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Poor Whites of the Antebellum South: Tenants and Laborers in Central North Carolina and Northeast Mississippi Hardcover – Feb 1994


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Duke Univ Pr (Tx) (February 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822314282
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822314288
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 621 g

Product Description

Review

"This is a fine book that sheds new light on the common whites of the South. Bolton looks at his subject from a different perspective and arrives at sensible and reasonable conclusions." --Richard Lowe," American Historical Review"

About the Author

Charles C. Bolton is Director of the Mississippi Oral History Program and Assistant Professor of History at the University of Southern Mississippi.

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Amazon.com: 1 review
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Essential For Anyone Interested in Southern History March 29 2001
By "teamfound" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In Poor Whites of the Antebellum South, Charles Bolton effectively reveals the economic, social, and political complexity of landless white tenants and laborers in antebellum North Carolina and Mississippi. Through census and tax records, court and insolvent debtor documentation, and personal accounts, the lives of Old South poor whites paint a picture that tells far more of their dynamic story than does the stereotypical label "white trash." Bolton focuses on four counties of the South: Randolph and Davidson counties in the central Piedmont of North Carolina and Pontotoc and Tishomingo counties in northeast Mississippi. Arguably the most notable characteristic of the poor whites was their mobility and versatility. Many of them made frequent relocations because of their need to look for employment and the desire to make economic advancements. Poor whites, such as Edward Isham, possessed a wide range of marketable skills since the slave labor in the South made long-term jobs hard to find. Although the most common occupation was a tenant farmer or farm laborer, some poor white males worked as railroad workers, miners, and stock drivers. The wives of these men, like the yeomen, were responsible for many domestic chores, as were the children; however, unlike the yeomen, many poor white women worked outside the home. The meager wages of the poor whites gave them enough money to pay for food, but personal property was scarce (the lack of material possessions facilitated their frequent moves). With regards to the slave society of the antebellum South, poor whites basically disrupted the line between white independence and black dependence. Free blacks and poor whites had many things in common, being as they represented the backbone of the South's workforce - often working side by side in the fields. Both of the groups had horrible clothing, substandard housing, and unhealthy food. Some free blacks and poor whites even engaged in the illegal exchanging of goods such as liquor, while others gathered to gamble, drink, or make love. However, factors such as white racism, kinship ties, religion, and mobility, prevented the development of any political alliance between landless whites and blacks. Between 1830 and 1850, many poor whites began moving to the southwest frontier of the cotton kingdom in hopes of acquiring wealth and land. For the most part, however, poor white emigrants failed to become landowners. The unfortunate story of Benjamin Scarborough, whose dreams of becoming a landowner, was more common than the rags to riches story of Thomas Allred. In Mississippi, for example, the poor whites had several unpromising options: they could obtain the worst land in the area, they could travel elsewhere, or they could live as squatters or tenants on decent land owned by speculators and wealthy planters. Most of them pressed farther west towards Texas and Arkansas, but few found prosperity. Overall, this book is an interesting and comprehensive look at the lives of poor whites of the antebellum South. Bolton's strongest tool in making his presentation is his use of individual stories. The tales of the various poor whites supplies powerful imagery for the reader, and without these personal accounts the book would not be as effective.


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