Title page for ETD etd-041999-153416


Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Roberts, Kevin
Author's Email Address kdr@vt.edu
URN etd-041999-153416
Title African-Virginian Extended Kin: The Prevalence of West African Family Forms among Slaves in Virginia, 1740-1870
Degree Master of Arts
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Shifflett, Crandall A. Committee Chair
Banks, Ingrid Committee Member
Bunch-Lyons, Beverly Committee Member
Keywords
  • Massie
  • African
  • Slave Culture
  • Virginia
  • Extended Family
  • Slavery
Date of Defense 1999-04-16
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
Scholarship on slave families has focused on the nuclear family unit as the primary socializing institution among slaves. Such a paradigm ignores the extended family, which was the primary form of family organization among peoples in western and central Africa. By exploring slave trade data, I argue that 85% of slave imports to Virginia in the 18th century were from only four regions. Peoples from each region-the Igbo, the Akan, Bantu speakers from Angola and Congo, and the Mande from Senegambia-were marked by the prevalence of the extended family, the centrality of women, and flexible descent systems. I contend that these three cultural characteristics were transferred by slaves to Virginia.

Runaway slave advertisements from the Virginia Gazette show the cultural makeup of slaves in eighteenth-century Virginia. I use these advertisements to illustrate the prevalence of vast inter-plantation webs of kin that pervaded plantation, county, and even state boundaries. Plantation records, on the other hand, are useful for tracking the development of extended families on a single plantation. William Massie's plantation Pharsalia, located in Nelson County, Virginia, is the focus of my study of intra-plantation webs of kin. Finally, I examine the years after the Civil War to illustrate that even under freedom, former slaves resorted to their extended families for support and survival.

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