Chapter 16 13 Themes

Chapter 16

The South and the Slavery Controversy

Big ideas matter. Here are the most important themes for this chapter.

The over-arching theme of chapter 16 is that antebellum (pre-Civil War) society in the South was built on slave labor.

  1. Cotton ran the South before the Civil War— it was "King Cotton." The entire southern economy was based on cotton.
  2. The South had developed a pyramid-like social structure. From top-to-bottom: planter aristocrats, small farmers, the white majority (who owned no slaves), free blacks, slaves.
  3. Life as a slave could be wildly varied—some slave owners were kind toward their slaves, some were immensely cruel. In all situations, slaves were not free to do as they pleased.
  4. Abolition (move to abolish slavery) began with the Quakers. Frederick Douglass became the main spokesman against slavery. And William Lloyd Garrison printed "The Liberator", a radical abolition newspaper.
  5. Southerners countered that northern workers were treated even worse than slaves. Slave owners, they said, had a vested interest in their slaves. Northern factory workers exploited then fired their workers.

Back to the themes index.

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