Research Progress

I spent time searching the abolitionist and historical newspapers available on Accessible Archives. In our last class I mentioned there were over four hundred references to white slaves when I first searched the database. Several of these results deal with slavery outside of my time period, 1830 – 1865. Some of the results relate to indentured servants in the 1700’s and early 1800’s who were white and in most cases not in the same system of slavery as African Americans in the South. Other results were from after the Civil War and into the early 1900’s and these were about the oppression of wage laborers in a new industrialized society. While these workers were oppressed and, some would argue, trapped in a form of slavery they also are not relevant to my research. I began to worry that as I eliminated many potential sources I would quickly run out of primary source material, but luckily this was not the case. After eliminating these results there were still close to two hundred historical articles mentioning “white slaves.” I am still in the process of examining the articles and have given even more thought to how whiteness and blackness relate to one another and the abolition movement. I also am starting to write down the number of times the term appears in African American papers versus those published by whites, and where the articles were originally printed as many are reprints from other publications. Luckily, I have found only a few duplicate sources a t this point. I plan to meet with Dr. Quigley and Dr. Milteer later this week to discuss my research and seek their advice on what the tactic means in regards to whiteness and blackness. I also thought it might be a good idea to go see Dr. Shadle for some secondary resources relating to color and its meaning.

Most of the time I spent researching over the break was spent searching for primary sources. I came across a pamphlet by William Bowditch printed in 1855 called White Slavery in the United States. In his article Bowditch examines state laws court case that mention white slaves and provides excerpts from runaway slave adds which feature southern slave owners searching for slaves who “may pass as white.” This one pamphlet opened up two more potential source areas for me to search. I had previously thought slave ads might contain some information about whiteness in slavery but I had not considered the law and court cases as a possible resource. I plan on looking more into both of these in the coming weeks.