Celia, A Slave by Melton McLaurin

Melton McLaurin vividly describes the life of a sexually abused slave who fought back in the non-fictional memoir titled Celia, A Slave. As the story began, the 1800s were impassioned with one civil disagreement between two sides of the United States—whether the nation should legally end or perpetuate human enslavement (16). Slavery was particularly and heavily supported by the citizens of the Calloway County, the home of Robert Newsom (19). The proof of increased crop production through slave labor convinced Newsom to begin his investment in black slaves (20). Having an increased number of farmhands allowed Newsom more time for relaxation and a higher social status. Soon, after understanding the ease of obtaining human property, Newsom invested in a young slave girl mainly as a sexual object and concubine rather than a physical or domestic laborer after the recent death of his wife (21). Purchasing a young slave for sex seemed justified, seeing the commonality of slavery in his area. It may seem morbid nowadays, but it was an un-discussed trend during this era of controversial slavery. He loosely assigned the girl the task of being a cook as a cover-up for his sexual misconduct, though it remained obvious to his immediate family (28). The girl was called Celia by her previous master, purchased from an unknown identity at a day’s trip away (23). Celia eventually became weary of her master’s endless sexual abuse and, in the process of defending herself, killed her owner and threw his body in a fire with fear, eventuating her controversial trial (35).
The long trip to Audrain from Calloway displays Newsom’s morbid fondness for Celia and dedication for a obtaining a young concubine, raping her before they even got back to the plant...

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...he complicated and mixed terms that Celia was: between a slave and a woman, but the prosecutors, overall, ignored gender-related issues (141)
In the “final disposition”, the Supreme Court stalled their decision as Celia’s execution date grew near (123). Rather than fair trial, the question of her fate was a wholly moral dilemma (123). The author concludes that “Celia’s trial demonstrates that gender … was a significant factor in shaping slave law” (141). Because of her identity, Celia would not be given a fair trial, but rather, a performance by the judge. Ignoring her pleas of defense would discourage rebellion from other slaves and keep southern slave-owners in power. After Celia was found and returned to the jail, she was killed at the gallows (135).

Works Cited

McLaurin, Melton. Celia, a Slave. Athens, Georgia, USA: University of Georgia Press, 1991. Print.
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