JOURNAL OF THE EARLY REPUBLIC (Fall 2013) Slaves for Hire: Renting Enslaved Laborers in Antebellum Virginia. By John J. Zaborney. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2012. Pp. 218. Cloth, $42.50.) Reviewed by Nicholas Wood Examining an understudied topic, John J. Zaborney demonstrates the extent, variety, and importance of slave hiring in antebellum Virginia. Slave hiring was a profit-maximizing practice that often belied paternalistic notions of slavery. Planters with surplus slaves could supplement their income by hiring out a few slaves or hire them all out while traveling for extended periods of time. Churches, orphanages, and schools raised funds by hiring out slaves they owned for that purpose. Males and females were hired in roughly equal numbers as field hands, domestic servants, coal miners, and railroad builders. By the 1850s slave hiring was so commonplace that rental agreements were standardized and preprinted, as were insurance policies for hired slaves working in especially dangerous occupations. Drawing on deep archival research and weaving many compelling anecdotes into a coherent whole, Zaborney demonstrates how the hiring process shaped the lives of white Virginians, the enslaved, and the institution of slavery itself. Zaborney characterizes the existing scholarship on slave hiring as ``polarized:
Journal of the Early Republic – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Jul 5, 2013
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