All posts by lkelley

Reflection on the Past Year

On Amanda’s blog, she made the comparison that this first year of graduate school felt like the four-year transition from a college freshman to a senior. I think that is apt simile.

At the beginning of this year I had no idea what graduate school, or even the history discipline for that matter, was all about.  I thought classes would be more of the same as undergrad, with lectures, group projects, and tests. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This year has, without a doubt, been one of the most transformative academic experiences of my life, and I am not just saying that. I can tell my writing has gotten much better throughout the year. It is easier for me to write long papers, but I also think my writing has become more clear and concise. My reading have also increased. I can tease out the main argument of a work quickly and follow the argument throughout. Finally, I think my critical thinking skill have greatly improved after all of the reading critiques and essays we have written throughout the semester. I recently reread some notes I had made in a book last year, and I couldn’t believe some of the dumb things I had written in the margins that really had nothing to do with the book.

This year has been a tremendous struggle,as well. Sometimes I did not know how in the world I could complete all my assignments and GTA duties in the time allotted for them.  But through it all, I have developed a true love for history and learning that had not fully developed as an undergrad. I am excited for what next year holds for me in researching and writing my thesis, serving as HGSA president, and applying to Ph.D. programs .

Thesis Committee Meeting 4/30/2014

This past Wednesday, I took part in my first thesis committee meeting with Dr. Quigley and Dr. Shadle. I realize I might be a little late to the game, but I wanted to first contact Dr. Warren Milteer, the third member of my committee, before I met with the two on-campus members. The meeting went very well. I was somewhat nervous, as I expected pointed questions and criticism about my project. Both Dr. Quigley and Dr. Shadle, however, were very encouraging and helpful. This is not to say that they did not offer suggestions, but they did so in a way that was more conversational than biting. We talked about a variety of specific things that all three of us thought would benefit my proposal.

First, we discussed that it would be wise to focus initially on North Carolina. Only including one state would make the research and writing process more manageable, and I would not have to travel as much. More scholarship has been done on the North Carolina constitutional convention of 1835 than the Tennessee convention of 1834, so this would also present me with some historical work that I can base my analysis off of.

Second, we talked about my methodology. The graduate committee suggested to me that I primarily focus on race, rather than try to discuss race, class, and gender equally. Initially, I was a little hesitant, but after looking at more secondary sources and meeting with Dr. Quigley separately, I saw the light. Since Dr. Shadle specializes in race, he offered some excellent advice on my topic. He suggested I also check out some secondary works on the American Colonization Society (ACS), the organization responsible for raising money to send free people of color to Liberia.  Dr. Shadle then made the point that what was really being discussed in the convention was the disfranchisement of wealthy free persons of color. Those that were poor could not vote anyway. This discussion tied back to the issue of class in my study, and we all three agreed that I definitely need to be on the lookout for the combination of class and race in the primary sources.

The third major topic we discussed involved my primary sources and summer research trip. Neither Dr. Quigley not Dr. Shadle had any other suggestions for archival sources than the ones at UNC and ECU. However, Dr. Quigley did advise me to check to see if any of the sources are digitized before I journeyed to the archives for the physical copies. On the newspapers, they suggested that I begin by looking at how all of the newspapers across North Carolina reported the disfranchisement decision in the summer of 1835 and then work my way back in time as my research time allows. We all agreed that I did not want to spend hours poring over newspapers if I could help it. As a final discussion of the sources, both of them suggested I keep an open mind as I conducted research. It is natural for topics to change throughout the process, and I did not need to be completely wedded to an idea this early. For example, both thought that if issues of class and gender seem prevalent in the sources that intersectionality might  be more useful after all.

It was great to get together with Dr. Quigley and Dr. Shadle, and I look forward to working with them throughout the remainder of my time at Virginia Tech.


