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Men Is Cheap: Exposing the Frauds of Free Labor in Civil War America by Brian P. Luskey (review)

Men Is Cheap: Exposing the Frauds of Free Labor in Civil War America by Brian P. Luskey (review) Yuletide in Dixie undeniably succeeds in overturning the myth of planter Christmastime benevolence, and it makes a vital contribution to the literature on Civil War memory. If there is a flaw, it is May’s avoid - ance of the slaveholder “paternalism” debate. May is clearly aware of this scholarship, citing it throughout, but he never takes a clear position: Were slaveholders genuinely self-deluded, really believing that their slaves were content? Or did they know all along that slavery was ruthless and simply portrayed it to the public as benevolent in order to obscure what they knew to be true? These days, scholars tend to take the latter position—planters were fully aware of their cruelty. But May often seems to agree with the older scholarship, pioneered by Eugene Genovese, who argued that slave- holders genuinely saw their enslaved workers as part of their “organic” family and thus “deluded themselves” (5). By never directly engaging in this debate, May missed an opportunity to make another significant contribution. That critique notwithstanding, Yuletide in Dixie provides a master class in how to make powerful contributions to multiple subfields at once— Civil War memory, antebellum slavery, the Civil War itself—out of what might appear http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of the Civil War Era University of North Carolina Press

Men Is Cheap: Exposing the Frauds of Free Labor in Civil War America by Brian P. Luskey (review)

The Journal of the Civil War Era , Volume 11 (1) – Feb 24, 2021

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright @ The University of North Carolina Press
ISSN
2159-9807

Abstract

Yuletide in Dixie undeniably succeeds in overturning the myth of planter Christmastime benevolence, and it makes a vital contribution to the literature on Civil War memory. If there is a flaw, it is May’s avoid - ance of the slaveholder “paternalism” debate. May is clearly aware of this scholarship, citing it throughout, but he never takes a clear position: Were slaveholders genuinely self-deluded, really believing that their slaves were content? Or did they know all along that slavery was ruthless and simply portrayed it to the public as benevolent in order to obscure what they knew to be true? These days, scholars tend to take the latter position—planters were fully aware of their cruelty. But May often seems to agree with the older scholarship, pioneered by Eugene Genovese, who argued that slave- holders genuinely saw their enslaved workers as part of their “organic” family and thus “deluded themselves” (5). By never directly engaging in this debate, May missed an opportunity to make another significant contribution. That critique notwithstanding, Yuletide in Dixie provides a master class in how to make powerful contributions to multiple subfields at once— Civil War memory, antebellum slavery, the Civil War itself—out of what might appear

Journal

The Journal of the Civil War EraUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Feb 24, 2021

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