Document Type

Book Review

Publication Title

Law & History Review

Publication Date

Summer 2008



Page Number



antebellum South, slavery, plantation overseers, trials


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Courts | Law


Wherever slaves worked on plantations in the antebellum South, overseers were hired to supervise and discipline them. Crops, soil types, and topographies varied greatly across the region, but professional slave drivers were fixtures of the landscape from the colonial era to the Civil War. Their ubiquity pleased few people, slave or free. Accounts of their sadism, sexual violence, and general coarseness and stupidity are not limited to slave narratives and abolitionist tracts; gripes and horror stories fill the public and private writings of plantation owners, too. Harriet Beecher Stowe was hardly taking literary license when she made slave owner Simon Legree the character in Uncle Tom’s Cabin who maligns “yer cussed overseers.”



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