What was it like to live life as a slave?

What was it like to live life as a slave?

3 Slave Experiences

What was it like to live one’s life as a slave? “Only slaves themselves had the ability to convey an accurate portrayal of their sufferings, pains, degradations, struggles, hopes, aspirations, joys, and sorrows.” While slave narratives are few and far between, due to slave illiteracy, they provide an interesting portrait into the lives they led. By examining these slave stories, we can come to an understanding of the hardships they faced while being a slave in America; from the very beginning of southern plantation life and up to and including abolition. As I read these tales, my heart was heavy with sorrow for the miserable lives these people led. They had almost no dignity and were resigned to a life of suffering. Some of the stories, although happy, had a dark undertone. From a modern perspective, it is strange to know that my own country had a major role in this devastation.

The first slave entry was from a woman who lived on a plantation in Louisiana. She was in poor health, having being sold three times to three different masters. She was worked to the bone. She wasn’t even allowed to nurse her child. She could hear him crying and crying, just waiting for her to be done with her work so he could eat. Her child was fathered by her master’s son, probably against her own will. Yet, even though the child was half-white, he was left to live in the slave quarters. Her family had been shattered when she was sold, and she longed for her mother. Charlotte had heard that a woman had come from Virginia and was living in a neighboring plantation. On her only day off, a Sunday, she went to visit this woman in the hopes that they were related. She called her “Aunt Jane.” Although she wasn’t her aunt, Charlotte felt the spirit of kinship with this woman at the possibility that she may know her mother or some of her family members. It was the only way she could make sense of her situation and cling to her homelife.

Charlotte’s experience in Louisiana was very different from what Tempe Durham tells us about life as a slave in North Carolina. It is quite interesting that her last name is the place where she was held as a slave. After she was freed by her master, she needed a legal last name and that was what was given to her by the state government. Her value to her master came not just by the work that she did, but the amount of children that she gave birth to. These children could be used to work the plantation and so that the master wouldn’t have to go out and buy more slaves. Also, the crop in this area was tobacco rather than cotton or sugar, due to the differences in the soil type.

Charlotte describes her wedding to another slave from a neighboring plantation. Her master allowed them to be married on the porch of the house, and he and his wife even participated in their nuptials. Miss Betsy, the master’s wife, even participated in work with the slaves, using a loom to weave fabric. They weren’t able to see each other very often, as right after the wedding her husband had to go back to his neighboring plantation to work. This helped to increase communication and civility between neighboring plantations. She genuinely describes her master as being almost like a father to her. This paternalism was used by white slave owners as justification for the harsh treatment that the slaves faced.

Our next story is one of a male slave from Cuba who faced some extraordinary conditions at the hands of his master. He describes being sold like a pig, how all humanity was stripped from him. His experience shaped his psyche as he could still remember his owner clapping a pair of shackles on him. He describes living in little huts with tile roofs, sometimes two hundred people in one place, known as a barracoon. The floors were dirty and covered with mud. There were hardly any windows, and if there were they were just holes in the side of the wall covered in bars. The place was covered with fleas and ticks, leading to disease running rampant throughout the slave quarters. The people who lived there were never able to accept their living situation.

A strange difference that I noticed was that the slaves from Cuba were able to own their own land. They did most of the washing of clothes there, work that was done largely by women. These plots of land were where they got their nourishment from. They were able to plant crops such as sweet potatoes, gourd, okra, kidney beans, yucca, and peanuts. They were also able to raise pigs. The slaves then sold these products to the very people that enslaved them.

The slaves from Cuba were also given some free time to do whatever they liked at their leisure. Most of them were able to amuse themselves in their barracoons, but some liked to venture out and visit the taverns in the town, which were very abundant. They used to trade their commodities here or buy things on credit.

The images described stand out to me because it’s not typical of what you hear from former slaves. Although he starts out by explaining the cruelty he received by being sold off by his former master, he then delves into some of the more social aspects of life. A lot of them didn’t really seem so bad. These social activities must have been very important to the slaves. More importantly, his story tells us that the slaves would not be defined by their working title. They insisted on acting and being treated as individuals regardless of their legal and physical status and condition.

How they saw themselves or each other is a theme that runs throughout Montejo’s story. When describing religions, he talks about three different groups: the Lucumi, the Congolese, and the Catholic. The Congolese were involved with witchcraft, the Lucumi had more to do with saints and God. The household slaves were usually converted to Catholicism by their masters, and were treated well because of it. The white men usually categorized all slaves as being “African”, but through Montejo’s story it seems that there were very many differences between all the groups of people; physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They saw their identities as highly differentiated ethnic, cultural, and religious groups. “African” was used by whites only to describe skin color and it was synonymous with “black” and “slave”. Slaves also differentiated themselves by occupation. Montejo believes the house slaves only pretended to be Catholic to be treated better by their masters, as he saw absolutely no priests enter the slave quarters.

