Author: Amanda White Gibson

is a PhD candidate at the College of William and Mary and a predoctoral fellow at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia.

The Economy of the Enslaved in Virginia

The economy of enslaved Virginians consisted of productive activities outside of those required by the enslaver. Enslaved individuals grew vegetables, raised chickens, and plied their trades during their time off because it allowed them to better provision their families and amass some savings. By the end of the eighteenth century, Virginia law prohibited trade between enslaved people and all but their enslaver. Enforcement of laws prohibiting the “slaves’ economy” did not stop its growth and instead drove aspects underground. Whether the economy of the enslaved consisted of the sale of produce or poultry or enslaved peoples’ self-hire, enslavers were the primary beneficiaries of these activities. Enslavers profited when enslaved people provided their own food and clothing. They also profited when enslaved peoples’ accumulation of goods or livestock created a disincentive to self-emancipation. While some enslaved Virginians were able to take advantage of the market economy to make slight improvements in their standard of living and to feel a measure of autonomy taken from then by enslavement, the economy of the enslaved never threatened the system of slavery because it largely benefited whites in power.


Fredericksburg, Second Battle of

The Second Battle of Fredericksburg was fought May 3–4, 1863, and was part of the Chancellorsville Campaign during the American Civil War (1861–1865). While Union general Joseph Hooker and the Army of the Potomac engaged Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia twelve miles to the west near Chancellorsville, the First and Sixth corps under Union general John Sedgwick were ordered to cross the Rappahannock River and attack at Fredericksburg, on Lee’s far right flank. Hooker’s plan was to force an already undermanned Lee to shift troops to his right, weakening his defenses and forcing him to retreat. By the time the cautious Sedgwick was in position, however, Confederate general Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson had outflanked the Union right and it was Hooker, not Lee, who was reeling back. Sedgwick did finally charge up Marye’s Heights, where the previous December the Union army under Ambrose E. Burnside had so ignominiously been defeated. This time, a small contingent of Confederates under Jubal A. Early held on for a short while before finally giving way. When Sedgwick failed to press his victory, Lee reinforced his line, attacking at Salem Church on May 3 and Bank’s Ford on May 4. On May 5, Sedgwick retreated back across the Rappahannock River, followed shortly by Hooker.