IN RED AND BLACK: Marxian Explorations In Southern and Afro-American History by Eugene D. Genovese
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IN RED AND BLACK: Marxian Explorations In Southern and Afro-American History

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A collection of articles by one of the foremost students of the antebellum South and one of the best Marxian scholars in any field. Genovese offers his criticisms of and extrapolations from the work of Tannenbaum, Elkins, Ulrich Phillips, Potter, Woodward, and other historians of Southern and continental slavery. Of broadest interest are his own investigations of the Negro slave, who he says was neither rebellious nor totally dehumanized. It is not easy to do justice to the strengths of his polemics, use of evidence, conceptual apparatus, and his partly intuitive ability to discern the mutual accommodations of slaves and planters within an essentially despotic, exploitative situation. It can be argued, however, that he exaggerates the ""archaic,"" coherent and authentic elements in Old Southern ideology at the expense of its factitious, late-antebellum aspects. The collection also does battle in and about Marxist historiography and current politics. It is impossible to disagree with Genovese's strictures against vulgar economic determinism. But he too often indulges in rumblings about the necessity for understanding ""social systems"" and non-economic aspects of class, without elaborating the latter concepts or developing his own grasp of Marxian economics -- both of which are required to understand the political differences between the Southern slaveholders and, e.g., the Russian gentry which accepted emancipation. Nor does he elaborate the material differences between Southern slavery and other systems of forced labor as they shaped, and were shaped by, American history. The book remains a powerful and thoroughly interesting contribution; after Genovese one can no longer regard in the same way the general subject of the Old South and particular subjects like slave family structure or the house-slave mentality and that is a tribute few historians merit.

Pub Date: June 29th, 1971
Publisher: Pantheon