Beneath the overseer in the hierarchy were the slave drivers, men drawn from the ranks of slaves themselves and often taking responsibility for much of the day-to-day running of the plantation. On smaller plantations, where no overseer was hired, the slave driver was often in a position of authority if, for example, the master was absent.

The slave driver occupied a position which was prestigious but precarious. He was put in a position of trust by the master and enjoyed certain privileges and prerequisites; but always he had to be sensitive to the feelings of his fellow slaves, among whom he may have enjoyed a measure of respect but in whom he could all to easily inspire jealousy and resentment.

How hard did slaves in fact work?

The view which prevailed for many years was that slaves worked long and hard simply because they were forced to under threat of the lash, but that they achieved no high level of efficiency. In relative terms, low efficiency was made tolerable by the low cost of slave labor.

role of incentives- a garden plot, permission to sell produce from it, extra holidays or passes to leave the plantation, and even money payments and crude profit-sharing schemes. But he sees incentives as but one weapon- and a subsidiary one- an armory of slave control which included firm discipline, demonstrations of the master’s power (symbolized by the whip), and the inculcation of a sense of slave inferiority.

Far from being lazy or incompetent, slaves were, they argued, more efficient and industrious on average than their free counterpart.