Celia, A Slave, By Melton Mclaurin Essay

Celia, A Slave, By Melton Mclaurin Essay

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Celia, a Slave is a true story of a fourteen-year-old female slave purchased from Audrain County, Missouri by a wealthy, middle-aged, widowed, landowner named Robert Newsom from Callaway County, Missouri. Celia was the first woman of five slaves Newsom owned. She was purchased to take the place of Newsom’s late wife. In 1855, Celia was charged with killing her master after being continuously raped by him for several years. In Melton McLaurin’s Celia, A Slave, McLaurin exemplifies the oppressive difficulties of a female slave in Missouri in the 1850s.
Newsom purchased Celia as the household cook but used her as his concubine. On the day Celia was purchased, she was raped by Newsom. “Life for Celia would entail continual sexual exploitation by her master” (McLaurin, 22). For 5 years, Celia was denied of her dignity and humanity as were many female slaves in the 19th century. In Missouri, sexual assault of a slave woman by a white male was not considered rape but was considered trespass. Slave women were considered property so an owner could not be charged with trespassing on his own property. “Female slaves were clearly viewed by slaveholders as an economic asset over which they had controlled” (McLaurin, 108). A master had complete and total access to and control over the bodies of his female slaves. Many slaveholders’ demanded that women slaves bear as many children as possible to help reach the goal of increasing the size of the slave population. Women would have so many pregnancies that they become ill like Celia had.
Not only did Newsome raped Celia, his black slave, but he also sexually assaulted his own daughter who was white. “One of the essential legal differences between slave and free women was that free women were pr...


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...es who resisted oppression or lifted their hands against whites, unless in self-defense, were to be punished. Missouri rape law did not apply to slaves who were the property of their masters, because the law defined rape of a slave as trespass, and since Newsom was Celia 's owner, legally she could not accuse him of rape. The judge determined that no evidence was presented to prove that Celia had acted in self-defense when she killed Newsom.
The judge came to the conclusion that Celia had not acted in self-defense and therefore had no right to kill her owner. Celia was found guilty and Judge Hall sentenced her to hang on December 21, 1855, in Fulton, Missouri. The overall point of Melton McLaurin telling the story of Celia, a Slave was to demonstrate to the reader the oppressive difficulties and the unfairness shown to a black female slave in Missouri in the 1850s.

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