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Modern Voices
Charles Joyner on the task system in Carolina
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Q: Can you describe the "task system?"
Charles Joyner

A: [What] evolved on the rice plantations [was] a system known as "the task system." So that rather than slaves working in gangs with somebody pushing them, ...a particular area of work, depending on the job to be done, was assigned to each slave. And the slave was free to leave when that work was done to the driver's satisfaction. And it was sort of calculated, as one planter put it in his overseer's contract, to be the amount of work the meanest slave -- by that I think meaning an average slave -- working industriously could accomplish in ten hours. They normally began the work day at dawn...to try to avoid the worst of the heat.
Charles Joyner
Professor of Southern History and Culture
Coastal Carolina University

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