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Gleanings of FreedomFree and Slave Labor along the Mason-Dixon Line, 1790-1860$
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Max Grivno

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780252036521

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252036521.001.0001

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3. “There Are Objections to Black and White, but One Must Be Chosen”

3. “There Are Objections to Black and White, but One Must Be Chosen”

Managing Farms and Farmhands in Antebellum Maryland

(p.91) 3. “There Are Objections to Black and White, but One Must Be Chosen”
Gleanings of Freedom

Max Grivno

University of Illinois Press

This chapter explores farmers' strategies for recruiting and disciplining a diverse workforce of slaves, free blacks, and hired whites. Regardless of the composition of their workforces, landowners labored under certain imperatives: they needed to eliminate or at least trim the cost of supporting their workers' dependent kin and to rid themselves of surplus hands during slower seasons while guaranteeing a workforce adequate for harvesting wheat. To balance these competing imperatives, employers of free labor winnowed workers they perceived as unproductive from their rolls and crafted economic and legal stratagems to bring hired farmhands to heel. For their part, slave owners grafted the most attractive elements of free labor onto the peculiar institution, such as cash payments and promises of freedom. Thus, when viewed from the perspective of northern Maryland's farmers and planters, the distinction between slavery and free labor appears murky: the seasonal rhythms of wheat production shaped both.

Keywords:   wheat production, surplus workforce, free labor, diverse workforce, seasonal workforce, wheat harvest, farmhands, slaves, free blacks, hired whites

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