Early America was a diverse place. It contained many different people who had many different traditions that informed how they lived…and died.
How did early Americans understand death? What did they think about suicide?
Terri Snyder, a Professor of American Studies at California State University, Fullerton and author of The Power to Die: Slavery and Suicide in British North America, helps us answer these questions, and more, as she takes us on an exploration of slavery and suicide in British North America.
About the Show
Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.
Terri Snyder, a Professor of American Studies at California State University, Fullerton and author of The Power to Die: Slavery and Suicide in British North America, leads us on an exploration of slavery, death, and suicide in early America.
During our conversation, Terri reveals why we need to study and understand death and suicide in early America; How 18th-century Europeans, Euro-Americans, and Africans understood and viewed suicide; And what the historical record reveals about why some slaves committed acts of self-destruction and how anti-slavery reformers used their deaths to further their cause.
What You’ll Discover
- How Terri came to study of suicide in American slavery
- Why we should study and understand death and suicide in early America
- Agency and slavery
- Why we shouldn’t look at suicide by slaves through the lens of agency
- 18th-century European, Euro-American, and African understandings of suicide
- Suicide and the Middle Passage
- Slave seasoning period
- 18th-Century British North American slave system & its contributions to slave suicide
- What the historical record reveals about why some slaves committed acts of self-destruction
- How anti-slavery reformers used slave suicide to support their cause
- Slave narratives and what they said about slave suicide
- Historical sources and slave suicide
Links to People, Places, and Publications
- Terri Snyder
- Terri’s California State University, Fullerton webpage
- Brabbling Women: Disorderly Speech and the Law in Early Virginia
- The Power to Die: Slavery and Suicide in British North America
- David Stannard, The Puritan Way of Death: A Study in Religion, Culture, and Social Change
- Markus Rediker, The Slave Ship: A Human History
- David Silkenat, Moments of Despair: Suicide, Divorce, and Debt in Civil War Era North Carolina
- Episode 008: Greg O’Malley, Final Passages the Intercolonial Slave Trade
- Episode 064: Brett Rushforth, Native American Slavery in New France
- Episode 070: Jennifer Morgan, How Historians Research
- Episode 079: Jim Horn, What is a Historic Source? (Colonial Jamestown)
- Episode 089: Jessica Millward, Slavery & Freedom in Early Maryland
Time Warp Question
If you could travel back to 18th-century British America to investigate slave self-destruction, where would you go and what kind of information would you look for? And how would this new information deepen our understanding of the history of slavery in British North America?
Questions, Comments, Suggestions
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