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Eugene Genovese's Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World The Slaves - Book Report/Review Example

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Summary
Genovese's Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World The Slaves Made is seen as both a controversial and yet comprehensive examination of life in the ante-bellum South (Genovese, 1976). In contrast to many other books on the subject, Genovese explores the life of both the slaves and the slave-owners…
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Eugene Genoveses book Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World The Slaves
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Eugene Genovese's Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World The Slaves

Download file to see previous pages... This is hardly the stuff of racism, but rather the introduction to a book that attempts to actually understand what occurred in the Deep South under slavery rather than merely falling back on the obvious: constant condemnation. The idea that slavery is indeed "cruel" and "unjust", in Genovese's own words is so self-evident that it hardly needs to be stated. Considering factors other than the terribly unjust, evil nature of slavery does not necessarily imply that the author is supportive of the institution. Rather, Genovese is attempting to understand slavery from a number of different viewpoints and as part of a complex system in which the idea of racial superiority within whites and racial inferiority within blacks was just one variable in a much wider series of connections.
The subtlety of Genovese's argument can be seen as he sates that "southern paternalism, like every other paternalism, had little to do with Ole Massa's ostensible benevolence, kindness and good cheer . . . it grew out of the necessity to discipline and morally justify a system of exploitation" (Genovese, 1976). This is an interesting argument. Genovese suggests that Southern whites knew (at least at a subconscious level) that slavery was an unjust, terrible systems and thus needed to create a whole system of both safeguards to protect it and also moral masks to avoid looking at its true nature.
The attempt at finding some kind of domestic harmo...
was an unjust, terrible systems and thus needed to create a whole system of both safeguards to protect it and also moral masks to avoid looking at its true nature.
The attempt at finding some kind of domestic harmony and excuses for the supposed "necessity" of slavery that are found within slave-owner comments may be viewed within this light. Genovese is not stating that these were the actuality of slave culture, but rather that they represent part of it because this was the perception that slave-owners were attempting to convince themselves, one another, slavery opponents and even the slaves themselves of.
The slaves were literally trapped, often within chains, but the slave-owners were trapped in a metaphoric sense. As one reviewer of the book puts it, "slavery entrapped both slave and master into a subhuman form of existence, out of which a normalized dynamics had to, and eventually did evolve, and did so organically" (Calhoun, 2006). In some ways, the book can be seen as more than just history, but rather as addressing the extraordinary ability of human beings to adapt to situations and create some degree of habit and normality even within the most terrible of conditions. Genovese suggests that slavery was not a one-dimensional torture chamber with the black slaves as absolute good and the white slave-owners as absolute evil, but rather it was a complex human institution made up of various cultural, social, political and economic elements.
The idea that there were specific forces at work within the slave South, more than just the general view of a racist society, is central to Genovese's argument. He states that "southern slave society was not merely one more manifestation of some abstraction called racist society . . . its history was essentially determined ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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