Article Forum on Newman’s “Hidden in Plain Sight”: The Potential of Digital Platforms for Long-Form Scholarship
Edward L. Ayers, Hilary McD Beckles, Jessica Marie Johnson, Sharon M. Leon, and Celia E. Naylor comment on Simon P. Newman’s born-digital OI Reader article, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Escaped Slaves in Late Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century Jamaica.” The Forum concludes with Newman’s reply.
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“His one Netev ples”: The Chowans and the Politics of Native Petitions in the Colonial South
By Bradley J. Dixon
Sometime between 1703 and 1705, a Chowan headman wrote to North Carolina’s Executive Council. The “humble pitison of John hiter Engon” reminded the council, whose seat stood on the banks of a river and in a precinct that bore the name of his people, and in a land he was pledged to defend, that “he is not a strangr nor a foriner but in his one Netev ples.” Though officially tributaries to the English, the Chowans were active players in colonial politics, often using written petitions to express their political ideas and to shape colonial policy. This article shows the versatility of the political strategies used by Indigenous leaders, many of whom were as comfortable in colonial council chambers as they were in their own councils, and places the Chowans’ petitions in the context of regional patterns of petitioning by Natives. The Chowans’ experience also reveals that issues of consent, tribute, and justice—themes more common to Latin American history—were of paramount importance in Anglo-Indian relations. Indeed, like other Indians facing forms of colonial rule throughout the hemisphere, the Chowans used the law to retain autonomy and elicit colonial protection while avoiding complete domination.
The Gauolet Uprising of 1710: Maroons, Rebels, and the Informal Exchange Economy of a Caribbean Sugar Island
By Brett Rushforth
In 1710, a group of enslaved people and maroons gathered at an Ursuline convent to form a secret society called the Gauolet, which orchestrated a rebellion against Martinique’s slaveholders. The uprising faltered after a single night of attacks, but it generated some of the richest surviving sources on enslaved lives in the early eighteenth century. Scholars have long known that the enslaved developed systems of informal commercial exchange that operated beyond the view of European colonizers. Yet because these arrangements were intentionally hidden from those most likely to document them, their dynamics have been discussed in only the most general terms. This article uses the records produced by the 1710 rebellion to reconstruct, in unprecedented detail, the informal exchange economy operated by enslaved people in Martinique. It reveals the extent and variety of small-scale commercial exchanges of food, clothing, tools, information, and luxury goods—as well as an extensive semi-free labor system—all supporting social networks that linked enslaved people from across the island. Slaveholders’ attempts to interfere with this system by limiting mobility and intensifying violent punishments sparked the Gauolet Uprising, which failed to overturn Martinique’s social order but preserved the limited independence offered by the informal economy.
Seized by the Jerks: Shakers, Spirit Possession, and the Great Revival
By Douglas L. Winiarski
Of the many dramatic embodied religious exercises that spread across the trans-Appalachian frontier and southern backcountry during the Great Revival (1799–1805), none drew more astonished commentary or more virulent opposition than “the jerks”: involuntary convulsions in which the subjects’ heads lashed violently backward and forward. Nearly a century before the derisive phrase holy roller was coined to describe the ecstatic worship practices of Holiness and Pentecostal evangelicals in Appalachia, the subjects of these extraordinary fits were known as “Jerkers.” Drawing on more than two hundred published and manuscript accounts, this article examines the origins and controversies surrounding the infamous jerking exercise. Letters and journals composed by three Shaker missionaries during their 1805 “Long Walk” to the trans-Appalachian frontier provide especially vivid descriptions of the jerking phenomenon. The jerks emerged late in the Great Revival among Scots-Irish Presbyterians in east Tennessee and spread rapidly throughout the southern backcountry. While ministers, physicians, and skeptical laypeople denigrated the jerks as a nervous disorder, others understood the convulsions as a form of spirit possession in which the Holy Spirit violently wrenched reluctant sinners into the new birth. Not only did the jerks fuel the explosive growth of the earliest Shaker communities in the west, they also influenced the development of the distinctive regional religious culture that scholars have termed Appalachian mountain religion.
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