Colonial and Revolutionary United States

Daniel C. Littlefield

in The Oxford Handbook of Slavery in the Americas

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780199227990
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 Colonial and Revolutionary United States

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  • United States History
  • Slavery and Abolition of Slavery


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This article reviews scholarship on the history and historiography of slavery in colonial and revolutionary United States. Slavery was a southern American institution associated primarily with cotton and a divinely ordained labour force of blacks. Southerners in the Chesapeake might realize that slaves once produced tobacco, and in low-country South Carolina and Georgia that they once grew rice, and in southern Louisiana that they once raised sugar cane, but most people, when they thought about slavery at all, thought about the growing of cotton and reckoned that an African workforce required no explanation. Few knew that at one time slavery lived in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, that it had been vibrant in New York and Pennsylvania, and that slaves still worked in New Jersey in 1860. Even in the South, where the presence of a significant African-American population made the heritage of slavery undeniable and people generally recognized the meaning of that fact, most understood neither slavery's age nor its origins.

Keywords: slaves; slavery; American South; African-Americans

Article.  12997 words. 

Subjects: History ; United States History ; Slavery and Abolition of Slavery

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