Consumerism, Social Relations, and Antebellum Slavery at Poplar Forest

Lori Lee

in Jefferson's Poplar Forest

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780813039886
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813043807 | DOI:
Consumerism, Social Relations, and Antebellum Slavery at Poplar Forest

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This chapter explores the historic context of slavery in nineteenth-century Virginia and the rising use of consumer goods as objects of empowerment by antebellum enslaved individuals living at Poplar Forest. Rapid technological, economic, and social changes, which included the development of railroads and the practice of “hiring out” occurred from 1820 to 1860, and had a significant impact on the system of plantation-based slavery. Resulting increases in access to the market economy for the enslaved led to increasing consumerism and affected social relations between the enslaved and planters. The material remains from a Poplar Forest slave quarter elucidate these social changes and demonstrate the power of objects to help enslaved individuals negotiate their daily lives and recast their identities in a period of increasing change and instability.

Keywords: consumerism; hiring out; identity; Poplar Forest; social relations

Chapter.  6192 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History and Theory of Archaeology

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