Synopses & Reviews
James Sidbury's Ploughshares into Swords places the enslaved population of Virginia squarely within the emerging Atlantic world culture--of the market economy, of urban culture, of Virginia's rapidly changing religious culture. Sidbury stresses the way black Virginians appropriated white cultural forms, transformed their meaning, and in the process created symbols of black liberation and a culture that had autonomous features even though it drew from the larger culture. His skillfull interweaving of these two separate strands of argument provides rare insights into the entire process of identity formation and creolization.
"...[a] well-researched and clearly written study....Sidbury draws heavily from primary sources and his study is thoroughly documented....Highly recommended." Choice"....offers a series of analyses--detailed, intelligent, sophisticated, and cogent--of a number of important questions that the Gabriel incident both highlights and illuminates....excellent work, with its abundant citations...." The North Carolina Historical Review"James Sidbury's Ploughshares into Swords offers some interesting new perspectives on a well-known event - Gabriel's Rebellion - and some equally useful insights into Richmond's black community in the post-revolutionary era. He offers new and daring interpretations of information in the records, especially his account of how black Virginians turned the culture of the Virginia elite upside down by approaching some of its symbols for revolutionay purposes." Gregg D. Kimball, The Virginia Magazine of History &Biography"...his detailed and suggestive monograph will be useful to subsequent authors who share his commitment `to contextualize'(p. 3)." Peter H. Wood, William &Mary Quarterly"In bringing the study of African American slavery to the community level, Sidbury has also presented a model that will surely inspire future scholarship." Diane Barnes, Southern Historian"...why do we have another book on [this] subject? The answer is because James Sidbury does something different." Donald R. Wright, American Historical Review"James Sidbury's Ploughshares into Swords is one of the best local studies of postrevolutionary Virginia, and particularly Richmond, around." The Journal of American History, Bloomington, IL"...Sidbury pans nuggets of gold from surviving anecdotal evidence about Gabriel's contemporaries...this book succeeds marvelously...well organized, well-written, and carefully reasoned, Ploughshares into Swords manages to stand above a crowded field to make original observations about Gabriel and his world." Joseph P. Reidy, Journal of Interdisciplinary History"Ploughshares into Swords, in addition to providing provocative reading, fills a significant gap in the historiography of the colonial and subsequent African American experience. It should prove to be a catalyst for further research on this important topic." Journal of American Ethnic History"...a valuable new study of black identity in the Atlantic world." The Journal of Southern History
During the summer of 1800, slaves in and around Richmond conspired to overthrow slavery. This book uses Gabriel's Conspiracy, and the evidence produced during its repression, to expose the processes through which Virginians of African descent built an oppositional culture. Sidbury portrays this culture, and the multiple, sometimes conflicting, senses of identity that emerged among the people of the rapidly-growing state capitol. The book offers an alternative interpretation of the Virginia that was home to many of the Founding Fathers.
Sidbury focuses on the history and perspectives of enslaved blacks to develop 'Gabriel's Virginia' as a counterpoint to 'Jeffersonian Virginia.'
Table of Contents
Introduction; Acknowledgments; Prologue: from blacks in Virginia to black Virginians; 1. The emergence of racial consciousness in eighteenth-century Virginia; Part I. Cultural Progress: Creolization, Appropriation, and Collective Identity in Gabriel's Virginia: 2. Forging an oppositional culture: Gabriel's conspiracy and the process of cultural appropriation; 3. Individualism, community, and identity in Gabriel's conspiracy; 4. Making sense of Gabriel's conspiracy: immediate responses to the conspiracy; Part II. Social Practice: Urbanization, Commercialization, and Identity in the Daily Life of Gabriel's Richmond: 5. The growth of early Richmond; 6. Labor, race, and identity in early Richmond; 7. Race and constructions of gender in early Richmond; Epilogue: Gabriel and Richmond in historical and fictional time; 8. Gabriel's Conspiracy in memory and fiction; Appendix; Notes.