Celia, A Slave

Celia, A Slave

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Celia, a Slave was a factual interpretation of one isolated incident that depicted common slave fear during the antebellum period of the United States. McLaurin used this account of a young slave woman's struggle through the undeserved hardships of rape and injustice to explain to today's naive society a better depiction of what slavery could have been like. The story of Celia illustrates the root of racial problems we still face in our society. Although not nearly as extreme, we continue to live in a white-male dominated culture that looks down upon African-Americans, especially females. McLaurin looks at the views of the time, and speculates the probabilities of this pre - Civil War era, of which values still pierce daily life in the United States.
This account of enduring adversity begins with a man by the name of Robert Newsom. After his wife passed away he apparently craved the need for sexual fulfillment. He came to the conclusion that the best possible way to nourish his craving was by purchasing a young, healthy slave to keep as his personal concubine. So at the age of 14, Celia became a white-man's sexual object. Over time Celia accepted her role in the Newsom household and bore two of Newsom's children. Towards the end of her five years at the Newsom farm she began a personal romance with another slave by the name of George. Finally, George's masculine pride erupted and he demanded that Celia end this sexual relationship with Newsom. Celia went to Newsom in an effort to stop the nature of their affair, but was very unsuccessful. Out of desperation it is believed that Celia even went to Newsom's two daughters, Virginia and Mary, who still lived with their father, to plead protection from further interactions, with no accomplishment once again. As a last resort Celia threatened Newsom's life in order to preserve her love for George. Newsom, despite Celia's threats, came to her cabin one night. Celia was prepared for this to occur and she had stashed away a large stick. When Newsom came to the cabin, she retrieved the stick and hit Newsom upon the head, which knocked him out. The first account of the murder states that Newsom was grabbing for her and she hit him once more out of fear, which in turn killed him. The second account, and the more likely of the two, was, "as soon as I struck him the Devil got into me, and I struck him with the stick until he was dead, then rolled him in the fire and burnt him up" (McLaurin, pg.

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135). As the second account reveals, she disposed of the body by placing it in the fireplace and burning it as much as possible. It didn't take long for the Newsom family to realize the absence of the family patriarch, and the search began. When no body was discovered, the search party reverted to the slaves, and it didn't take long for Celia to confess to the crime. The entire situation unfolded extremely quickly. Then came the extensive legal process, in which the result was the very predictable: guilty. Celia was then hung one December day.
McLaurin shows how this perverted overbearing act of rape can be turned around and made seem as though it was just. In this time period the views were so skewed, bearing in mind that they saw people as property. After the Civil War is when misconceptions and notions began to change. Though the change was slow to occur, it eventually began to work its way through society. Due to significant figures that pushed the limits of race, such as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois, people's minds slowly but surely accepted different attitudes and more open minds toward African Americans (Mikkelson, 7/15). While so much has changed over time, many stigmas have yet to ware off. For one, that blacks are subordinate in some way to white people is still very prevalent today. We see that in the struggle for Affirmative Action, people striving to be equal. Another issue still being grappled with is that women are still seen as less than a man. A common problem in corporate America for females is what many people know as "the glass ceiling", where woman can see the top, but can't seem to reach it. Prejudice has dominated America since it was settled by the colonists hundreds of years ago. It started with hatred of the Native Americans and continued all the way until modern times with the current phobia of people of middle-eastern decent. Basically people need to feel in control, and without that feeling of dominance they create new ways to be superior, which is the whole idea behind eugenics (Mikkelson, 7/19). With one group in control, the balance of power in set until something disrupts it and it must settle again. In the case of African-Americans, the dust is still settling. Integration didn't really get going until about forty years ago, and our country has traveled in leaps and bounds since then. Regardless of our achievements as a country, there is still much work to be done.
Celia, a Slave shows us where this country has come from, but also how far it must go before we can begin to feel no prejudices, which will probably never happen. Although it will probably never happen it still needs to be fought for, otherwise nothing will be accomplished. Today, although, unfortunately racism still exists, and is still a driving force in our culture and politics it is no longer the driving force and has taken a back seat to intellect and effort. We are so lucky that even though we must face these issues each and every day, people have opened their minds to the humanity of others and not the color of their skin.
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