Them Dark Days

The Face of Slavery: Them Dark Days

Twentieth-century scholars of slavery have both slavery's effects on the slave mentality and the development of culture (or lack thereof) and the existence of paternalism among the slave-holding class. However, authors such as Ulrich Phillips, Kenneth Stammp, and Eugene Genovese all approach the subject on broad, comprehensive terms, paying little or no attention to the individual. Dunsiberre, in his three-part book, Them Dark Days, tries to approach the situation from the opposite stance, hoping to find the greater truths behind slave life not in broad conceptual analysis, but in the individual. He gives names and faces to both the slaves and their masters. In doing so, he presents a grim picture of slave life under the peculiar institution: one that was neither paternalistic, nor civilizing. The central theme of his work, as stated in the Preface, is that slavery was even more horrific than previously thought. Paternalism, which he carefully qualifies, existed only to increase the fortunes of the masters through the newly-evolved capitalist mentality. Hatred and insubordination lurked in the minds of even the most privileged slaves. Through looking at detailed plantation records, travel journals and WPA interviews,...

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