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For Multiracial Whiteness

AD Powell

AD Powell
December 18
Backintyme Publishing
A.D. Powell, former columnist for the web sites "Interracial Voice" and "The Multiracial Activist," is the author of "Passing" for Who You Really Are: Essays in Support of Multiracial Whiteness.

JULY 28, 2010 12:09PM

White Slaves in the Antebellum South

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I want to use this space to praise another book, The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War: A New Look at the  Slavery Issue, by Lawrence R. Tenzer. It is politically incorrect to point out the reality of white slavery, but it existed!


Tenzer shows that the white Southern slaves produced by a combination of racial mixture and the maternal descent rule were viewed as white people by Northerners, who had good reason to fear that any white person ("mixed" or "pure") could be kidnapped by slave catchers and sold into slavery in the South.

Tenzer also destroys the argument of those neo-Confederates who contend that the Southern states (called The Slave Power in the North) were merely resisting the tyranny of a federal government. The Slave Power effectively controlled Congress and the Presidency for most of the antebellum period. The "3/5 Rule" gave congressmen from the slave states the right to represent slaves (people who obviously couldn't vote), thereby giving them far more power than they would have received if they had been limited to repre! senting free persons.

Free states exercised "states' rights" by passing personal liberty laws to nullify the effects of the federal Fugitive Slave Law. This law gave the accused slave no rights to bring witnesses, have a jury, or any other forms of due process. The judge was authorized by the law to receive a larger fee if he ruled against the slave than if he ruled in his favor. Tenzer also shows that, when you consider the low wages of the average Southern white male, coupled with sharp rises in slave prices, slave catching was a tempting business. The slave catcher would earn more with one kidnapping expedition than he could earn by a year or two of hard labor.

Many liberals historians ask why Northern whites would fight a civil war to free "blacks" they didn't consider equal. The obvious answer is that they saw slavery as a threat to whites. There was not only the issue of the white slaves, but the constant denigration of a free society by the intellectual defenders of slavery. Slavery apologists constantly stated that their slaves were better off than free white laborers in the North. More than that, the pro-slavery intellectuals defended slavery as a good in and of itself, regardless of "race" or "color." Tenzer shows that Republican party political literature of the antebellum period took the threat of white enslavement seriously.


One final praise. Tenzer defines his terms well. He reminds us that "The Slave Power" or "the South" represented the planter elite and not Southern people in general. Also, "Negro blood" by itself did not confine anyone to slavery. If the maternal descent line was from a white female or had been broken by manumission, the descendants were free. Southern White persons could legally have more Negro ancestry than some unfortunate slaves.

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civil war, slavery, books

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don't forget indebted servitude and the delima of oweing your sole to the company store or forced indebtedness.
Yes. Tenzer's book points out that ANYONE (officially "white" or not) could become a slave because the Fugitive Slave Law was written so that the accused slave would not have time to bring witnesses to testify to his identity AND bribery was written into the law because the judge was paid twice as much if he ruled against the accused.
Having read one post, I see another intelligent soul on OS, and that is appreciated. faved and rated.
I try every-time I write about slavery to point out the fact that whites were enslaved as well as blacks and American Indians. Just as the Black Codes also applied to Black people and poor whites. Good post.
Thanks for the reminder. Recently, someone floated the myth that there were Black people who fought for the South. There were....200 men who were inducted into the Confederate Army, but none ever saw action, and they were committed to serve by their owners.

The issue of white slavery in the north -indentured servants who had to work off their passage to America - has long been ignored. There were indentured servants in the North long after slavery ended in the south.

Good work.