Masterless Men: Poor Whites in Antebellum South...

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5fish

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Masterless Men: Poor Whites and Slavery in the Antebellum South
Poor white men were referred to as "Masterless men". If you're from the south and a Neo-Confederate or Lost Causer need to learn about the plight of poor white in the slave-owning south... It may shake your rose color image of the Old South you have in your mind...

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Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/110718424X/?tag=civilwartalkc-20

Summary:
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.
 

diane

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5fish, thanks for bringing this book to everybody's attention. Nobody talks about how slavery affected the poor whites in the South! Not every farmer was a planter - that's why Sherman sat on the porch of an old lady while his army went by, so no one would steal from her. Even the slaves looked down on these folks! Rich man's war - poor man's fight...might not be so after all.
 

5fish

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Here an add on, on the topic...

Link: https://tropicsofmeta.com/2017/05/15/white-poverty-and-the-legacy-of-slavery-in-the-us-south/

It a good short read about Antebellum south...

Traveling through the South just a couple of years prior to the Civil War, one northerner plainly stated that the rather pitiful status of the South’s poor whites was a blight upon the entire country. A direct result of slavery, non-slaveholders’ “poverty, ignorance, and debasement, are not merely sectional” problems, he wrote, but “constitute a national calamity, an element of impoverishment, a running sore in the body-politic. The whole Union is weakened by it.”

T
he most racist white Americans have long branded African Americans as lazy, ignorant, immoral, and/or criminal – the exact same words that upper and middling class whites once used to describe impoverished whites in the Deep South. Indeed, one scholar wrote, poor whites were generally characterized by “laziness, carelessness, unreliability, lack of foresight and ambition, habitual failure and general incompetency.”[1]

Historian James Ford Rhodes compared the South’s poor whites to northern laborers, concluding that “they were in material things abjectly poor; intellectually they were utterly ignorant; morally their condition was one of groveling baseness.”[2] Accused of being sexually promiscuous, and prone to alcoholism, gambling, and violently fighting, poor whites served as the Old South’s social pariahs. Following emancipation, white racists simply used the same stereotypes – stereotypes ultimately stemming from dire poverty – to condemn and humiliate newly freed African Americans.

Shut out of the formal economy, poor whites, free blacks, and the enslaved created their own informal, underground economy: the original “black market.”

While criminality would become almost exclusively associated with African Americans during and after Reconstruction, the overwhelming majority of inmates in the antebellum Deep South’s prisons and jails were poor whites.

But emancipation ultimately brought an end to the high rates of incarceration for poor whites who had threatened the stability of slavery. Instead, African Americans became the primary targets of the southern legal system, but their punishments were much more extreme and vicious than they ever had been for poor whites. The end of slavery, therefore, heralded many new freedoms for lower class white southerners, leaving black Americans to occupy poor whites’ former place at the bottom of “free” society.

The Myth of White Unity over Slavery (or, The “Proud” Confederate Myth):
 

archieclement

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Historian James Ford Rhodes compared the South’s poor whites to northern laborers,
Theres has always been an underclass, and always will be, just as there is over achievers as well.
 

5fish

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Theres has always been an underclass, and always will be, just as there is overachievers as well.
These poor whites were structurally made into an underclass by slavery... after the war, they were beneficiaries of emancipation as the Freedman were...
 
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lupaglupa

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I read this when it first came out and definitely recommend it - a good luck at an often neglected group.
 

5fish

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always been an underclass
Before the civil war white men made up the majority of the men in prison... After the Civil War, the racial dynamics change tail this day... The word race was not used to describe a prisoner until 1868...

Here one example... https://theconversation.com/prison-...arcerations-racially-charged-beginnings-96612

The records’ range of information for Georgia is impressive, running for 200 years from 1817. In addition to the name of the prisoner, the offense and details of the sentence, the records also include details like eye color, height, birthplace, and place of conviction, as well as whether the prisoner was subsequently pardoned or escaped.

