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- "All of us would walk together" : the transition from slavery to freedom at St. Mary's City, Maryland
- Brock, Terry Peterkin
- Electronic Theses & Dissertations
"ALL OF US WOULD WALK TOGETHER": THE TRANSITION FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM AT ST. MARY'S CITY, MARYLANDbyTerry Peterkin BrockIn 1840, Dr. John Mackall Brome inherited his father's plantation along the St. Mary's River in St. Mary's County, Maryland. Over the ensuing decades, Brome built his plantation into one of the largest in Southern Maryland, both in acreage and slaveholdings. By the Civil War, his plan- tation landscape had been entirely rebuilt, and was home to over 60 enslaved African...
Show more"ALL OF US WOULD WALK TOGETHER": THE TRANSITION FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM AT ST. MARY'S CITY, MARYLANDbyTerry Peterkin BrockIn 1840, Dr. John Mackall Brome inherited his father's plantation along the St. Mary's River in St. Mary's County, Maryland. Over the ensuing decades, Brome built his plantation into one of the largest in Southern Maryland, both in acreage and slaveholdings. By the Civil War, his plan- tation landscape had been entirely rebuilt, and was home to over 60 enslaved African Americans. This dissertation examines how Brome managed his plantation during and after slavery, and how African Americans used, reused, modified, and changed the plantation landscape to survive their bondage and define their freedom after slavery.Examining the transition from slavery to freedom has received limited attention in archaeo- logical analysis, and this research introduces a model for understanding the transition through the plantation landscape. The landscape was a critical form of control developed by planters to ef- ficiently produce archaeological crops and manage enslaved laborers. This system, in place for centuries in the American South, was entirely reformed after the emancipation of African Ameri- can laborers. This study will examine how Brome's strategy for managing his labor changed over time, and how African Americans leveraged their newfound freedom to define their freedom and establish independence.This transition is particularly unique in Maryland, which sided with the Union during the Civil War, and which underwent multiple changes in its agricultural economy throughout the 19th cen- tury, transitioning from tobacco to wheat to meat and dairy production. This complicates the traditional narrative of post-Emancipation agricultural relationships between blacks and whites, as Marylander's began producing less labor intensive crops. Meanwhile, African Americans used their new freedoms to change the way they used space to organize their households, build families, and establish communities on and off the plantation.A number of spheres will be interrogated to understand how space was used before and afterslavery. The plantation will be considered as a whole to understand the way the built environment changed through time, including Brome's plantation redesign during the 1840s and its decline through the rest of the century. Brome's use of this landscape to establish control of his slaves and demonstrate his power to his peers will be examined, and how this was effected by the Civil War and Emancipation. For African Americans, a number of spaces on the plantation will be examined, including the plantation proper, the African American domestic sphere, work areas including the manor home, and the wilderness to provide insight into the way that African Americans used space differently after Emancipation. These spaces will be considered in the context of household formation and community building, extending to areas off the plantation.This research demonstrates that Brome used his landscape as a means of controlling his en- slaved laborers and to demonstrate his power through a performative space to his peers. The regular presence of Union soldiers during the Civil War, crippled his control, and provided the necessary cracks for enslaved laborers to resist their bondage and gain freedom. After the War, Brome's agricultural pursuits transition from large sharecropping towards less labor intensive crops and investments in the railroad, resulting in the reduction of his plantation size by the 1880s.Enslaved African Americans reused plantation spaces to create alternate plantation landscapes. They modified their households to mitigate the effects of slavery, and used space on and off the plantation to build communities. After the Civil War, African American reconstituted their fam- ilies into households, and began to separate their community spaces from the white landscape. Instead of reusing space on the plantation, they instead created independent spaces where they could practice family, household and community interactions.