@Book{ schermerhorn2011,
	author = {Calvin Schermerhorn},
	title = {Money over Mastery, Family over Freedom: Slavery in the Antebellum Upper South},
	address = {Baltimore},
	publisher = {Johns Hopkins University Press},
	year = 2011,

Focusing on the Upper South, and especially on coastal Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina, Schermerhorn examines how African Americans reacted to the transformation of this “superannuated plantation society” into a modernizing, market-based economy in which there were many “alternative means of making slavery pay” besides staple-crop production (p. 4).

These transformations offered new opportunities to enslaved people to find “new employments in growing urban areas and in transportation trades” (p. 3), but they remained vulnerable to the continuing power of masters made manifest by the sale of slaves to the Cotton Kingdom. As masters’ actions belied their paternalist ideology by placing money over mastery, enslaved people’s reactions revealed the priority they placed on preserving families by mobilizing resources and networks made possible partly by their involvement in the market forces that were transforming Upper South slavery: “their primary endeavor was to construct networks to protect families in the middle of one of the most destructive and sustained devaluations of kin and affinal bonds in the history of the modern world” (p. 4).

p. 19:

Combined with the invisible hand of the market were the visible hands of slave owners, slave traders, and employers, who exposed enslaved people to new markets. The enslaved in turn tried to use those new markets to keep their families together.

p. 20-21:

In contests with slaveholders, and when and where they could, most enslaved people chose family over freedom. Slaveholders, in turn, chose money over mastery. As the modernity of slavery worked remorselessly through an intensifying market hungry for the bodies and labor of slaves, enslaved people sought to defend blood kin from the worst aspects of the market by participating in it.


Chapter 1

Chapter 1 explores the “networking” activities of enslaved people, who used ties with co-religionists, patrons, and other allies to protect family members from sale. Focuses on narratives of Solomon Bayley and Charles Ball. “Far from being strangers and afraid in a world they never made, the Balls and Bayleys of the upper South were network actors working in behalf of the constituents of their identity, their families and loved ones” (62).

Chapter 2

Shows how the networks of water transportation that grew amidst the intensifying commercialization of the region enabled enslaved people to build new resources and networks of their own: “As slaves in the coastal upper South of the United States piloted boats, ferried goods, packed, sailed, or constructed ships, they formed ties with coworkers, customers, employers, and other market actors” (63), demonstrating the “strength of weak ties” (94). In doing so, they often found themselves in “a double bind of participating—however unintentionally—in the same commercialization that was dispersing their children in the hope of securing the means to avoid the sale and removal of loved ones” (p. 66). Focuses on the story of Moses Grandy and Peter Robinson.

Chapter 3

Enslaved domestic workers, like maritime works in Chapter 2, sought to build social capital and amass resources “using interpersonal skills and sentiment, and sometimes sexuality, within a local and intensely personal set of circumstances” (p. 100). In particular, “enslaved women … manipulated human ties that might keep them out of the slave market. That was domestic slaves’ version of networking” (108). Harriet Jacobs a central character here.

Here Schermerhorn also challenges views of the enslaved community that make it into a monolithic “universe of interest over against those who enslaved them. … Slaves had to deal with the devils they knew lest they be sold to the devils they did not” (119), even to the point of sometimes seeming to ally themselves with slave traders.

p. 133:

The ties they cemented with sentiment and emotion were as fragile as those male slaves forged with cash, yet they reordered slaveholders’ ideology of domesticity, using a highly elaborated code in the service of their own contingent, evolving, and often anguished strategies.

Chapter 4

Focuses on those skilled enslaved laborers who were employed in new industrial enterprises for processing goods made of the very commodities whose cultivation was prompting the sale of many kin.

Chapter 5

Slaves employed in constructing railroad networks simultaneously separated them from families and gave them resources with which to combat final separations by sale. “As they became indispensable to railroad construction, operation, and maintenance, enslaved people used the railroad to their own ends, gathering human and capital resources and turning labor camps into fraternal organizations and even educational institutions” (165).

Notes that in the Upper South, unlike in the Lower, railroad companies usually “rented” the labor of slaves instead of purchasing slaves outright: “When they could, railroad companies used gangs of slaves hired together for years at a time. That strategy increased efficiency since a core cadre of experienced men could be augmented by more recent hires whom they would tutor” (188). Sometimes slaves were hired through agents who contracted to supply enslaved workers to the railroad companies; an owner might know what company had arranged the hire of a slave but never know or have “direct contact with the road” (p. 188).