Social Class Drama & Fear of Fraternalism

“The instances where poor whites helped slaves were not frequent, but sufficient to show the need for setting one group against the other.”

“The slaveholders … suspected that non-slaveholders would encourage slave disobedience and even rebellion, not so much out of sympathy for the blacks as out of hatred for the rich planters and resentment of their own poverty. White men sometimes were linked to slave insurrectionary plots, and each such incident rekindled fears.” – Genovese

There was a huge fear of fraternalism between poor whites and slaves which explains the “stern police measures against whites who fraternized with blacks.” There was clearly a gap between the rich white people and the poor white people. The poor white people would rather help the slaves, not because they liked them and felt bad for them, but because of their jealousy and hatred towards the rich white community. A report to the Governor of Virginia by Herbert Aptheker stated, “Three white persons are concerned in the plot; and they have arms and ammunition concealed under their houses, and were to give aid when the negroes should begin.” To return the helping hand, slaves would sometimes give food to the poor whites that helped them. Thus was the reason why slaves and Irish workers were segregated when the Brunswick Canal was built, although the excuse was that they feared the two groups would fight and quarrel with each other. In an attempt to control fraternalism and ease the fears of the plantation owners, the two groups were set against each other: poor whites were hired to be the overseers of slave work.