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Frontiers of ScienceImperialism and Natural Knowledge in the Gulf South Borderlands, 1500-1850$
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Cameron B. Strang

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469640471

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469640471.001.0001

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Deep History, Deep South

Deep History, Deep South

Slavery and Geology in the Antebellum Era

(p.245) 6 Deep History, Deep South
Frontiers of Science

Cameron B. Strang

University of North Carolina Press

During the 1830s, slavery shaped the practice, patronage, and application of geology in America. Plantation slavery—and the labor, patronage, and networks it provided—enabled collections and observations that defined the Gulf South’s geohistory while emerging geotheories inspired new means of justifying and furthering slavery. Slavery allowed Charles and Sarah Tait to offer patronage and recognition to northeastern naturalists, excavate and package the fossils needed to characterize the Gulf South’s geohistory, and circulate specimens and data through the networks built around the cotton trade. Rush Nutt drew on uniformitarian geotheory to legitimate African American slavery and proposed new geo-engineering techniques that would encourage the expansion of plantation agriculture. These case studies suggest some of the ways that slavery and science strengthened each other in the early United States.

Keywords:   geology, slavery, U.S. South, Alabama, Mississippi, Charles Tait, Rush Nutt, Timothy Abbott Conrad

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