Here’s an excerpt from Cultivating Race: The Expansion of Slavery in Georgia, 1750-1860 on the “exploitation” of poor Whites by the planter class:
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“Cultivating Race argues that nonelite Whites in Georgia not only benefited from the rise of white supremacy but pushed hardest to enact legislative changes to make Georgia conform to the tenets of the ideology. White supremacy provided slave owners with an argument to counter the growing assault on slavery by northern abolitionists, but it also provided nonelite whites with a rationale to shape slavery in line with their interests.
Contrary to depictions of white laborers and yeomen as subordinates manipulated or oppressed by their social and economic superiors, nonelite white men actively sought to protect their economic interests. By emphasizing both elite and nonelite white men as agents of change, this study highlights class divisions over issues of race and citizenship. The vast majority of nonelite white men in Georgia supported the institution of slavery, even in the late antebellum era, when rampant speculation inflated prices and placed slave ownership well beyond their means. But they also believed in republicanism and the revolutionary ideal of the equality of all white men. Cognizant that their numerical advantage provided them leverage to shape social policy and influence political debate, nonelite white men pushed for reforms that democratized slavery.”