Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
During the eighteenth century, African slavery played a fundamental role in the lives of settlers in the Illinois Country. The master class viewed slavery in terms of control meaning the complete domination of the slave system. Lawmakers, first the French bureaucracy and later (to a lesser extent) the Americans, pursued control through legislation. The most notable slave code was the French, Code Noir de la Louisiane, which tried to specifically address every conceivable slave situation. French settlers in the area also sought control of the slave system through the selective implementation of the law. African-descended people viewed slavery in terms of power. Slavery created imbalances in the lives of these people that they tried to rectify through accessing both spiritual and temporal power. The mode of accessing spiritual power that African-descended enslaved people in the Illinois Country used demonstrates a West-Central-African mindset and is best understood within the context of the African Atlantic Diaspora. Though the Illinois Country changed colonial hands several times from 1673 to 1818, the population makeup and slave system remained relatively unchanged until the massive influx of American settlers at the turn of the nineteenth century. During the beginning of the American administration of the Illinois Country, some French slaveholders integrated into the American indenture system, others remained aloof, and most moved to the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. The coming of the Americans eventually brought about the end of the French settlers and their enslaved people as separately identifiable entities in the Illinois Country.
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