There is also a fair amount of oral history or more so a people’s history of slavery as well. This is for a few reasons. One of the things that this book addresses is how racism plays into slavery. That seems like an obvious question, but what I mean by this is the relationship of how slavery created racism in the US and how racism created slavery, and how the growth of both fed off each other in order to become a very networked and integrated part of the US economy and the US psyche and culture. The need for the oral history side of this book comes into play with the understanding of just how entrenched slavery was in nearly every facet of American life. This is both a historical and a cultural argument, but it’s essential to lay out so that the near constant legal and phsyical conflicts that continually worked to further entrench slavery in the US and fight for it was near constant. I’d imagine we’d still have slavery if the internet existed because of how relentless the fight already was.
The other reason for the need to reinterrogate the violence is because of the ways in which violence was an intricate part of how slavery grew as an economy. There are persistent myths (and the South made this happen) that slavery was a dying system that would have faded any way. But Baptist shows that slavery was constantly moving toward new areas and implemented greated yields. The cotton gin revolutionized the processing of cotton as everyone learned in elementary school (and by the way, it was taught to me in Virginia schools as like a “really cool invention”) but Baptist shows how the cotton gin created a higher demand on the cultivation of cotton, not just quickening the processing part. So more and more land and more and more slaves were needed. In addition, greater efficiency. The average yield per slave for cotton picking was something like 25-30 pounds per day in the 1820s, and by the 1850s, it was more than 200. This is not because slaves loved their jobs, but because of a near constant and systemic torture of them. In addition, the use of sexual violence and terror further worked as a quelling agent.
Baptist spends a lot of time explaining the use of violence and systems of power in use to keep slavery as viably economically, while also carefully explaining the near constant legal battle to use the already inherently biased power toward slaveholder’s in the constitution to keep it that way.