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The Problem of Suicide in North American Slavery

The Problem of Suicide in North American Slavery

Chapter:
(p.7) Introduction The Problem of Suicide in North American Slavery
Source:
The Power to Die
Author(s):
Terri L. Snyder
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226280738.003.0010

The introduction presents the reasons for studying slavery and suicide. It analyzes the competing understandings of suicide in early British North America, contrasting European legal, religious, and social treatments of suicide with those found in surviving evidence from Africa. Introduces five perspectives from which to study slavery and suicide: these include examining 1) the circumstances that fostered slave suicide; 2) the competing interpretations of slave suicide; the legal and cultural ramifications of slave suicide; 4) the cultural and political changes wrought by slave suicide; and 5) the modern memory of slave suicide. The introduction explains the rationale for the geographical focus on British North America, examines the historiography on slavery and suicide, analyzes the concepts of agency and resistance, and explores the methodologies, particularly the problems in using numerical statistics, in studying slave suicide.

Keywords:   slavery, suicide, methods, British North America

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