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Making Slavery HistoryAbolitionism and the Politics of Memory in Massachusetts$
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Margot Minardi

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195379372

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195379372.001.0001

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Tea and Memory

Tea and Memory

(p.97) 4 Tea and Memory
Making Slavery History

Margot Minardi

Oxford University Press

This chapter centers on the private spaces of sociability and everyday life where memories were made in the context of personal relationships. Drawing on texts commemorating individual people of color whom whites deemed exemplary and “respectable,” including Phillis Wheatley and Chloe Spear (a property‐owning Baptist woman in Boston), the chapter explores how the personal histories of freedpeople were appropriated by their white friends, neighbors, employers, and masters or masters' relatives. Especially prevalent in the second quarter of the nineteenth century, white‐authored memoirs, biographies, obituaries, and anecdotes about freedpeople engaged white Bay Staters' nostalgia for the “deference politics” of a previous generation. When nineteenth‐century white writers reminisced about former slaves, they perceived in this first generation of free black Bay Staters a model for black agency and respectability that accommodated racial hierarchy to the ideals of the American Revolution. There was a gender as well as a race dimension to these representations of black agency, which emphasized humility and deference (traits associated with femininity) as desirable for both women and men of color.

Keywords:   freedpeople, Phillis Wheatley, Chloe Spear, biographies, deference, black agency, respectability, gender, race

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