Antebellum Period: A Summary

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The idea of a slave with agency during the antebellum period seems illogical and paradoxical, yet without agency, how could there be an African American Culture shown on plantations prior to their emancipation? If agency is the ability of an individual to apply their free will, then slaves as well as freed blacks were denied their right to agency. Nonetheless, Northern and Southern free and Southern enslaved African Americans forged their own path toward agency through culture before and during the antebellum period. Limited Agency was the common theme throughout the black population even for free blacks in the North. Between 1830 and 1860, the Majority of Northern whites considered even free Blacks to be lesser beings, limiting the wages…show more content…
One opposing force to their agency was the whip. Harper’s weekly published the photograph of Gordon, a slave from Mississippi deep wounds from the whip of a master that has now become a prime example of brutality against slaves. Physical punishment acted as the deterrent against the enslaved population’s agency. However, slaves autonomously fashioned their own society. A large part of this is due in part to the task system. Slaves in South Carolina petitioned to have the rest of the day to themselves after working. This free time led to the fostering of community and religion for enslaved blacks. Christian Mayer’s “Black Kitchen Ball” showcases Slaves after a day of hard work allowed free time due to the task system. This created a culture that was largely influenced by the values and philosophies of their African Ancestors along with those of Southern whites. The second great awakening demonstrated this, as evangelicals preached and converted black slaves with the idea that anyone, even a slave could be saved. Without access to traditional hymns and the majority of slaves being illiterate, slaves had to interpret the bible and its laws by themselves by creating their own songs and form of worship. The “religious dance of the Negroes” coined by Henry George Spalding, referenced the separation of Black Slave’s worship from typical white worship. This separate religious identity serves as proof of the agency, no matter how limited, of the enslaved

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