Essay about American Slavery

Essay about American Slavery

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American Slavery

Between 1830 and 1860, a time of increasing national divisions over slavery, numerous accounts of slave life were published. These accounts of life under slavery almost invariably had either abolitionist or pro slavery agendas. Slaves in the ante-bellum South lived under a wide variety of circumstances, and held a variety of positions, including household servant, wagon driver, iron foundry workers and skilled artisan. Nine out of ten slaves however, worked as farm laborers, growing cotton, tobacco, rice, and other products. About half of these laborers worked on large plantations of twenty slaves or more, while the others worked on smaller and poorer farms, often alongside their master.

Patterns of life on these plantations were roughly similar. Slaves worked from dawn to dusk under the supervision of their master or of white or black overseers. Owners had unlimited legal rights to decide and administer punishment to their human property, and whipping was commonly used. Most slaves were illiterate. Slaves that stubbornly refused to obey rules were sold. Marriages among slaves had no legal standing, and families were often broken up by the selling of one or more members.

“Slave holders rob slaves of themselves, also; their very hands and feet, and all their muscles, and limbs, and senses, their bodies and minds, their time and liberty earnings, their free speech and rights of conscience, their right to acquire knowledge and property and reputation.”

Slaves were physically abused. They were practically starved, there wasn’t enough clothing, and living conditions were horrible. Worst of all is that they suffered throughout many whippings. For whipping the slaves in Virginia their where no rules or sympathy involved. The slave receives from the slave holder from fifty to five hundred lashes. The slave owner would think fifty lashes as an insult to the slave. If the slave is let off with fifty lashes he must show good temper. Men, women, and children must be whipped alike on their bare backs, it being an honor to whip them over their clothing. Some of the slaves have to lie down on their stomachs, flat on the ground, and stretched out so as to keep the skin tight for the lash. If they move they receive more lashes. When the slave holder expects to give his slave five hundred lashes, he gives him about half at a ti...


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...The slaves were treated extremely well, even when not useful anymore. Nehamia Adams says Every slave has inalienable claim in law upon his owner for support for the whole life. He can not be wholly neglected when he is old and decrepit. Adams saw a white headed Negro at the door of his cabin on a gentleman's estate, who had done no work for ten years. He enjoys all the privileges of plantation, garden, and orchard; is clothed and fed as carefully as though he were useful.

Adams says “ At a place called Harris’s Neck, Georgia, there is a servant who has been confined to his bed with rheumatism thirty years, and no invalid has more reason to be grateful for attention and kindness....” (88)

Works Cited

Adams, Nehemiah. “A South Side View of Slavery.” Clotel. Ed. Robert S. Levine. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000. 403–05.

Kolchin, Peter 1993 American Slavery 1619-1877. Hill and Wang, New York.

Pennington, James W. C. "The Fugitive Blacksmith." 1849. Bland, African-American Slave Narratives 541-98.

Rogers, William B. " 'We Are all Together Now': Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, & the Prophetic Tradition." New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1995.

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