3 pm to 5 pm
“’This very troublesome business’: The Struggle for Control of Charleston’s Waterfront Workforce”
Michael Thompson, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Laboring on an urban waterfront had its advantages, even for the enslaved. Situated on the western rim of the Atlantic World, slaves toiling on Charleston’s antebellum wharves daily were subject to outside influences and presented with remarkable opportunities and enticements. State and municipal authorities responded by continuously passing laws and ordinances that endeavored to subjugate the port’s most vital yet latently seditious labor force. Such regulatory efforts—ranging from slave badges and prescribed hiring stands to fixed wages and even the censuring of work songs—provoked an incessant struggle for control over dock workers’ movements, communications, labor, and lives.
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