Social History for Every Classroom


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A Southern Planter Argues that "the Negro Will Not Work"

After the Civil War Confederate leaders and planters argued that their lands, taken (confiscated) by the Union army or abandoned during the war, should be returned to them. Those who wanted freedmen to take over and farm the lands pointed to the success of former slaves in Port Royal, South Carolina. There, former slaves took over farming of the lands abandoned by their masters in 1861. The following quote is from a southern planter explaining to a journalist why such an idea would never work in Virginia or anywhere else.

The Negro will not work more than enough to supply his bare necessities… The Negro stands as much in need of a master to guide him as a child does… The Negro will always need the care of someone superior to him, and unless in one form or another it is extended to him, the race will first become pauper and then disappear. Nothing but the most careful legislation will prevent it… What will the Negro do when he is called upon to support not only himself (he isn’t inclined to do that, and I don’t believe he will do it), but also to get food, and clothes and [medicine] for the infants and disabled people belonging to him? Why, I doubt if my farm ever returned me one percent interest on the capital invested in it. He cannot do it. He couldn’t do it if all the Southern States were confiscated and given him to do it with.

Source | Mr. K--- (Anonymous), 12 July 1865, quoted in John Richard Dennett, The South As It Is: 1865-1866 (republished, Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press, 2010), 15.
Creator | Mr. K--- (Anonymous)
Item Type | Speech
Cite This document | Mr. K--- (Anonymous), “A Southern Planter Argues that "the Negro Will Not Work",” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 5, 2023,



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