Accounting and racial violence in the postbellum American South

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The paper aims to explore the relationship between accounting and racial violence through an investigation of sharecropping in the postbellum American South.

A range of primary sources including peonage case files of the US Department of Justice and the archives of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) are utilised. Data are analysed by reference to Randall Collins' theory of violence. Consistent with this theory, a micro-sociological approach to examining violent encounters is employed.

It is demonstrated that the production of alternative or competing accounts, accounting manipulation and failure to account generated interactions where confrontational tension culminated in bluster, physical attacks and lynching. Such violence took place in the context of potent racial ideologies and institutions.

The paper is distinctive in its focus on the interface between accounting and “actual” (as opposed to symbolic) violence. It reveals how accounting processes and traces featured in the highly charged emotional fields from which physical violence could erupt. The study advances knowledge of the role of accounting in race relations from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, a largely unexplored period in the accounting history literature. It also seeks to extend the research agenda on accounting and slavery (which has hitherto emphasised chattel slavery) to encompass the practice of debt peonage.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAccounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal
Early online date30 Aug 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Aug 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • accounting
  • violence
  • USA
  • postbellum
  • South
  • debt slavery
  • sharecropping


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