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Race Relations at the Margins

Slaves and Poor Whites in the Antebellum Southern Countryside

by Jeff Forret

288 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / None

Southern History | Slavery Studies

  Hardcover / 9780807131459 / July 2006
  Paperback / 9780807131459 / September 2010

"Forret . . . has deepened our understanding of the complexity of relations between slaves and poor whites."--Georgia Historical Quarterly

Covering a broad geographic scope from Virginia to South Carolina between 1820 and 1860, Jeff Forret scrutinizes relations among rural poor whites and slaves, a subject previously unexplored and certainly under-reported. Forret's findings challenge historians' long-held assumption that mutual violence and animosity characterized the two groups' interactions; he reveals that while poor whites and slaves sometimes experienced bouts of hostility, often they worked or played in harmony and camaraderie. Race Relations at the Margins is remarkable for its focus on lower-class whites and their dealings with slaves outside the purview of the master. Race and class, Forret demonstrates, intersected in unique ways for those at the margins of southern society, challenging the belief that race created a social cohesion among whites regardless of economic status. As Forret makes apparent, colonial-era flexibility in race relations never entirely disappeared despite the institutionalization of slavery and the growing rigidity of color lines. His book offers a complex and nuanced picture of the shadowy world of slave-poor white interactions, demanding a refined understanding and new appreciation of the range of interracial associations in the Old South.

"A useful addition to a growing literature on nonelite southerners in plantation societies."--Journal of Social History

Jeff Forret is an associate professor of history at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.

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