Research Proposal and More Secondary Sources

I was pleased with the criticism of my thesis proposal offered by Dr. Jones, Dr. Quigley, and Ms. Coldiron. The three of them shared ideas with me this past week that I know will lead to a stronger and clearer proposal. Dr. Quigley and Dr. Jones shared concerns with my discussion of causality. They both stressed that just because there might have been an ongoing crisis of masculinity as wealth drained from North Carolina, it is problematic for me to claim that individual delegates’ were driven to disfranchise free blacks to preserve their masculinity. Dr. Quigley also suggested to focus primarily on the racial aspect of disfranchisement, meaning that I should trace it to the ongoing evolution of white racial ideology in the South. He thinks I can make this the focus of my thesis, while still bringing in issues of class and gender when they come up in the primary sources. Finally, the thesis committee suggested that I only focus on North Carolina. There are more secondary sources on this state, the University of North Carolina’s Southern Historical Collection houses many more primary sources of North Carolina delegates’ than any other archive has relating to Tennessee. I think I would like to work on Tennessee’s disfranchisement in the future, though.

Since I am going to focus more on developments of race, I thought I would check out  some secondary sources on racial ideology in the antebellum South.

Lacy K. Ford, Deliver Us from Evil: The Slavery Question in the Old South (Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

In his book, Deliver Us from Evil: The Slavery Question in the Old South, Lacy Ford traces the evolution of white southerners’ ideology over the “slavery question” from the Revolution to the Civil War. In doing so, he hopes to fill the historiographical void on the this subject since scholars have tended to produce work on specific places and at specific times. Ford argues that the conventional categorization of slavery changing from a “necessary evil” to a “positive good” is an oversimplification. Instead, he contends that there were three ideological shifts in whites’ perception of slavery. The first was “characterized by ambivalence and inaction among upper South whites” and lasted from 1776 to the closing of the foreign slave trade in 1808. The second phase, encompassing 1808 through Nat Turner’s slave rebellion in 1831, brought about differences between the upper and lower South. Slaveholders in the upper South sought to diffuse their society of slavery by emphasizing the domestic slave trade, and lower South some whites embraced the paternalistic view of slavery, while others sought to enact stricter policies. The third phase, after Turner’s rebellion, united southerners together because of shared hatred for abolitionism (5) Especially key to my study is Ford’s analysis of the North Carolina constitutional convention. He links delegates’ discussion on disfranchisement to the wider debate on the nature of slavery in the upper South. He concludes that North Carolina disfranchisement was yet another example of upper South whites’ desire to “whiten” society. His analysis will provide a model for me to follow, but I think I can add to Ford’s work by incorporating individual delegates’ personal opinions on the nature of slavery.

William W. Freehling, The Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).

William W. Freehling’s book is another work that will be important to my study on black disfranchisement. Like Ford, he trances developments in the Old South from the Revolution to 1854 (his second volume continues until the Civil War). Throughout his survey, Freehling focuses on white southerners’ ambivalence about slavery. He says that there was as “Upper South dream of sending blacks away” (162). Among other specific narratives, the Virginia constitutional convention of 1829 and the Virginia slavery debate are analyzed. In both of these chapters, Freehling highlights how class struggles and ideology of slavery were intermixed. I think this is similarly occurring in North Carolina since in the constitutional convention both disfranchisement and westerners’ desire to gain more control of the state legislature generate controversy.Thus, I will try to analyze North Carolina similar to the way Freehling looks at Virginia.

Thesis Proposal Draft

Writing my thesis proposal was much more difficult than I thought. For the entire semester, the project has been abstract. While I have thought, researched, and read about black disfranchisement in antebellum Tennessee and North Carolina, my argument and methodology remained malleable, meaning that I was constantly reworking them in my head. The proposal draft, however, forced me to put those abstract thoughts on paper. Even though I knew what I was going to write, the writing part took a lot of time and energy. I had to organize my thoughts and put them on paper. In the end, though, I think it really helped me. I finally have some concrete plan and can constantly refer back to it as I begin to finally sink my teeth into studying the disfranchisement of African Americans through the lens of class, race, and gender.

There are a variety of things I hope to add or strengthen in my next draft. The historiographical section, first, is probably the part of my proposal that needs the most work. I have three clear strands of literature that I hope to combine in my thesis. However, they are interrelated with one another. For example, the concept of herrenvolk democracy could be analyzed in the race or class historiographical strand. I need to figure out a way to get this across without making some arbitrary decision about classification.  I also hope to clarify my argument in my next draft. This was the first time I had fully explained the argument I am trying to make, and while crafting it, I realized there might be some parts that were unclear. Finally, I think I need hit harder on the significance of my project. Hopefully as I get more comfortable with the historiography, I will be able to incorporate more significance there, but I also want to write a convincing independent section on significance, too.

