You witness the transformation that occurred as the first generations of Creole slaves, free blacks, and indentured whites gave way to the plantation generations, whose exhausting labor was the sole engine of their society and whose physical and linguistic seclusion sustained African traditions on American soil. Berlin demonstrates that the meaning of slavery and of race itself was continually redefined, as the nation moved toward political and economic independence.
That article ends with a call for a lengthier investigation into the changing face of slavery in different times and places. In the intervening years, however, his understanding of his material has undergone a subtle but profound transformation.
Rather than simply noting the transformations that slavery underwent, Many Thousands Gone which takes its title from an old spiritual song celebrating freedom is an investigation of the ways in which freedom and slavery were negotiated between slaves and slave owners, making the point that no matter how powerful the slave owner became, the culture and the actions of the slave were never completely in his power.
Thus, the history of slavery becomes, in part, a history of strategies—some partial failures, some partial successes—for establishing African American self- determination in a time of slavery.
Berlin, a professor of history at the University of Maryland, knows the value of a good anecdote, and he begins his look at seventeenth century slavery with a fine one. The story of Anthony Johnson is used to illustrate the porousness of seventeenth century slavery in the Chesapeake region.
Slaves filled no vital and unique economic niche, and there was relatively easy socializing between the races, free and enslaved, among the laboring classes. The image of the backward, childlike African slave had not been born.
Berlin notes that the intermediary role that creoles played in translating one culture to another was absolutely crucial to the growth of the slave trade from Africa.
Their knowledge of languages and cultures provided a popular image of African peoples as sophisticated and civilized, an image that stands in stark contrast to the primitivist images of Africans that later slave societies would manufacture. Only in parts of the Lowcountry was the plantation model of slavery successfully established in the charter generations of slavery; thus, the rigid social distinctions that segregated people on the basis of race were not a universal characteristic of these early societies with slaves.
The rules regarding the limits of slavery varied greatly within regions and between regions, but in most of these societies, slaves maintained an independent economy of growing, buying, selling, and hiring that competed with the economy of the slaveowners.
Slavery was often seen as a temporary state that time or money could The entire section is 2, words. Unlock This Study Guide Now Start your hour free trial to unlock this 8-page Many Thousands Gone study guide and get instant access to the following: Summary You'll also get access to more than 30, additional guides andHomework Help questions answered by our experts.In a real contribution to the literature of American slavery, Berlin (History/Univ.
of Maryland, College Park; co-editor, Families and Freedom, ) sketches the complex evolution of that institution in the American colonies and the early US.
In Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America, Ira Berlin demonstrates how race was an historical social connection as he argues, “Slavery, though imposed and maintained 4/5(2).
Many Thousands Gone Summary Ira Berlin. Ira Berlin published in the American Historical Review an important and frequently cited essay on the history of North American slavery, “Time, Space. Ira Berlin's "Many Thousands Gone." Essay by irish_hoosier, University, Bachelor's, November download word file, 4 pages download word file, 4 pages 1 votes5/5(1).
Ira Berlin is a leading historian of southern and African-American life. He is Professor of History at the University of Maryland. Most recently he has published a book "Many Thousands Gone," which is a history of African-American slavery in mainland North America during the first two centuries of European and African settlement.
Many Thousands Gone traces the evolution of black society from the first arrivals in the early seventeenth century through the Revolution. In telling their story, Ira Berlin, a .