Slavery in the American South

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Slavery in the South

Slavery was a big part of life in the South. Many plantation owners relied on slaves and their work to help get the money and crops they needed. There were two types of slaves in the South at this time. There were house slaves and there were field slaves. House slaves consisted of servants, maids, and butlers. They were normally treated better than the field slaves (Biel 14). They got to be inside most of the time. Owners of house slaves would usually not beat them because they wanted the slaves to look presentable for whatever guests arrived or stopped by. With house slaves, the owner’s family enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle (Biel 14). These houses were normally extremely elegant. Some house slaves had the luxury of being taught basic education. Just enough to understand what was going on and what to do.

Field slave life was much different than that of a house slave. There was no education taught to a field slave. Literacy for enslaved blacks was clearly viewed as a potential weapon against the slave system (“Voices of Triumph” 167). Educated slaves were thought not only more likely to rebel but also to pose a greater threat if they did (“Voices of Triumph” 167). Forty to fifty slaves lived on a typical plantation (Biel 14). These field slaves were very important and was a heavy contributor to the plantation owner’s income.

Slavery was a way to use man, woman, and child power to raise crops for sale (Boorstin and Kelly 273). The largest of these crops was cotton, which the Southerners thought was the “King” of all crops, but also important were tabacco, rice, hemp, and sugar (Boorstin and Kelly 273). From age 12, slaves were expected to get up at sunrise and work until it was to dark to see (Biel 14). It was the black slave, working from dusk to dawn, who planted, tended, and harvested these crops, as well as built fences, cut wood, and fed farm animals (Boorstin and Kelly 273).

The institution of slavery was operated by the planters and through custom. The owner of the plantation was the head guy who ran the plantation. A small planter would go ahead and supervise the plantation by himself if he could. If he was a medium or major planter, he hired an overseer and perhaps an assistant overseer to represent him (Williams, Current, and Friedel 494). An overseer was a position that had the responsibility of watchi...

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...they wouldn’t get caught. Some would go as far as turning their own house into a place where slaves could go and hide out for awhile. The people in the north made a big contribution to runaway slaves also. Some Northern states passed “personal liberty laws” which made it difficult if not impossible to catch fugitives and banned state officers from assisting in their captures (Williams, Current, and Friedel 448).

Works Cited

African Americans Voices of Triumph. Virginia: Time-Life

Books, 1993.

Biel, Timothy Levi. The Civil War. California: Lucent Books,


Boorstin, Daniel, and Brooks Mather Kelly. A History of the

United States. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1992.

Goldston, Robert. The Coming of the Civil War. New York:

The Macmillan Company, 1972.

Pentry, Ann. Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground

Railroad. New York: Thomas Crowell Company, 1955.

Stewert, Jeffrey C. 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About

African American History. New York: Main Street Books, 1996.

Williams, T. Harry, Richard N. Current, and Frank Freidel.

A History of the United States to 1877. New York:

Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1969
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