New Methodologies on Black Disfranchisement

Historians of antebellum black disfranchisement in North Carolina and Tennessee have traditionally viewed that subject through a political lens. The common reason for the elimination of African American suffrage rests on the development of the second two-party political system. Because free blacks were their constituents, future Whigs did not want to prevent free blacks from voting, but Democrats, on the other hand, had every reason to eliminate oppositional voters from the electorate. I agree with this interpretation, but I think that there were other factors that contributed to disfranchisement, as well. This interpretation also does not sufficiently answer the question as to why even Whigs wanted to limit African American suffrage based on the wealth of free blacks.
In my project, I hope to combine the political interpretation of antebellum black disfranchisement with gender, race and class methodologies. By doing so, I can put the subject in the correct historical context. Previous historians have not discussed how external factors, like racial identity, class tensions, and gender dynamics, might have contributed to white elites’ desire to eliminate the voting rights of free African Americans. For example, poorer whites and those in the less-represented areas of North Carolina petitioned and pressured state legislatures to give them more political power at the state level. Similarly, East Tennesseans occupied a section in the state that was losing power in state politics, as more and more people moved west in search of better lands for agriculture. With regards to gender, many scholars of masculinity stress the idea that a change in financial situation can result in a crisis of masculinity, and in the 1830’s this was happening to North Carolina slaveholders, as the new southwestern lands began producing more agricultural products causing a drain of slaves to these new areas. Race is also key to understanding black disfranchisement. Free blacks constituted an ill-defined place in southern society, somewhere between free whites and enslaved blacks.
My choice of methodology also hinges on the sources I hope to use in my project. Having spent a considerable amount of time both before and during this semester searching for primary sources, I have come to the conclusion that very few records of disfranchised African Americans exist. So far, I have only found the one illegible letter from the black North Carolinian John Chavis to U.S. Senator Willie Mangum. Even though the previous secondary sources on the topic rely on the debates from the constitutional conventions and the manuscript collections of prominent figures in the disfranchisement debate, I fully believe I will be able to read against the grain, so to speak, searching for issues of class, race, and gender. Also, because I am looking at the historical context of disfranchisement and the motivations of those white elites that took the vote away from blacks, I can use sources that have not been used in previous work on southern disfranchisement. Financial documents, letters and petitions from disgruntled lower class whites, voting rolls, census documents, and newspaper editorials are all examples of sources that might be useful in my study. Thus, I hope to use southern disfranchisement as a case study to view larger issues of masculinity, changing class dynamics, and the dynamic social construction of race in the antebellum South.

Secondary Sources on Race and Class/Masculinity

Brown, David. Race in the American South: From Slavery to Civil Rights. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007.

David Brown and Clive Webb’s book Race in the American South serves to populate a petal of my bedraggled daily that I yet to explore: race. In their book, the authors trace the development of race from colonization of the Chesapeake to the Civil Rights Era. In doing so, they stress the dynamic and changing nature of racial constructions. They also carefully acknowledge that race is not the only lens through which to view the Antebellum South but that “changing formulations of gender, especially in the way concepts of masculinity and femininity have reinforced, and sometimes challenged, the racial order” (3, 5). Though Brown and Webb do not discuss free blacks in depth, they state that “free blacks proved a very troublesome presence in the antebellum South, when to be white was to be free and to be black was supposedly to be slave” (2). Herrenvolk democracy, the term first used historically by George M. Fredrickson, and whiteness studies are another means of analysis that Webb and Brown discuss in their book (whiteness on p. 8; herrenvolk democracy on p. 101-106).

