Black slaves were a main commodity in the south due to a strong tobacco and cotton industry. This led to a strong paranoia by slave owners, who feared that people would help the slaves rebel, or the slaves themselves would rebel against their masters. In 1831, Nat Turners’ rebellion highlighted the fears of the slave owner, thus leading to increased security. The increased security did pay off, because for the next ten years there was only one instance of black insurrection. To white slave owners their most important possessions was their slaves
Out of fear of losing their slaves, masters started to try everything they could do to stop the emancipation of slaves. They even suspected poor white people of helping slaves. As Genovese says, “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.”The paranoia of rich whites believed that out of jealousy poor whites would help blacks. According to Howard Zinn this is why there were so many measures against whites who fraternized with blacks. Another way that whites tried to stop whites from helping blacks, was by hiring whites to oversee the blacks, thus giving them money to not help them. Since the slave-owners did not want there profits to decrease they would do anything in there power to keep their slaves. As Zinn regurgitates throughout the chapter is that the elites of both the north and the south controlled the policies. It was not that northern elites were not racist, they were, they just had an economy that did not run on slaves. Unlike the south economy which ran on large plantation fields and forced labor. Thus making the most important property to a southern elite, his slaves. And he would do whatever was in his power to keep his slaves.