“Slavery is a topic that makes some people uncomfortable because it detracts from the very positive narrative we are so often told about American history,” said Paul Teed, a history professor.
Spouses Paul and Melissa Teed challenged this positive narrative in their January 2020 book “Daily Life of African American Slaves in the Antebellum South.”
“We believe it is essential for people to have an accurate understanding of the ways in which the nation’s history has been intertwined with the institution of slavery and the white supremacist ideas that support it,” he said.
The process of writing the book took about two years, but Paul Teed said working together made it easier and was rewarding.
“We are both historians of 19th-century America, and our research and writing had connected in various ways to the history of slavery,” he said. “Since the book was divided into chapters covering different aspects of slaves’ daily lives, we were able to bring our separate strengths to bear on different aspects of the topic.”
The process of getting a book published varies from publisher to publisher and depends on genre, Paul Teed said. Both Teeds previously worked with the publisher Greenwood Press. The publisher had asked them to write the book as part of an ongoing series called “Daily Life Through History.”
Although the publisher sought them out, Paul Teed said the book’s topic was still ultimately their decision.
“Since our work deals with slavery, we chose to write about the experiences of enslaved women and children in the antebellum South,” he said.
The book focuses on several categories of enslaved people’s lives, including families, hobbies, learning, religion and work.
“In terms of broader themes, we wanted to demonstrate both the brutality and violent repression that enslaved people endured,” he said, “while also documenting the ways in which they resisted the dehumanization the system was designed to inflict on them.”
Paul Teed said the book describes the struggle slaves went through daily. It also touches on what they did despite these challenges.
“Even within those oppressive conditions, they formed families, preserved and created their own distinctive religious lives and sometimes rebelled against their owners,” he said. “Like so many oppressed people throughout history, slaves refused to accept the legitimacy of the system that held them down.”
The book is available on Amazon and other retailers.