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National Humanities Center What It Meant to Be Enslaved a live, online professional development seminar.

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Presentation on theme: "National Humanities Center What It Meant to Be Enslaved a live, online professional development seminar."— Presentation transcript:

1 National Humanities Center What It Meant to Be Enslaved a live, online professional development seminar

2 Focus Questions 1.What did it mean to be enslaved in the United States? 2.How did labor shape the daily lives of slaves? 3.How did the enslaved maintain their identities? 4. In what ways did the enslaved resist bondage?

3 What It Meant to be Enslaved Daina Ramey Berry National Humanities Center Fellow Michigan State University “Swing the Sickle for the Harvest is Ripe”: Gender and Slavery in Antebellum Georgia (2007)

4 Introduction Freedom in Africa -Life prior to enslavement -Capture -Story of Venture Smith -Family separation -“Social Death” Middle Passage -Disillusionment -Starvation -Depression -Confusion -Re-naming -Branding -Sale

5 Enslavement in New World Societies -Chattel Property -Seasoning -Slave by birth and for life -Fear of separation and sale Slavery & the Law -VA 1662 Legislation -SC Negro Act General Slave Codes -Fugitive Slave Legislation (1793 and 1850) Slave Labor -Crops -Location or site of work -Skilled/Unskilled Labor Resistance -Active and Passive -Group and Individual -Truancy & Running Away Freedom 1865

6 “To be a man, and not to be a man—a father without authority—a husband and no protector—is the darkest of fates. Such was the condition of my father, and such is the condition of every slave throughout the United States: he owns nothing, he can claim nothing. His wife is not his; his children are not his; they can be taken from him and sold at any minute, as far away from each other as the human fleshmonger may see fit to carry them. Slaves are recognized as property by the law and can own nothing except by the consent of their masters. A slave’s wife or daughter may be insulted before his eyes with impunity. He himself may be called on to totrure them, and dare not refuse. To raise his hand in their defense is death by the law. He must bear all things and resist nothing. If he leaves his master’s premises at any time without a written permit, he is liable to be flogged. Yet it is said by slaveholders and their apologists that we are happy and contented. I will admit that slaves are sometimes cheerful; they sing and dance, as it is politic for them to do. I myself had changed owners three times before I could see the policy [wisdom] of this appearance of contentment. My father taught me to hate slavery but forgot to teach me how to conceal my hatred. I could frequently perceive the pent-up agony of his soul, although he tried to conceal it in his own breast. The knowledge that he was a slave himself, and that his children were also slaves, embittered his life, but made him love us the more.” John Jacobs, “A True Tale of Slavery,” The Leisure Hour: A Family Journal of Instruction and Recreation, 7 Feb. 1861

7 “But he was my master. I was compelled to live under the same roof with him— where I saw a man forty years my senior daily violating the most sacred commandments of nature. He told me I was his property; that I must be subject to his will in all things. My soul revolted against the mean tyranny. But where could I turn for protection? No matter wheteher the slave girl be as black as ebony or as fair as her mistress. In either cae, there is no shadow of law to protect her from insult, from violence, or even from death; all these are inflicted by fiends who bear the shape of men. The mistress, who ought to protect the helpless victim, has no other feelings towards her but those of jealousy and rage. The degradation, the wrongs, the vices, that grow out of slavery are more than I can describe. They are greater than you would willingly believe.... I would ten thousand times rather that my children should be the half-starved paupers of Ireland than to be the most pampered among the slaves of America.” Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life a Slave Girl, 1861

8 “When slaves come in from de fields at night de ‘omans [women] cleant updeir houses atter dey et, and den washed and got up early next mornin’ to put de clothes out to dry. Mens would eay, set ‘round talkni’ to other mens and den go to bed. On our place evvybody wukked on Saddays ‘til ‘bout three or four o’clock and if de wuk was tight dey wukked right on ‘til night lak any other day. Saddy nights de young folks got togerher to have deir fun. Dey danced, frolicked, drunk likker, and de lak of dat. Old master warn’t too hard on ‘em no time, but he jus’ let ‘em have dat night to frolic. On Sunday he give dem what wanted ‘em passes to go to church and visit ‘round. Frances Willingham, enslaved in Georgia

9 “I done field work up dere and even us kids had to pick 150 pounds cotton a day, or git de whoppin’. Us puts de cotton in de white-oak baskets and some dem hold more n’ 100 pounds. It ‘cordin to de way you stamp you cotton in. De wagon with de yoke of oxen standin’ in de field for to pou de cotton in and when it full, de oxen pulls dat wagon to de hoss-power gin. Us gin’ rally use ‘bout 1,600 pounds cotton to make de bale. Purty soon after Massa Walton opens he farm he die and Missus Walton den marries a Dr. Richardson and he git de overseer what purty rough on us. He want all us to stay right in line and chop ‘long and keep up with de lead man. If us didn’t it am de bullwhip. He ride up and down and hit us over de back if us don’t do de job right. Sometimes he’d git off he hoss and have two slaves hold one down and give him de bullwhip. He’d give it to him, too. I helped break up de land and plant and chop coton and a little of everything. Jes’ what had to be done at de time, I goes out and does it. I run ‘cross plenty snakes and one day one bit me right top de foot. Dere plenty varmonts, too.” John Walton, enslaved in Texas

10 “My mother, being one of the household slaves, enjoyed certain privileges that the farm slaves did not. She was the head cook of Mr. Davidson’s household. Mr. Davidson and his family were considered people of high social standing in Annapolis and the people in the county. Mr. Davidson entertained on a large scale, especially many of the officers of the Naval Academy at Annapolis and his friends from Baltimore.... All of the cooking was supervised by my moher, and the table was waited on by Uncle Billie, dressed in uniform, decorated with brass buttons, braid and a fancy vest, his hands incased in white gloves. I can see him now, standing at the door, after he had rung the bell. When the family and guests came in he took his position behind Mr. Davidson ready to serve or to pass the plates, after they had been decorated with meats, fowl or whatever was to be eaten by the family or guest. Mr. Davidson was very good to his slaves, treating them with every consideration that he could, with the exception of freeing them; but Mrs. Davidson was hard on all the slaves, whenever she has the opportunity, driving them at full speed when working, giving different food of a coarser grade and not much of it. She was the daughter of one of the Revells of the county [Anne Arundel County], a family whose reputtaion was known all over Maryland for their brutality with their slaves.” Caroline Hammond, enslaved in Mary;and

11 Focus Question 1.What did it mean to be enslaved in the United States? 2.How did labor shape the daily lives of the enslaved? 3.How did the enslaved maintain their identities? 4. In what ways did the enslaved resist bondage?

12 Summary of Key Themes Freedom (prior to enslavement) Capture Social Death Realities of Enslaved Life Chattel Status No legal protections Public Punishments Constant Fear of Family Separation Multiple Sales Rape and Sexual Exploitation Resistance Running Away Labor Importance of Family Freedom

13 Final slide. Thank you


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