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Lisa Gilbert @gilbertlisak
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Thread. Last month I published an article about how resistance within slavery needs to be something we center in social studies classes
#historyed #sschat #socialstudies #slavery #slaveryarchive
It's in The History Teacher, but they don't publish online until 6-12 months after the paper copy, so - what with #SlaveryWasAChoice trending & last month's @splcenter @Tolerance_org survey & articles - I'm tweeting through it here
Basically, my argument is that we need to represent the PERSONHOOD of enslaved people - and that doing so means recognizing that *they resisted in countless ways* that go far beyond the narrow textbook renderings of self-liberation/escape & uprising (although those are important)
I follow @DrLaGarrettKing's important lead in utilizing Dr. Charles Mill's work on revisionist ontology: correcting the historical narrative to center resistance is more accurate AND helps avoid creating "an insidious array of cognitive & moral splits" in students' consciousness
Surveying the literature on history textbooks, I quote Kolchin's survey of AP textbooks, which finds they misrepresent scholarship to make it seem as though the central debate is "whether slavery was harsh or lenient" - something historians DON'T argue about
So what I did was to survey the major scholarly books on American slavery to look at how they represented resistance WITHIN enslavement.

But that's not the only mode of resistance, to be sure - my footnotes here survey so many other forms. It's basically a bottomless well
(Here are those footnotes, in case you want the list. Rebellions. Self-liberation, whether obtained via escape or securing manumission for oneself or family members. Black service in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Black leadership of the abolitionist movement. And more...)
For this study, I stuck to books because I wanted to show just how standard this knowledge is in the scholarly community. It's not culled from a few obscure articles - although there are LOTS of important articles out there that would add to this immeasurably
A *very* important caveat: when we talk about resistance to enslavement, we absolutely cannot do so in a way that creates an alternate fantasy world in which slavery was okay.

So here I put @PainterNell in conversation with Stephanie Camp - two important voices to learn from
My essay takes 3 main areas of resistance within slavery - labor, family, & culture. I started with labor, but the problem is that it continues to envision enslaved people in the instrumental terms defined by their enslavers - so we also need family & culture
Any discussion of family has to keep in mind Painter's observation that in many scholars' works "the institution of the black family appeared preternaturally immune to the brutality inherent in slavery" - but also, that love & relationships were real, even in horrific conditions
For culture, I drew from @Ed_Baptist's image of African American culture as a "collective body that survived forced migration even though many bodies did not survive it" - that culture is a creative act, not a passive one
But again, I worry about how all this could be misrepresented. So I ended by saying, "History teachers should not give the impression that slavery was anything but a crime against humanity. American slavery was without justification and stands without redemption."
I still decided to publish it, because (as the above quote continues) "it is a crime of historical memory to not recognize the personhood of the people whose stories we study. An institution can be condemned as dehumanizing without acquiescing to its internal logic"
Anyway, I wanted to put this out there since it's not really findable online right now. DM me if you want more - but here's the citation:

Gilbert. L. (2018). Resistance within enslavement as a case study for personhood in American history. The History Teacher, 51(2), 221-246.
Basically I guess I was just trying to put some detail on something a museum colleague once told me:

"On a plantation with 300 enslaved people, you'll find 300 ways of resisting."

We can represent at least 3 of those ways in our history classrooms... /fin

(cc @InterpSlavery)
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