Hirelings: African American Workers and Free Labor in Early Maryland (Hardback)Jennifer Hull Dorsey (author)
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In Hirelings, Jennifer Dorsey recreates the social and economic milieu of Maryland's Eastern Shore at a time when black slavery and black freedom existed side by side. She follows a generation of manumitted African Americans and their freeborn children and grandchildren through the process of inventing new identities, associations, and communities in the early nineteenth century. Free Africans and their descendants had lived in Maryland since the seventeenth century, but before the American Revolution they were always few in number and lacking in economic resources or political leverage. By contrast, manumitted and freeborn African Americans in the early republic refashioned the Eastern Shore's economy and society, earning their livings as wage laborers while establishing thriving African American communities.
As free workers in a slave society, these African Americans contested the legitimacy of the slave system even while they remained dependent laborers. They limited white planters' authority over their time and labor by reuniting their families in autonomous households, settling into free black neighborhoods, negotiating labor contracts that suited the needs of their households, and worshipping in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Some moved to the cities, but many others migrated between employers as a strategy for meeting their needs and thwarting employers' control. They demonstrated that independent and free African American communities could thrive on their own terms. In all of these actions the free black workers of the Eastern Shore played a pivotal role in ongoing debates about the merits of a free labor system.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 224
Weight: 454 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 20 mm
"In Hirelings Jennifer Hull Dorsey shows that blacks and whites made incremental changes in their lives that ended slavery yet maintained the claim some whites had on the fruits of the labor of most blacks. In this, one could say that Maryland's Eastern Shore was a laboratory for modern U.S. race relations."-William and Mary Quarterly
"Dorsey'sHirelingsis a well-developed study of how economic and social forces shaped the lives of free African Americans. It wil interest students of African American history, labor history, religious history, and Atlantic world emancipations."-Jennifer Oast,The Journal of Southern History(November 2013)
"Hirelings traces the experiences of rural African Americans in Maryland during the social and economic transformations of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It sheds light on the conditions faced by freeborn and newly freed men and women during the first emancipation following the American Revolution and follows them and their children's generation through the changes of the Early Republic. Clearly written in accessible prose, it makes use of case studies that provide rich material for classroom discussion."-Christopher Clark, author of Social Change in America from the Revolution to the Civil War
"Jennifer Hull Dorsey reenergizes the long tradition of Maryland social history with her compelling account of freedom's possibilities and perils on the Eastern Shore. What distinguishes Hirelings is its close attention to the fundamental issues of labor and capital at the heart of slave emancipations everywhere. It is rare to see such empirical depth and analytical breadth in a single volume."-Seth Rockman, Brown University, author of Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore
"Jennifer Hull Dorsey has written a wonderful regional history that has much wider implications both for early America in general and for the African American past in particular. Dorsey's book is like a lantern that illuminates how free black people reshaped the larger labor system by adapting, confronting, and negotiating with white Americans who exercised more political power in the new nation. Impressively, Dorsey connects the experiences of black agricultural workers on the eastern shore of Maryland with the lives and struggles of recently emancipated people throughout the Atlantic World."-Billy G. Smith, Professor of History and Distinguished Professor of Letters and Science, Montana State University, author of Ship of Death: The Voyage that Changed the Atlantic World