Discuss the conditions under which slaves lived in the South and examine how they responded to their social environment during the period of 1775 to 1825.


     From these drivers, for every imagined, as well as real neglect or want of exertion, they receive the lash-the smack of which is all day long in the ears of those who are on the plantation or in the vicinity; and it is used with such dexterity and severity, as not only to lacerate the skin, but to tear out small portions of the flesh at almost every stroke. This is the general treatment of the slaves. But many individuals suffer still more severely. Many, many are knocked down; some have their eyes beaten out' some have an arm or a leg broken, or chopped off; and many, for a very small, or for no crime at all, have been beaten to death, merely to gratify the fury of an enrage master.

President Edwards in a sermon Connecticut Abolition Society, 1791


     Their situation (the slaves) is insupportable; misery inhabits their cabin, and pursues them in the field. Inhumanely beaten, they often fall sacrifices to the turbulent tempers of their masters! Who is there, unless inured to savage cruelties, that can hear of the inhuman punishments daily inflicted upon the unfortunate blacks, without a Christian, coldly and deliberately tie up, thumb screw, torture with pincers, and beat unmercifully a poor slave, for perhaps a trifling neglect of duty.

George Buchanan, member of the American Philosophical Society, 1791


"Slave Auction"

Library of Congress


     Dear Friend-The great secret that has been so long in being with our own color has come nearly to a head tho some on our Town has told of it but in such a slight manner it is not believed, we have got about five hundred Guns aplenty of lead but mot so much powder, I hope you have made a good collection of powder and ball and will hold yourself in readiness to strike whenever called for and never be out of the way it will not be long before it will take place...Have a good heart fight brave and we will get free

A Letter From and To Slave Rebels, 1793


     Black men if you have now a mind to join with me now is your time for freedom. All clever men who will keep secret these words I give to is life. I have taken it on myself to let the country be at liberty this lies upon my mind for a long time. Mind men I have told you a great deal I have joined with both black and white which is the common man or poor white people, mulattoes will join with me to help free the country, although they are free already. I have got 8 or 10 white men to lead me in the fight on the magazine, they will be before me and hand out guns, powder, pistols, shot, and other things that will answer the purpose, ...black men I mean to lose my life in this way if they will take it.

Speech from a Negro rebel leader named Arthur, spring of 1802


     White pepil beware of your lives, their is a plan now forming and intend to put in execution this harvest time-they are to commence and use their Sithes as weapons until they can get possession of other weapons; their is a great many weapons hid for the purpose, and be you all assured If you do not look out in time that many of you will be put to death. The sceam is to kill all before them, men, women, and children. Their has been expresses going In Every direction for some days to see all the Negroes they could this holladay, to make the arrangements and conclud what time it was to commence and at what plasis they are to assemble. Watch they conduc of your Negroes and you will see an alteration. I am confident of the leaders and can not give you my name. I am also a greater friend to some of the Whites, and wish to preserve their lives.

Letter from an Anonymous slave informer, June, 7, 1802


     ...To know, also, that I was never to consult my own will, but was, while I lived, to be entirely under the control of another, was another state of mind hard for me to bear...Yet I used to plan in my mind from day to day, and from night to night, how I might be free. One day, while I was in this state of mind, my father gave me a small basket of peaches. I sold them for thirty cents, which was the first money I ever saw. ...These sums, and the hope that then entered my mind of purchasing at some future time my freedom...

Southern Slave Narrative,1803


     A very few Negros prospered, bought larger and better farms, and even owned slaves--one as many as thirty,--which they held up to general emancipation. But generally when they bought land at all the purchase was ludicrously small and, in the country phrase, "so po' it couldn't sprout er pea dout grunt'n." On these infinitesimal bits they built flimsy log huts, travesties in every respect of the rude dwellings of the earliest white settlers. The timber growth being often too scant to afford fence rails, their little patches of phantom corn mixed with pea-vines-or, rather, stubs, their little quota of hulls akimbo on top-were encircled by brush fences, which even by dint of annual renewals were scarcely to be regarded by a beast of average hunger and enterprise.

Dodge's account of the free Negro
in the rural sections of North Carolina, 1819


Article 175.-All that a slave possesses, belongs to his master; he possesses nothing of his own, except his peculium, that is to say, the sum of money, or moveable estate, which his master chooses he should possess.

Article 182.-Slaves cannot marry without the consent of their masters, and their marriages do not produce any of the civil effect which result from such contract.

Article 183.-Children born of a mother then in a state of slavery, whether married or not, follow the condition of their mother; they are consequently slaves and belong to the masters of their mother.

Civil Code of the State of Louisiana, Baton Rouge, 1825

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