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My Brother SlavesMy Brother Slaves

Friendship, Masculinity, and Resistance in the Antebellum South

Sergio A. Lussana


Book published by The University Press of Kentucky


Trapped in a world of brutal physical punishment and unremitting, back-breaking labor, Frederick Douglass mused that it was the friendships he shared with other enslaved men that carried him through his darkest days.

In this pioneering study, Sergio A. Lussana offers the first in-depth investigation of the social dynamics between enslaved men and examines how individuals living under the conditions of bondage negotiated masculine identities. He demonstrates that African American men worked to create their own culture through a range of recreational pursuits similar to those enjoyed by their white counterparts, such as drinking, gambling, fighting, and hunting. Underscoring the enslaved men's relationships, however, were the sex-segregated work gangs on the plantations, which further reinforced their social bonds.

Lussana also addresses male resistance to slavery by shifting attention from the visible, organized world of slave rebellion to the private realms of enslaved men's lives. He reveals how these men developed an oppositional community in defiance of the regulations of the slaveholder and shows that their efforts were intrinsically linked to forms of resistance on a larger scale. The trust inherent in these private relationships was essential in driving conversations about revolution.

My Brother Slaves fills a vital gap in our contemporary understanding of southern history and of the effects that the South's peculiar institution had on social structures and gender expression. Employing detailed research that draws on autobiographies of and interviews with former slaves, Lussana's work artfully testifies to the importance of social relationships between enslaved men and the degree to which these fraternal bonds encouraged them to resist.

Sergio A. Lussana is senior lecturer of history at Nottingham Trent University and is coeditor of Black and White Masculinity in the American South, 1800–2000.

REVIEWS:

“A fascinating read … provides a great resource for any reader or researcher pursing new light on the topic of friendships, masculinity and resistance of enslaved men in the Antebellum South.”

—The Southeastern Librarian

“In My Brother Slaves: Friendship, Masculinity, and Resistance in the Antebellum South, Sergio A. Lussana seeks to further expand our knowledge of the cultures and social structures of slave communities by focusing on a group that is underrepresented in the literature: enslaved men. Lussana has constructed a compelling and focused study of the lives, relationships, and resilience of enslaved men in the antebellum South.”

American Historical Review

“For nearly one hundred years, the pendulum of slavery’s historiography has swung in wide arcs. Sergio A. Lussana’s finely executed monograph suggests where the pendulum may be settling. He examines how enslaved men developed friendships with one another and what those relationships meant for constructing black masculinity, intertwining race and class, and connecting everyday resistance with revolution.”

Journal of American History

“The book is a valuable chronicle of the everyday experiences that shaped enslaved lives, and Lussana offers useful ideas about assessing enslaved men’s masculinity. ”

Reviews in History

“Well-written, clear, and concise, My Brother Slaves is a useful primer on the development of enslaved manhood and homosocial relationships.”

Reviews in History

“While there is much to read in the growing historiography of slave studies, Lussana’s is among the first to exclusively study male slaves. Beyond his originality, Lussana is a gifted writer. The author’s beautifully crafted narrative flows like water through the study’s five chapters. For anyone desiring a more profound understanding of how male slaves lived, functioned, coped with chattel slavery, and resisted that abominable institution, Lussana’s engaging, powerful and provocative study is essential reading.”

Civil War News





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