Edward Rothstein on Charleston Slave Sites

  • Edward Rothstein, the museum critic for The New York Times (3-Mar-2011), discusses how Charleston, SC is beginning to confront its participation and role in the history of American slavery. Charleston was one of the main colonial ports of the 18th century, dealing in rice, indigo, and slaves. Among other sites, he looks at Drayton Hall, Middleton Place, and the Old Slave Mart Museum.
JDN | 12-Mar-2011

Racial prejudice worked to perpetuate American slavery, even if it was not essential to sustain the institution. Slavery, serfdom, and peonage had existed elsewhere without racial connotations. Indeed, bondage had been so historically ubiquitous one might well ask why, by the 1760’s, it had come to trouble so many white Americans so much. The answer lies in part — and this part help explain why people like Mason did not act more aggressively on their concerns — in the reservations many whites felt about living alongside members of a supposedly inferior race, whether slave or free. The problem was inherent in American slavery, and emancipation, by undermining white control, would only make it worse.

Jeff Broadwater
George Mason: Forgotten Founder (2006)