Class and culture in Antebellum North Carolina have been largely forgotten. In the past few years, several important studies have examined common whites in individual counties or groups of counties, but they have focused on family life, the economy, or other specific features of the common-white life. C ommon Whites: Class and Culture in Antebellum North Carolina is the first comprehensive examination of these nonslaveholders and small slaveholders in over forty years.
Using North Carolina as a case in point, Bill Cecil-Fronsman has sketched a broad portrait of the world made by this group. Drawing on travelers' accounts, newspapers, folksongs and folktales, quantitative analysis of census reports, and, above all, the common whites' own words, he has woven the individual threads of their culture into an in-depth analysis of their world and their responses to it.
This work focuses on the issues of class and culture. Here, Cecil-Fronsman explores why the common whites accepted the slave system even though it worked to their disadvantage. He demonstrates how the market economy of the outside world played a negligible role in their lives and how their unique traditional attitudes toward family and community evolved. Finally, he recounts how, although most common whites supported the Confederate cause during the Civil War, many of the old loyalties broke down during the war years.
The common whites, though they outnumbered the slaves and the elites, make up the least studied group in the Old South. This book takes us beyond the stereotypes and misconceptions to a better understanding of a group of people virtually ignored by traditional history.