Making a Slave State

Political Development in Early South Carolina

By Ryan A. Quintana

254 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 3 halftones, 2 maps, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4222-2
    Published: April 2018
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4106-5
    Published: April 2018
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-4107-2
    Published: March 2018

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How is the state produced? In what ways did enslaved African Americans shape modern governing practices? Ryan A. Quintana provocatively answers these questions by focusing on the everyday production of South Carolina’s state space—its roads and canals, borders and boundaries, public buildings and military fortifications. Beginning in the early eighteenth century and moving through the post–War of 1812 internal improvements boom, Quintana highlights the surprising ways enslaved men and women sat at the center of South Carolina’s earliest political development, materially producing the state’s infrastructure and early governing practices, while also challenging and reshaping both through their day-to-day movements, from the mundane to the rebellious. Focusing on slaves’ lives and labors, Quintana illuminates how black South Carolinians not only created the early state but also established their own extralegal economic sites, social and cultural havens, and independent communities along South Carolina’s roads, rivers, and canals.

Combining social history, the study of American politics, and critical geography, Quintana reframes our ideas of early American political development, illuminates the material production of space, and reveals the central role of slaves’ daily movements (for their owners and themselves) to the development of the modern state.

About the Author

Ryan A. Quintana is associate professor of history at Wellesley College.
For more information about Ryan A. Quintana, visit the Author Page.


“Slavery and enslaved people rightfully sit at the heart of this story.”--Journal of Southern History

"Will be valuable reading for scholars of southern history, slavery, race, and criminal justice, as well as American political development."--William and Mary Quarterly

“Quintana (Wellesley College) reorients scholars’ understanding of state formation by locating the labors and lives of slaves as fundamental to the state’s creation. It was enslaved Carolinians who created the roads and especially the canals that bound the residents of South Carolina to the emerging state government.”--Choice

“An outstanding book which challenges mainstream conventions about the roles of slaves in state building, in this case South Carolina, from its inception as a colony to its development as a slave state. . . . A must read.”--Civil War Book Review

“Supported by meticulous research from plantation records, state petitions, legislative and state agency records, political commentaries, slave narratives, runaway advertisements, maps, and property surveys, Quintana critically examines the relationship between slavery and the rise of the liberal state through the lens of spatial and social dynamics in early South Carolina.”--North Carolina Historical Review

“Ryan Quintana has made an original and welcome contribution to two very active fields, one the history of slavery and capitalism, the other the history of the state in early America. . . . Quintana brings a genuinely fresh perspective, one that allows him to relate slavery to state formation in a new way.”--American Nineteenth Century History