revolt of the Civil War, as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)192-213
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of African American Studies
Volume19
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science

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