Roll Jordan Roll: The World The Slaves Made '

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Paternalism is a complex concept much affiliated with class structure and the exploitative expenditure of human slave labor. Although misconstrued as the ‘benevolent’ patriarchal protection of master’s over their slave’s, it can be said that the paternalist function in 19th century slave society in the United States was to protect the intricate fabric of implicit reciprocal duties between subordinates and their superiors. In his Roll Jordan Roll: The World the Slaves Made (1974), Eugene Genovese explores slave-owner paternalism where masters are said to have taken a personal interest in the lives of their slaves, however, towering rates of mortality, ruthless labor and habitual violence by white masters onto their slaves clearly indicates that the paternalist ideology only manifested to justify a system of brutal exploitation: the emphasis on slaveholder sympathy for their laborers was…show more content…
Eugene Genovese argues that the paternalist compromise meant the master would provide for the slave so long as the slave produced for him, creating a “bond of human sympathy” . However, it is unusual that “southern slaveholders – devoted to the systematic mass-production of commercial crops and dependent on a national market in human beings – would logically generate an ethos hostile to commerce and markets” . Still less convincing is the claim that paternalism molded white and black together into a relationship that rested on genuine elements of affection. Genovese’s argument is ultimately contingent upon the assumption that paternalism was in fact a way of life that bound acceptable forms of harshness and cruelty with assumed civil duties and responsibilities , yet was this the true character of 19th century slave society or was paternalism really just some free-floating ideology that bore no similarity to the actual workings of the slavery

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