For my thesis on black disfranchisement, Brown and Webb’s book will be a key secondary source. Their work has given me several ideas as I move forward. First, I really think I need to focus on herrenvolk democracy. At the time of the constitutional convention, white slaveholders were being challenged politically by poorer yeomen farmers. Thus, a herrenvolk democracy perspective might suggest that planters disfranchised blacks to unite all whites in suffrage. Second, Brown and Webb write about the “abolitionist attack” on slavery and the subsequent forcible “southern response that increasingly promoted a racial defense of slavery” (103). Were issues of abolitionism prominent in either North Carolina or Tennessee? Was disfranchisement part of this “forcible assault”? This might have challenged southern slaveholders’ notions of masculinity and racial identity. Third, the authors claim that “masculinity was also critical,” as “it was gender as much as race that served to unite yeomen with wealthier slaveholders” (110). I need to find out more about gender as a unifying force.

Ford, Lacy K. Origins of Southern Radicalism: The South Carolina Upcountry, 1800-1860. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

On the surface, Lacy Ford’s Origins of Southern Radicalism has nothing to do with black disfranchisement in North Carolina. I read this book, however, to find an analysis of southern elites’ ideas of masculinity, and it was helpful. Ford touched on a variety of points with respect to South Carolina that I find occurring in North Carolina. First, he argues that “slave ownership became a widely-recognized symbol of social mobility…Slaves became a symbol as well as a source of prosperity” (14). Thus as white elites struggling with contracted debt had to sell their slaves, they suffered doubly from the economic embarrassment of debt and the loss of their symbol of prosperity. Secondly, Ford discusses how the ” pull of cheap land and quick profits in the Southwest” caused South Carolina to lose a significant portion of its citizens (39). This in turn gave the newer southern states more political power, and elites “viewed the shift of comparative advantage of cotton production away from South Carolina and the resulting loss of human capital as a serious long-run problem” (42). Similarly, Ford also goes on to discuss the tenuous nature of the southern economy based on the economic cotton market (91).

As I begin looking at primary sources of delegates to the North Carolina and Tennessee convention, I want to look for sources that speak to the economic troubles delegates were facing at the time. The economy of neither Tennessee nor North Carolina was based primarily on cotton, but perhaps a similar trend was occurring in tobacco production. I think I also need to check tax documents to see if delegates’ finances were in a gloomy predicament, causing them to have to sell slaves.

Lucas’ Revised Focus Satement

I am seeking to understand more fully the reason white delegates at Tennessee’s 1834 constitutional convention and North Carolina’s 1835 constitutional convention disfranchised free African Americans. Scholars have traditionally viewed this event through the political lens of the developing second party system, explaining that future Whigs supported black suffrage and Democrats sought to enact universal black disfranchisement. Politics is certainly important to a full understanding, but class division, racial identity, and contemporary threats to elite whites’ masculinity also played an important role in the disfranchisement decision. I argue that southern white state politicians restricted the voting rights of free blacks because it gave them some sense of control as they faced numerous economic, political, and racial challenges to their previously hegemonic social order. Before the 1830’s, wealthy white men were the only group that could vote, but challenges to their political power came in the form of lower class whites that sought change in suffrage requirements and more representation in counties not dominated by the planter class. Wealthy white’s also faced challenges to their masculine identity, as the older areas of the south lost slaves and wealth to the newer and more fertile areas in the Southwest. Likewise, issues of race came to the forefront with the ever-increasing population of free blacks. My study will be based on the proceedings of the two constitutional conventions, local newspaper articles and diaries, voting rolls, the census of 1820 and 1830, manuscript collections of the convention delegates, and legislative documents. This study is significant because it will illuminate nineteenth-century concepts of race, masculinity, political development, and class. Such intersectionality has been applied to other eras of American history, like the late 1800’s and early 1900’s but has heretofore only been attributed to the antebellum North in the time period before the Civil War.

