Title page for ETD etd-06062012-111138

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Aldridge, Ryan Jerel
URN etd-06062012-111138
Title The Responsibility of Clothing Slaves in the United States as Described in Slave Petitions, 1775 to 1867
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Human Ecology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Kuttruff, Jenna T Committee Chair
Chaney, Cassandra D Committee Member
Liu, Chuanlan Committee Member
Long, Alecia P Committee Member
O'Neil, Carol Elliot Committee Member
Bourke, Brian David Dean's Representative
  • dress and oppression
  • slave history
  • costume history
Date of Defense 2012-04-24
Availability unrestricted
The content analysis of eighteenth and nineteenth century slave petitions identified slave dress terms and descriptors by type and frequency and a descriptive analysis of slave dress petitions revealed the following themes: the expense and burden attributed to clothing slaves, slave dress neglect, hiring contracts that included slave dress, the use of slave dress as a reflection of the slaveholders character, compensation for slave dress provided by an individual other than the slaveholder, the quality of slave dress, the distribution of slave dress, and slave dress terminology descriptors. The most frequent specific provision request for slave dress items consisted of two sets of clothes, a single pair of shoes and a single blanket. Descriptive terms used to modify slave dress terminology attributed positive, negative or common or usual qualities to slave dress. The slave dress petitions described the slaveholder’s role in dictating the type, quality and amount of clothing provided to slaves, ensuring the slaves received clothing and seeking redress for inadequate or neglected clothing provisions. The petitions revealed a very functional and property based approach held by slaveholders in regard to slave dress as a use for protecting the slave from the elements in order to preserve the value of the slave. At the societal level, the descriptions of inferior types and minimal amounts of slave dress provisions served to reinforce the slaves low social and economic status, hinder the creation of an individual slave identity through dress and undermined the humanity of slaves. The sample of slave dress petitions testified to the inadequate or neglected slave dress provisions described in slave narratives. Dress research studies describing dress in totalitarian and oppressive environments were used to draw comparisons with the slave dress experience across time and place. Use of the slave petitions in dress research drew attention to the need for modifications to existing dress theories or the development of new dress theories in order to understand the creation of identity and meanings associated with dress to individuals in oppressive environments.
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