Before the Civil War, an average of 40 people a year was sent to prison in Georgia. Samuel W. Whitworth from Jones County was a typical prisoner. The blond and blue-eyed cotton farmer was jailed for causing “mayhem” – probably some drunken violence – on March 1, 1817. Sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, he managed to escape on Christmas Eve 1820. He was later recaptured and hanged in South Carolina.

As a white man, Whitworth was part of the majority at a Georgia prison
. Between 1817 and 1865, records reveal that a fifth of inmates was described as “black,” “dark” or “copper.” The range of descriptors used to describe “complexion” later swapped out for the category of “race” in 1868 – were impressionistic and casually derogatory. About 900 people in our sample were described as being the color of “ginger cake.”

In 1864, just seven former slaves were imprisoned in Georgia. By 1868, this had risen to 147.
 

lupaglupa

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Before the civil war white men made up the majority of the men in prison... After the Civil War, the racial dynamics change tail this day... The word race was not used to describe a prisoner until 1868...

Here one example... https://theconversation.com/prison-...arcerations-racially-charged-beginnings-96612

The records’ range of information for Georgia is impressive, running for 200 years from 1817. In addition to the name of the prisoner, the offense and details of the sentence, the records also include details like eye color, height, birthplace, and place of conviction, as well as whether the prisoner was subsequently pardoned or escaped.

Before the Civil War, an average of 40 people a year was sent to prison in Georgia. Samuel W. Whitworth from Jones County was a typical prisoner. The blond and blue-eyed cotton farmer was jailed for causing “mayhem” – probably some drunken violence – on March 1, 1817. Sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, he managed to escape on Christmas Eve 1820. He was later recaptured and hanged in South Carolina.

As a white man, Whitworth was part of the majority at a Georgia prison
. Between 1817 and 1865, records reveal that a fifth of inmates was described as “black,” “dark” or “copper.” The range of descriptors used to describe “complexion” later swapped out for the category of “race” in 1868 – were impressionistic and casually derogatory. About 900 people in our sample were described as being the color of “ginger cake.”

In 1864, just seven former slaves were imprisoned in Georgia. By 1868, this had risen to 147.
My understanding was that slaves were punished by their masters and thus would rarely show up in pre-Civil War criminal justice statistics.
 

archieclement

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Before the civil war white men made up the majority of the men in prison... After the Civil War, the racial dynamics change tail this day... The word race was not used to describe a prisoner until 1868...

Here one example... https://theconversation.com/prison-...arcerations-racially-charged-beginnings-96612

The records’ range of information for Georgia is impressive, running for 200 years from 1817. In addition to the name of the prisoner, the offense and details of the sentence, the records also include details like eye color, height, birthplace, and place of conviction, as well as whether the prisoner was subsequently pardoned or escaped.

Before the Civil War, an average of 40 people a year was sent to prison in Georgia. Samuel W. Whitworth from Jones County was a typical prisoner. The blond and blue-eyed cotton farmer was jailed for causing “mayhem” – probably some drunken violence – on March 1, 1817. Sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, he managed to escape on Christmas Eve 1820. He was later recaptured and hanged in South Carolina.

As a white man, Whitworth was part of the majority at a Georgia prison
. Between 1817 and 1865, records reveal that a fifth of inmates was described as “black,” “dark” or “copper.” The range of descriptors used to describe “complexion” later swapped out for the category of “race” in 1868 – were impressionistic and casually derogatory. About 900 people in our sample were described as being the color of “ginger cake.”

In 1864, just seven former slaves were imprisoned in Georgia. By 1868, this had risen to 147.
By underclass I meant economically, theres always has been one, it may have varied by region and period between Whites, Blacks, Irish, Chinese, Hispanics, or any other demographic. However its not surprising postwar if one frees millions of people with little more then the clothes on their back, some probally did turn to crime for subsistence, which would be reflected in criminal/prison statistics as well.
 
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bdtex

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Thread closed until October per moratorium on slavery discussions during the month of September.
 
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