The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 54, July 1950 - April, 1951

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Slavery in Alabama. By James Benson Sellers. Tuscaloosa (Uni-
versity of Alabama Press), 1950. Pp. xiii+426. Illustrations.
All students of the slavery-plantation system of the South have
a great mentor, Professor U. B. Phillips. If Slavery in Alabama
suggests the adaptation and confinement of American Negro
Slavery to a state level, it will in turn be the prototype for spe-
cialized studies in the other slave states. Professor Sellers of the
History Department of the University of Alabama launches a
refreshing and scholarly account which comprehends every phase
of slavery in Alabama from its territorial days up to the Civil
War. The chapters deal with the introduction and expansion of
slavery, plantation types and economy, slave management and
subsistence, traffic in slaves, runaway slaves, slave crimes and pun-
ishment, the town slave, the church and slavery, the free negro,
and the inevitable defense of slavery by the literati. The index
is somewhat inadequate, but the bibliography of sources cited in
replete footnotes is complete. The jacket by Thomas Immler
adds to the attractiveness of the book.
Professor Sellers explores every nook and cranny and presents
a meticulous case study of slavery in a new cotton state. He re-
constructs the institution from its own records: statutes, court
proceedings, church minutes, wills, deeds, plantation letters, man-
uals, and records, and thirty different newspapers, some in series
of years. He makes exhaustive use of his data. From mere run-
away slave advertisements and descriptions, he reveals a surpris-
ing number of facets of the system. To one not interested in this
subject, it would appear that the writer is repetitious and that
he overstretches his materials and interpretations. The book is a
"must," however, for students and teachers of the ante-bellum
South, and it will have a most enthusiastic reception in that circle.
At the outset the writer states that slavery had distinctive fea-
tures in the several states. Slavery in Alabama, however, is not a
comparative study, and it leaves the reader to surmise the special
features in Alabama. Slavery was profitable from beginning to
end on the new bottom soils of Alabama; it was ever expanding.
There were never enough slaves to supply the demand. Hence,
Alabama planters were buyers and not sellers of slaves. Because


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 54, July 1950 - April, 1951. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed April 23, 2014.