SouthwesternHistoricalQuarterly January created a steady demand for enslaved people that the interstate slave trade rushed to fill. Life on a Louisiana sugar plantation mimicked northern industrial capitalism as slaves adhered to strict regimentation and discipline. This "agro-industrial order" (p. 30) stressed speed, control, and continuous production. Follett aptly sums up the mania for increased production in a setting that approached a factory: "Time defined the sugar regime" (p. 110). With such inhuman conditions, one might expect that slaves would engage in wholesale resistance. That was not the case. Planters used capitalist incentives like post-harvest parties, rewards, holiday meals, payment for chopping wood, and cash bonuses to stimulate production, minimize sabotage, and provide motivation. In an inherent climate of disorder, the sugar masters were searching for (and demanding) order. The slaves, it appears, accepted these inducements because it gave them temporary equality with the masters. Things such as payment for overwork and possession of cash allowed slaves to establish some autonomy within the brutal system of sugar slavery. Enslaved people also asserted their culture and individuality and culture through song, dance, and community. Slaves used their hard-earned money to buy fabric and the resulting clothing became expressions of self-assertion,
Southwestern Historical Quarterly – Texas State Historical Association
Published: Mar 28, 2007
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