Adam Rothman: Django Unchained’s Bloody Real History in Mississippitags: Django Unchained, Mississippi, Adam Rothman, Daily Beast
Adam Rothman is an Associate Professor of History and the Director of Doctoral Studies at Georgetown University. He is the author of Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South.
Yet to describe the plot of Django as absurd and outlandish, as many reviewers have done, misses a crucial point. The true history of the Cotton Kingdom before the Civil War was no less bizarre and bloody than anything the movie has to offer. Two new books by excellent historians, Joshua Rothman’s Flush Times & Fever Dreams: A Story of Capitalism and Slavery in the Age of Jackson and Walter Johnson’s River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom, reveal that slave owners’ own wild fantasies had deadly practical consequences. (Note: Joshua Rothman is not related to me.)
Mississippi was riding high in 1835. Cotton prices were rising, migrants were flocking in, and the government was selling fertile lands wrested from the Indians to slave-owning planters at exorbitant prices. The slave population was growing, too; soon the state would have a black majority, many of them “sold down the river” from Virginia and Kentucky or forced to march overland from Georgia and the Carolinas to work the new plantations’ vast fields of white gold. Tarantino gets that right, even if the blood he spatters across the bolls comes from the wrong veins.
The cotton boom brought anxieties over social disorder embodied by a man named John Murrell, “the great Western land pirate.” Murrell was a horse thief and slave stealer who swindled his way through the Deep South in the early 1830s. He became a household name after the publication of a sensational pamphlet that placed him at the head of a secret conspiracy to incite a massive slave insurrection across the South on Christmas Day in 1835 and rob all the banks as the country went up in flames. Tarantino’s plot seems tame in comparison to the pulp fiction of Jacksonian America....
comments powered by Disqus
- Joan Baez, Sly Stone, Steve Martin, Ben E. King -- all honored by the Library of Congress
- StoryCorps to Launch Global Expansion With $1M TED Prize
- Hofstra Event Looks at Bush Presidency
- Did Israel steal uranium from a town in Pennsylvania in the 1960s?
- Sequel to Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom to be published next year
- Emory’s Leslie Harris says we should remember the racist roots of American colleges as we think about what went wrong at OU and other schools
- Stanford historian looks to the U.S. Postal Service to map the boom and bust of 19th-century American West
- U.S. historian denounces Japanese scholars' statement over wartime sexual slavery
- Timothy V Johnson Named Head of Tamiment Library
- History Camp "unconference" returns for the second year in Boston