The harsh treatment described by Montejo really got to me in the core of my soul. They faced such inhumane circumstances. The women were used not only to work but to bare children that could be used as slaves. Every year they were required to give birth. Those who were barren had to work out in the fields, although they were able to choose their own husbands. The ones that were used for breeding were usually matched up with a tall and strong slave so that she could bear children that were also tall and strong.

The children stayed in the infirmaries for about six or seven years and then began to work. They were taken care of by the women in the community. Sometimes the children’s parents were sold and they never saw them again, so they would be resigned to live with the women in the infirmary. While describing punishment, Montejo speaks of how they even beat the pregnant women who disobeyed their masters. They made sure not to hurt the children in their bellies because they needed them to be born well and become strong slaves.

The men were also barred from having relationships with women until they were twenty-five. Their responsibility was just to work in the fields. Montejo says it was better off for you to be on your own than to live in one of these communities, as punishments were harsh and sickness was rampant. There weren’t many women around anyway; those that were tended to be married or were employed as wet nurses for children. Some men came to terms with this statute, others resigned themselfves to sodomy and a hmomosexual lifestyle. All of this is such a stark contrast to the beautiful Sunday celebrations and tavern life that was described by Montejo.

The experiences of these three slaves were very different depending on the region that they came from. Even so, they were faced with the harsh reality that they weren’t free and had to live by the expectations set for them by their masters. While some had freedom to marry and have families, others were torn away from the people closest to them. Religion was even tied to the masters, with some sacrificing their own beliefs in order to please them, in the case of the Cubans. In the case of the slave woman from North Carolina, her culture mixed with Southern white culture in the terms of her marriage. All in all, these slave experiences show us that slaves were treated very differently than white people: being bought, traded, sold, and told what to believe, regardless of where they came from. Although slavery was abolished in these areas by 1900, the descendants of slaves are still suffering socially, economically, and culturally on a worldwide scale, all due to being seen as objects by their white counterparts.
Cover Image Credit: Media Cache

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It's Time To Thank Your First Roommate

Not the horror story kind of roommate, but the one that was truly awesome.

Nostalgic feelings have recently caused me to reflect back on my freshman year of college. No other year of my life has been filled with more ups and downs, and highs and lows, than freshman year. Throughout all of the madness, one factor remained constant: my roommate. It is time to thank her for everything. These are only a few of the many reasons to do so, and this goes for roommates everywhere.

You have been through all the college "firsts" together.

If you think about it, your roommate was there through all of your first college experiences. The first day of orientation, wishing you luck on the first days of classes, the first night out, etc. That is something that can never be changed. You will always look back and think, "I remember my first day of college with ____."

You were even each other's first real college friend.

You were even each other's first real college friend.

Months before move-in day, you were already planning out what freshman year would be like. Whether you previously knew each other, met on Facebook, or arranged to meet in person before making any decisions, you made your first real college friend during that process.

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The transition from high school to college is not easy, but somehow you made it out on the other side.

It is no secret that transitioning from high school to college is difficult. No matter how excited you were to get away from home, reality hit at some point. Although some people are better at adjusting than others, at the times when you were not, your roommate was there to listen. You helped each other out, and made it through together.

Late night talks were never more real.

Remember the first week when we stayed up talking until 2:00 a.m. every night? Late night talks will never be more real than they were freshman year. There was so much to plan for, figure out, and hope for. Your roommate talked, listened, laughed, and cried right there with you until one of you stopped responding because sleep took over.

You saw each other at your absolute lowest.

It was difficult being away from home. It hurt watching relationships end and losing touch with your hometown friends. It was stressful trying to get in the swing of college level classes. Despite all of the above, your roommate saw, listened, and strengthened you.

...but you also saw each other during your highest highs.

After seeing each other during the lows, seeing each other during the highs was such a great feeling. Getting involved on campus, making new friends, and succeeding in classes are only a few of the many ways you have watched each other grow.

There was so much time to bond before the stresses of college would later take over.

Freshman year was not "easy," but looking back on it, it was more manageable than you thought at the time. College only gets busier the more the years go on, which means less free time. Freshman year you went to lunch, dinner, the gym, class, events, and everything else possible together. You had the chance to be each other's go-to before it got tough.

No matter what, you always bounced back to being inseparable.

