"Think about how contradictory it is to have people talking about how all men are created equal and yet the southern colonies based their whole economic survival on slavery."
Yet the rise of a worldwide market for American cotton ensured that slavery was to become ever more a crutch upon which Southern power and wealth rested. It might have been different had the American South followed the lead of the rest of the world toward free labor, Carroll said.
"By 1860, almost the entire world was using free labor and the Southern states found themselves to be the only remaining slave societies, except for Brazil."
Objections to slavery took overt and covert forms. The most covert was the Underground Railroad, a blanket term for the secret trails and human networks for ferreting slaves to freedom out of slave states. The effort took place over a broad region, including the area that would become West Virginia.
"Unfortunately, the history of the Underground Railroad is very difficult to define because the secret operations of the Underground Railroad were kept secret then, before the war and after the war. Because people did not wish to have their history known for fear of continued reprisals from the white culture."
Carroll said he hopes his talk will attract white and black audiences both, as he strives to serve a more complete picture of America's slave era than normally taught in schoolbooks.
"I hope that African-American people can get a chance to come and hear this speech. Black citizens of our state need to harness their own history more. They need to realize that at the state archives and in various state agencies there's a lot of family history and a lot of African-American cultural history there at their fingertips."
Want to go?
Greg Carroll talk on "Slavery in Virginia: 1619-1860"
WHEN: 6 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Archives and History Library, Culture Center
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.