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“20. and odd Negroes”: Virginia and the international system of slavery, 1619-1660

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Title: “20. and odd Negroes”: Virginia and the international system of slavery, 1619-1660
Author(s): Thompson, Carmen
Director of Research: Roediger, David R.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Roediger, David R.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Allman, Jean M.; Burgos, Jr., Adrian; Millward, Jessica
Department / Program: History
Discipline: History
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Slavery African American History Transatlantic Slave Trade
Abstract: This dissertation explores the relationship between Virginia’s early development and the transatlantic slave trade. This study locates Virginia as a colonizer and an enslaver in the context of the developing international system of slavery and the major upheavals that transformed both West Central Africa and the New World in the early seventeenth century. European peoples in the early sixteenth century promoted the expansion of plantation economies in the Americas using European immigrant and West African laborers. This expansion created the conditions for England’s settlement of Virginia and its transition from observer to participant in the transatlantic slave trade. This dissertation explores how the technologies of oppression that made-up the international system of slavery shaped the early development of Virginia and the extent to which they fueled the racial character of Virginia. This project also explores how Black peoples attempted to survive and build community using indigenous West African knowledge systems and cultural forms. Using a variety of county court records (deeds, orders, and wills), estate inventories, statutes, and letters from various counties between 1619 and 1660, this study examines the influence of the international system of slavery on Virginia’s social, legal, religious, and governmental institutions from its settlement through the legislative enactments of the 1660s that made it increasingly difficult for African peoples to remain free. In the early decades of the seventeenth century Virginia leaders looked to England, and England looked to other European nations that participated in the transatlantic slave trade for guidance in how to structure its society. By the 1620s and 1630s these models were fundamental to establishing the colony’s hierarchical social structure that produced unequal relations between European immigrants and African and Native groups. I argue that Virginia had integrated into the international system of slavery earlier than most historians have argued, influencing the not only the racial character of Virginia but also its early development. I further argue that African peoples united as a group in response to this reality, recreating indigenous knowledge systems and culture forms such as agrarian culture, oral traditions, and lineage systems that were held in common across ethnic divides in West Africa to resist subjugation and build community in Virginia. Viewing the early decades of Virginia through the lens of the transatlantic slave trade reframes our fundamental assumptions about first half of the seventeenth century, about the ways in which Africa and Africans shaped the development of Virginia, and about what it meant to be African and European in the early decades of the seventeenth century.
Issue Date: 2012-06-27
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/32016
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Carmen Thompson
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-06-27
Date Deposited: 2012-05
 

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