Phases of not talking or seeing each other because of business and stress would come and go. Even though you physically grew apart, you did not grow apart as friends. When one of you was in a funk, as soon as it was over, you bounced right back. You and your freshman roommate were inseparable.

The "remember that one time, freshman year..." stories never end.

Looking back on freshman year together is one of my favorite times. There are so many stories you have made, which at the time seemed so small, that bring the biggest laughs today. You will always have those stories to share together.

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The unspoken rule that no matter how far apart you grow, you are always there for each other.

It is sad to look back and realize everything that has changed since your freshman year days. You started college with a clean slate, and all you really had was each other. Even though you went separate ways, there is an unspoken rule that you are still always there for each other.

Your old dorm room is now filled with two freshmen trying to make it through their first year. They will never know all the memories that you made in that room, and how it used to be your home. You can only hope that they will have the relationship you had together to reflect on in the years to come.

Cover Image Credit: Katie Ward

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The Crimes And Misdemeanors Of A Sitting President

Whether you agree with Nancy Pelosi, regarding impeachment or not, the question each American should ask is: Can this nation survive any more division?


Whether you agree with Nancy Pelosi, regarding impeachment or not, the question each American should ask is; can this nation survive any more division? Is Nancy correct in her comment, "He's just not worth it?" Impeachment should not be used as a political tool to remove an unwanted government official out of office. Its purpose is to bring charges against a government official and once the official is impeached then the legislative body can impose judgment which could ultimately remove the official from office.

Moreover, in the past, this country has impeached two sitting presidents and neither ended with his removal. According to www.merriam-webster.com, the definition of impeaching is "(a) to charge with a crime or misdemeanor, specifically: to charge a public official before a competent tribunal with misconduct in office. (b) to remove from office especially for misconduct, and (c) to bring an accusation against."

So how many cases of impeachment has the United States experienced with sitting presidents? According to www.History.com, eight U.S. presidents have faced impeachment, but with very different results. John Tyler was the first president to face impeachment proceedings in 1843. Representative John Botts of Virginia filed claimed Tyler conduct of the U.S. Treasury although the House of Representatives voted Botts' claim down.

Andrew Johnson was the second sitting president to have impeachment proceedings filed against him. In 1868 President Johnson dismissed Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and according to Congress, the president violated the Tenure of Office Act. Even though Johnson was impeached the Senate would not confirm his removal from office and he finished his term.

With the exception of Grover Cleveland, the twentieth century gave way for many calls for impeachment beginning with Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, and ending with George H.W. Bush. None of these presidents were subjected to the process as the claims never had the votes to call for a hearing on the committees.

There were three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon, however, he resigned in 1974 before any of the proceedings could take place. In 1998 Bill Clinton was impeached over allegations of perjury and obstruction of justice relating to the Monica Lewinsky case. In Clinton's case, the Senate acquitted, and he finished his term in office just like Andrew Johnson.

President Trump is under scrutiny for some of the very reason's other presidents have had impeachment proceedings. He has proven to most American's that he is a danger to our democracy. Trump has snubbed his nose at the foreign emolument clause, creating an open way for foreign powers to pressure our president to stray from his constitutional obligation to the United States. The firing of the FBI Director James Comey and fulling admitting on national television to Lester Holt that he did because of "this Russia thing." This is "obstruction of justice," and other presidents have been charged with this article of impeachment. However, Nixon resigned, and Clinton was acquitted.

So why is he not worth it? First the truth, he won the election. Unless there is proven evidence that he colluded with the Russians to rig the 2016 presidential election reversing this fact will drive this new faction of voters back to the polls to elect another under-qualified candidate. In addition, the Republican Party will use the impeachment as a platform in the upcoming election. Citing the Democrats stole the White House from them.

Second, is the nation ready for even one year of Mike Pence as president? His record as Governor of Indiana is the only evidence needed. He banned Syrian refugees, he reinstated mandatory minimum sentences and authored a bill to defund Planned Parenthood. He doesn't take to Twitter, has the political knowledge, and is waiting his turn to strike like an incurable virus.

Third and even more disturbing is the Republican Party and their efforts to gloss over his crimes and misdemeanors and cite the economy, and jobs. Many won't vote against Trump because of his base; cannot afford to have to explain their decisions to his base voters in 2020. Most fear they will have to go through a primary. Even though if they removed Trump and put Pence in his place they could have during their two-year reign and most American's civil liberties would be a thing of the past.

The voters gave their voice in 2018 and Congress is working, unlike the previous Congress. They have a lot of work to do and spinning their wheels debating the crimes and misdemeanors of the sitting president is counter-productive. History will repeat itself and he will be acquitted.

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