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Slave Life

             The warm climate, boundless fields of fertile soil, long growing seasons, and numerous waterways provided favorable conditions for farming plantations in the South (Foster). The richness of the South depended on the productivity of the plantations (Katz 3-5). With the invention of the cotton gin, expansion of the country occurred. This called for the spread of slavery (Foster). Slaves, owned by one in four families, were controlled from birth to death by their white owners. Black men, women, and children toiled in the fields and houses under horrible conditions (Katz 3-5). The slave system attempted to destroy black family structure and take away human dignity (Starobin 101). Slaves led a hard life on the Southern plantations. Most slaves were brought from Africa, either kidnapped or sold by their tribes to slave catchers for violating a tribal command. Some were even traded for tobacco, sugar, and other useful products (Cowan and Maguire 5:18). Those not killed or lucky enough to escape the slave-catching raids were chained together (Foster). The slaves had no understanding of what was happening to them. They were from different tribes and of different speaking languages. Most captured blacks had never seen the white skinned foreigners who came on long, strange boats to journey them across the ocean. They would never see their families or native lands again. These unfortunate people were shackled and crammed tightly into the holds of ships for weeks. Some refused to eat and others committed suicide by jumping overboard (Foster). When the ships reached American ports, slaves were unloaded into pens to be sold at auctions to the highest bidder. One high-priced slave compared auction prices with another, saying, "You wouldn't fetch "bout fifty dollas, but I"m wuth a thousand" (qtd. in Foster). At the auctions, potential buyers would examine the captives" muscles and teeth. Men's and women's bodies were exposed to look for lash marks.

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