- Publisher: Cambridge University Press
- Online publication date: July 2017
- Print publication year: 2017
- Online ISBN: 9781316875568
Analyzing land policy, labor, and legal history, Keri Leigh Merritt reveals what happens to excess workers when a capitalist system is predicated on slave labor. With the rising global demand for cotton - and thus, slaves - in the 1840s and 1850s, the need for white laborers in the American South was drastically reduced, creating a large underclass who were unemployed or underemployed. These poor whites could not compete - for jobs or living wages - with profitable slave labor. Though impoverished whites were never subjected to the daily violence and degrading humiliations of racial slavery, they did suffer tangible socio-economic consequences as a result of living in a slave society. Merritt examines how these 'masterless' men and women threatened the existing Southern hierarchy and ultimately helped push Southern slaveholders toward secession and civil war.
Charles Bolton - University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Jeff Forret - author of Race Relations at the Margins: Slaves and Poor Whites in the Antebellum Southern Countryside
Victoria Bynum - Texas State University, San Marcos
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