Lucas’ Bertoti Conference Critique

Bertoti Conference Reflection

In my opinion, the Beroti Conference was a resounding success. First, the awards banquet and keynote address on Friday night was both enjoyable and informative. I think there was enough time there for socializing and Dr. Jacobs’ interesting and thought-provoking talk. My dinner with Jacobs and Brundage went very well, and both professors seemed to enjoy the evening at 622 North Main. The success continued on Saturday. We, the graduate students, worked efficiently and effectively in getting the GLC ready for the conference. In fact, I think our teamwork was one of the best aspects of the weekend. Everyone knew their role and completed their required tasks. The panels I attended went well, as presenters, moderators, and commenters all contributed to successful presentations. All in all, the good things about the Bertoti Conference far outweighed the bad.
If we are going to make the conference better next year, we have to recognize the things we could have done better. Hopefully the comment cards will be the best source of feedback, but I want to offer here some of the things I felt did not go as well as hoped. First, we might need to use a different restaurant to cater next years’ meals. Though not terribly important, enough cups and warm coffee need to be essential items next year. Similarly, we might need to order more food. Personally, I did not get any lunch, and I do not know if there were other people in my boat (Please don’t think I am whining. If anyone was not going to get lunch, I am glad it was me). Also, I think we need to seriously evaluate how we organize the roundtable discussion. More audience interaction would have been more helpful. Maybe a smaller room would have helped. As far as the organization of the conference goes, the only thing I think we should do next year is designate a HGSA officer whose entire duty is conference logistics. Whether that be the president or a vice-president, there needs to be someone who can quickly make all the decisions regarding room organization, food, keynote speakers, and similar day-of conference issues.

Focus Statement, Spring Break, and Secondary Sources

Focus Statement

I am seeking to understand more fully the reason white delegates at Tennessee’s 1834 constitutional convention and North Carolina’s 1835 constitutional convention disfranchised free African Americans. Scholars have traditionally viewed this event through the political lens of the developing second party system, explaining that future Whigs supported black suffrage and Democrats sought to enact universal black disfranchisement. Politics is certainly important to a full understanding, but class division, racial identity, and contemporary threats to elite whites’ masculinity also played an important role in the disfranchisement decision. Elite southern whites restricted the voting rights of free blacks because it gave them some sense of control as they faced numerous economic, political, and racial challenges to their previously hegemonic social order. My study will be based on the proceedings of the two constitutional conventions, local newspaper articles and diaries, voting rolls, the census of 1820 and 1830, manuscript collections of the convention delegates, and legislative documents. This study will illuminate nineteenth-century concepts of race, masculinity, political development, and class that have heretofore only been attributed to the antebellum North.

Spring Break

I had hopes that spring break would provide an opportunity to find some key primary sources, but unfortunately this was not the case. I traveled to the Library of Virginia in Richmond and the Library of Congress in Washington to conduct research for Dr. Quigley research seminar class. I also hoped to look at a collection in the Library of Congress that could shed some light on the perspective of free blacks to disfranchisement in antebellum North Carolina. The collection I looked at was the Willie Person Mangum Papers. Mangum, a U.S. senator from North Carolina during the time of the constitutional convention, maintained a correspondence with an elite free African American, John Chavis. Interestingly, Chavis operated a school in North Carolina, and Mangum was one of his students. Throughout their lives, Chavis would give Mangum advice on politics and other matters. So my hope was that in the Mangum Papers there would be a letter from Chavis to Mangum expressing his opinion on disfranchisement. I perused Mangum’s boxes of papers from 1830-1836, and I was only able to find one letter from Chavis. Unfortunately, it was written in 1833, two years before the convention, and is incredibly difficult to read. Chavis wrote the letter in pencil and in a light hand, so much of it is practically illegible. Nevertheless, the simple fact that the letter exists prevents the generalization that all free blacks were at the mercy of white politicians and that they were not politically active. Also over spring break, I finally read an article by James Brewer Stewart that I had been putting off because I felt it would be essential to my thesis, and I wanted to be “fresh” when I read it. I analyze it below.


Stewart, J. B. “SHA Roundtable: Racial Modernity – The Emergence of Racial Modernity and the Rise of the White North, 1790-1840.” JOURNAL OF THE EARLY REPUBLIC 18, no. 2 (1998): 181–217.

Although primarily concerned with the antebellum North, James Brewer Stewart employs a fascinating methodology, and his use of racial modernity will be very important to my thesis. Lately, I have been struggling with the interrelatedness of class struggle, whiteness, and masculinity within the context of southern black disfranchisement in the 1830′s. Stewart’s article combines these three into a narrative to explain the causes and consequences of he race riots that exploded across the antebellum North during this same time period. He uses the term “racial modernity” to encapsulate his argument. He defines it as “a reflexive disposition on the part of an overwhelming number of northern whites…to regard superior and inferior races as uniform, biologically determined, self-evident, naturalized, immutable “truths”–and, the development of integrated trans-regional systems of intellectual endeavor, popular culture, politics and state power that enforced uniform white supremacist norms as “self-evident” social “facts” (183). After reading his article, I think there are similarities between the racial violence in the North and disfranchisement in the South, so hopefully I can use Stewart’s work as a model for my own analysis.

