Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Degree Discipline



Narrating the history of the slave in the economy of Matagorda County, Texas, faces the problem of conflicting theories that have run the gamut of national, southern, and state, as well as county history, unbridled for many years. Many of these theories range from superstition to hearsays, with little or any factual supporting evidence. Out of a desire to learn the true perspective and a natural curiosity for seeking the truth, the writer takes on himself the task of digging into the mysteries of slavery in the county. This study attempts to present philosophies and facts with a minimum use of technical terms and with scholarly impartiality. It promotes no theories, harbors no racial, social, or political bias, and indulges in no prophecies. It is the author's belief that its best purpose is served by telling what happened and in so far as possible, how, when, where, and why it happened; thus leaving the reader to draw his own conclusions in matters of a controversial nature on the basis of the presentation of the evidence.


The problem of this study arises out of the dissatisfaction of this writer with the explanation of the economic role of the slave in the plantation economy as set forth by students of the institution of slavery. The labor-investment-prestige interpretation of the economic role of the Negro slave was set by U. B. Phillips and Frederick Bancroft. Phillips said that "the economic virtues of slavery lay wholly in its making labor mobile, regular and secure;" and Bancroft's classic comment, "mortgage their crop to buy more slaves to make more cotton to buy more slaves" has slipped easily into the economic thinking on the institution. This type of approach admits that the slave has a value secondary to that of land and that some of the motives that entered into his acquisition and retention were not economic at all. Indeed, the labor thesis becomes extremely difficult to understand in light of the fact that the literature insists that the slave was an undependable worker, could be lost through sickness or flight, was difficult to obtain, and was a risky investment. One begins to wonder why the planter bothered with so precarious a labor supply. A new economic answer seems to lie elsewhere.

Committee Chair/Advisor

George Ruble Woolfolk


Prairie View Agriculture and Mechanical College


© 2021 Prairie View A & M University

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Date of Digitization


Contributing Institution

John B Coleman Library

City of Publication

Prairie View




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