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A Lesson in Slavery

Chapter 1

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Famous Slaves
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Plantation Setup
slavehousing.jpg
Photo courtesy to Bedford/St. Martin's.

The lives of slaves were not pleasant. They typically worked from sunrise until sunset with a short break in the middle. The males were sold among slave owners for about $27 in 1638(1).

Once a slave child was born the older slave women were able to leave the fields and care for the kids. When the children reach the ages of 5 or 6 they begin doing chores around the houses and bringing beverages to the slaves in the fields(2).

Unfortunately, with the heavy working conditions, long durations in the high heat and standing in water for hours on end many slaves came down with yellow fever and malaria.(3) At the same time though, they began building higher immunities to these diseases. Many eventually were able to upgrade their slave status by becoming laborers, house servants or artisans.(4)

The diets of slaves, although very abundant, was not very tastey, nor did the choices vary. It consisted mostly of cornmeal and fatty pork leftovers, unless the slave was fortunate to become a house servant. In the houses the slaves were fed better, but not by much.

The housing was usually on the same land plot as their owners. (see map) Slaves were given cabins with holes, dirt floors and usually only had one room(5). They were allowed up two two new outfits a year, depending on the owner of course. If anything happened, which it would, they needed to make the best of it. Picking cotton gives way to a lot of thorns and branches that easily snagged the clothing.

Besides the heavy work schedule and bad living conditions, the slaves did have some free time in which they built a community. Family and religion were still very important to them off the fields. Although most slaves considered themselves Christians, they were heavily looked down upon and were not accepted as Christians. Sadly, the South had no public school system for the slaves because they saw no reason to educate they workers. If they were educated then they could afford to escape and get better jobs. Jobs that would allow them to be competitors for the whites.(6)

Punishment remained the same for ages. Although some slave owners did take into account that natural production was the only way of achieving more slaves at this point in time so they took punishment down a step. Some formed a more paternalism form of slavery which allowed an actual relationship among the slaves and their owners. However, some did not take this advantageful step. These owners were seen jailing slaves, shooting them, or holding their heads under water in public.(7)

James Roake, et al, The American Promise: A History of the United States.Vol. 1: To 1877 (Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2002) 422 (Figure 12.2)
1 Eddie Becker, 1999. Chronology on the History of Slavery. 17 July 2005. (http://www.innercity.org/holt/slavechron.html).
2 James Roake, et al, The American Promise: A History of the United States.Vol. 1: To 1877 (Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2002) 428.
3 James Roake, et al, The American Promise: A History of the United States.Vol. 1: To 1877 (Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2002) 417.
4 James Roake, et al, The American Promise: A History of the United States.Vol. 1: To 1877 (Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2002) 430.
5 James Roake, et al, The American Promise: A History of the United States.Vol. 1: To 1877 (Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2002) 432.
6 Kenneth Alfers, Telecourse Guide to Shaping America: U.S. History to 1877. (Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2002) 142.
7 James Roake, et al, The American Promise: A History of the United States.Vol. 1: To 1877 (Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2002) 424.

Published by Toni Crocilla