I found several key aspects of his article that are very useful. First, he argues that whites of all classes united against free African Americans. Whereas inter-class tensions existed over wages, immigration, etc., common ground could be found in contrast to abolitionists’ reforms (182,198). It “united whites of every class in one common enterprise” and a “brotherhood of whiteness” (203). Possibly this could have been occurring in the South, especially as a result of fears of slave uprising, and contributed to disfranchisement. Second, Stewart deals with the similarities of ideas of whiteness in both the Whig and Democratic parties and the different ways they advocated “white solidarity and intersectional cooperation” (207). The more-studied Democrats blatantly called for attacks on abolitionists and northern African Americans, but Whigs also had white supremacist tendencies. Stewart argues that Whigs supported colonization colonization as a way to simply distinguish “their new party’s formulation of white supremacism from that of the opposition” (206-207). So regardless of party, the electorate was “united in its ‘whiteness’” (208). Also, Stewart provides numerous references to works on whiteness and masculinity that appear to be useful for my study.

JER Racial Modernity Roundtable based on Stewart’s article

Historians Jean Soderlund, James Oliver Horton, and Ronald G. Walters responded to Stewart’s article on the development of racial modernity in the antebellum north during the 1830′s. Each offers his own perspective on Stewart’s work, and their criticism will be helpful for my thesis just like the original article.  The most common criticism of Stewart has to do with the periodization that comes along with the classification of “modernity,” meaning that Stewart must also contends that there is a pre-modern and post-modern era of racial relation. Soderlund and Walters hammer this point home and cite repeated references to a racialized North and several specific interracial alliances formed long before the abolitionist crusade of the early 1800′s and the subsequent white backlash in the 1830′s. However, Walters still maintains that Stewart could still “be right in arguing that something fundamentally  important was happening in the antebellum North” (229-230). Horton, on the other hand, seems to call for other possible points of modernization, like the creation of the Constitution as “a potential divider of those who shared the lower levels of American society” (224). Thus, Horton contends that the shift to modernity that Stewart offers might not be as complete, meaning that the development of racial modernity was a long, drawn-out process possibly still occurring today (225-226). In the final article, Stewart comes back and agrees with all of the criticism and explains his theory of racial modernity in terms easier to comprehend.

McGehee, Elizabeth Hathhorn. “White Democracy, Racism, and Black Disfranchisement: North Carolina in the 1830’s.” The College of William and Mary, 1989.

I was excited and somewhat nervous to read this thesis. McGehee’s topic appeared similar to mine and likely would provide me with a model or my thesis on black disfranchisement. However, after reading the work, I was disappointed. Her thesis does not seem to complicate or add to historians understanding of black disfranchisement in the 1835 North Carolina convention. Her key methodology, like that of other scholars who have worked on this topic, is merely political. She argues that Whigs and those less involved or devoted to slavery agreed to permit some African Americans to vote, while Democratic slaveholders called for all-out restriction on the vote. She does attempt to relate the context of disfranchisement, but I felt like there was little or no connection between the political and racial context she offers and disfranchisement itself (4). McGehee does suggest that the Nat Turner slave insurrection may have had something to do with disfranchisement, which is something I had not previously considered, but she then concludes by saying that “many North Carolinians believed Free Black Codes sufficiently strong to prevent another revolt…from arising” (102).

In spite of its shortcomings, I did find some helpful tidbits in McGehee’s thesis. First, she shows that cities and towns were where the boundaries between slaves and free blacks were broken down (11). Also, McGehee argues that disfranchisement would have never occurred had the population of free not exploded from 1790 to 1860. In that period, free black population increased from 4,795 to 19,543, with most of them living in the eastern portions of the state (13-14). Third, and something that I would like to pursue further, is McGehee’s contention that the defense of slavery as a positive good, rather than a necessary evil, changed during the 1830s, sparked by the Virginia slavery debates in 1830-1831 (25). Disfranchisement might be a consequence of this change in thinking. Finally, McGehee mentions the five delegates at the convention composing the committee charged with drafting an amendment dealing with black suffrage: Nathaniel Macon, John Branch, Richard Dobbs Spaight Jr., William Gaston, and John M. Morehead. I will need to be aware of these men as a begin my primary source research.

