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Between Slavery and CapitalismThe Legacy of Emancipation in the American South$
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Martin Ruef

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691162775

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691162775.001.0001

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The Demise of the Plantation

The Demise of the Plantation

(p.103) Chapter 5 The Demise of the Plantation
Between Slavery and Capitalism

Martin Ruef

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines how Southern blacks and whites confronted categorical—as well as classical—uncertainty, as the maintenance of plantation agriculture proved increasingly untenable. Social networks among emancipated slaves served as a key impetus to mobilization toward alternative organizational arrangements. The plantation had been developed on the assumption that its workforce was geographically immobile unless moved or sold by plantation owners and that kinship ties among slaves could be largely ignored in allocating and exchanging slave labor. When these assumptions were challenged by emancipation, large numbers of former slaves migrated in search of family members, guided by bits of news from kin or other members of the black community. The new agricultural forms created to replace the wage plantation also tended to have a foundation in familial networks, as black sharecroppers and rental farmers largely recruited labor on the basis of kinship ties.

Keywords:   Southern blacks, plantation agriculture, social networks, emancipated slaves, emancipation, slave labor, black community, agricultural forms, wage plantation, kinship ties

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