Coronet Instructional Films on the Plantation System (1950)

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Here is a film produced by Coronet on the history and continued relevance of the plantation system to Southern society as interpreted in 1950.  What I found so striking about it was the absence of paternalism and an emphasis on the economics of the plantation/slave system – no doubt partly shaped by Thomas Barton, Professor of Geography at Indiana University.  According to the film the plantation system included two distinct classes of people who contributed to what is considered to be the basic economic unit of the South.  The plantation owners and family constituted an aristocratic class that was defined by gentility and sophistication while the "laboring class" posessed few "privileges."  The second part of the film explores the legacy of the plantation system.  In doing so the film emphasizes the continued importance of the land in shaping society.  Emancipation and the end of slavery are acknowledged, but no attempt is made to explore its meaning for this laboring class.  Instead we are to understand the postwar South as involving a new relationship between landlord and tenant along with the technological changes that increased productivity for the benefit of all. 

These films are perfect for the classroom as they tell us a great deal about how we choose to represent the past at different times.  Ask students to think about why critical aspects of race and the realities of slavery have been left out.

3 comments… add one

  • Larry Cebula Jul 13, 2007

    Very interesting! Like a lot of educational products, the historical sins of this film are those of omission. “What influence does the plantation system have on today?” Apparently nothing to do with race or civil rights. This really is a great teaching tool. I was poking around YouTube yesterday for material on Pacific Northwest history for my own blog and did not find anything this rich. Another good source for this type of video is the Archive.org site. Though like YouTube any idiot can post a file there and most of them do.

    By the way, how about adding an “email this” link to your posts? I often want to share things I read here with my colleagues.

  • Kevin Levin Jul 13, 2007

    Hi Larry, — That’s a great idea and I promise to look into it. By the way, I just arrived home and discovered in the mail a new pamphlet published by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities titled _The Virginia Indian Heritage Trail_ edited by Karenne Wood. It includes history, information about tribes, and resources from around the state. Given your research interests I thought you might find this of some interest.

  • Larry Cebula Jul 13, 2007

    Thanks for the book tip Kevin I will order it for our library. Though in truth I don’t do much research anymore, I write grants. At least until the kids are done with college!

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