Home > Uncategorized > Empire of Slavery — Texas Slaveholders

Empire of Slavery — Texas Slaveholders

Well, I can see now why we read Olmsted’s letters before we plowed forward into chapter 10 of “Empire of Slavery,” because he’s referenced everywhere. But while I was reading through, I kept trying to pay attention to little bits of empirical data that might help me answer my sub-question to the main prompt: How should we define “experience” in this context? So I highlighted bits of information like: “typically, a household in antebellum Texas had five to six residents;” womenfolk’s right to privately own enslaved people; the prevalence of the “paternalistic ethos,” which I’d already been thinking about; the rampant manumission; the cognitive dissonance of the “paternalistic ethos” with the harshness of the “Plantation Rules” phenomena; and the “gray zone” which existed for “freed” bondsmen — of course, what followed me all throughout the reading, what grossness I couldn’t shake off for any period of time, was this instance on page 195:

” ‘ That some [enslaved African Americans] are badly treated there is no doubt, ‘ [slaveholder Thomas M. League of Galveston] continued, ‘ but in the main they are an hundred fold better off than the Free blacks in the North. ‘ ”


This struck a chain reaction in me — I flashed quickly through the preliminary evil of the statement straight to Olmsted’s writing and what he observed, everything from the puppy getting beaten to the full grown man running for his freedom only to have his toenails ripped out one by one to the story of Malcolm X who changed his name from Malcolm Little to X so that he might shed his “slave name” while simultaneously remember that these slaveholders of our country’s past had stripped him of his historical identity, leaving him with an “empty” variable or unknown value where his heritage should have been preserved as mine is preserved in my middle name, Campbell and in my last name, Mead. I’ll talk more about this type of revelation during my group’s research salon but I simply couldn’t wait to talk about it — this class has given me a real connection to my own past as well as to the inequity of others having their own pasts barred from them.


I am officially very glad to be in this class and working with this subject, even if I never reach a satisfactory conclusion about anything.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. February 14, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    “Barred” is the perfect way I would have this access to people’s past described. It encompasses a feeling of hinderance intentionally placed by others but still has gaps that we can reach through and find the resources we need, even though the process may seem taxing, and excavate our pasts that we can easily develop true connections with and grow from. It also makes me think of punishment although there is not any act of crime requiring punishment; this further acknowledges the inequity you have mentioned.

    I too am enjoying the benefits and “intellectual riches,” as Dr. Stockton put it, that the class brings. I am finding just how important it is to make these connections to my past.

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