Just Secondary Sources This Week

Ford, Lacy K., Jr. “Making the ‘White Man’s Country’ White: Race, Slavery, and State-Building in the Jacksonian South.” In Race and the Early Republic: Racial Consciousness and Nation-Building in the Early Republic, 135–158. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002.

In this article, Ford primarily discusses the constructed nature of race in the Jacksonian South. A key term he uses is “racial modernity,” which means the reconsideration of race in this period that denied the “viability of a biracial republic,” doubted the efficacy” of efforts to uplift African Americans, and questioned the white man’s responsibility for the black race (136). Ford hopes to use this essay to apply whiteness studies to the South and discuss the coming of racial modernity.According to Ford, the Nat Turner slave revolt served to heighten tensions and force southern politicians to deal with the issue of slavery and free blacks (138). He organizes his essay along geographic lines, mentioning the Upper South, Middle South, and Lower South. According to Ford, the Upper South sought to “whiten itself” through emancipation and colonization, and the Lower South simply tried to prevent slave revolts and other uprising. The Middle South, however, the states of Tennessee and North Carolina, were influenced by ideas from Upper and Lower states, and the discussion of race centered on whether or not free blacks should have a vote (139). Thus, the debate in NC and TN’s constitutional conventions exemplify Ford’s argument. Ford also stresses the connection between intrastate sectionalism and political alliances in these debates.

For me, Ford’s article will be very useful. His argument centers on the whitening of the South, something that delegates sought to do by excluding African Americans from voting. I have not looked at whiteness studies yet, but after reading his article, I really think they should be one of the petals of my bedraggled daisy. His footnotes will be useful and should provide me with a list of whiteness sources.

Keyssar, Alexander. The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy Inthe United States. New York: Basic Books, 2000.

Although I have several different angles through which to view black disfranchisement, the primary issue in my thesis has to do with voting: what it means, who does it, who does not do it, etc. For this reason, Alexander Keyssar’s The Right to Vote will be essential to my study. In the book, he traces suffrage from the founding of the United States to the modern day. Because his study is so encompassing, he does not deal with black antebellum disfranchisement in the South, and only spends a third of a chapter on antebellum black suffrage in general. Like other historians, Keyssar makes the point that disfranchisement was a political issue. Once the Federalists/Whigs lost power, the Republicans/Democrats took the vote away from African Americans because blacks identified with the Whigs/Federalists (54). He also argues that blacks were not a problem to white politicians until their population began to increase, but when it did, there was a greater incentive for disfranchisement (56). Keyssar provides a chart of each state’s disfranchisement in this section of the book, which helped me get a broad view of antebellum black suffrage. Although this book only touches on antebellum black disfranchisment, Keyssar’s work helps me get a sense of the larger picture of changing suffrage requirements, of which free blacks are just one facet.

Wright, Gavin. The Political Economy of the Cotton South: Households, Markets, and Wealth in the Nineteenth Century. 1st ed. New York: Norton, 1978.
In her book Manliness and Civilization, Gail Bederman shows that ideas of masculinity changed in the late nineteenth century because of the economic pressures faced by white men. Many sources I have read suggest that Upper South elites faced a similar financial crisis in the 1830s, as slaves continued to be sold to slaveholders in the Deep South. In hopes of gaining more information on the economic transition, I looked to Gavin Wright’s The Political Economy of the Cotton South. Unfortunately, his study primarily deals with the distribution of cotton production and slave distribution in the 1850s in the context of secession. He does mention how slaves were “pulled” south because of agricultural demands, but does not spend a significant amount of time on the subject (121). Also, cotton is essential to his study, but the North Carolina elites did not raise as much cotton as other southern planters. Thus, Wright’s book’s dated analysis and focus on cotton production in the 1850s make it less useful than I was hoping for.