Slave Narratives from Two States
Slave Narratives from Two States
At the end of American civil war, about four million slaves were freed in the United States. The stories of some of them about the slavery were passed through the word of mouths, letters, voice records, and printed information. To date there exist as many slave narratives archived in the history of America that provide primary information about their experiences and their take on free men and women. Some biographical facts about them are also present. The narration of the ex- slave describes their experience of their life as a slave in the various states in America (Baptist 12). This paper compares slavery in Virginia and Texas State as narrated by the ex-slave of the two states.
The major similarity of the slavery in the two-state is the slavery code. The slave code was used to control the connection between the slave and the slave owner. Each of the two states had its slave code which contains authority to possess the slave as the property of the owner. According to the slave code, it was illegal to educate one’s slave, and no slave was allowed to own firearms in both Virginia and Texas.
According to Harriet, slave-owners in Texas and Virginia were guilty of murder if they killed slaves who were completely respectful to their master’s. In Virginia, the willing to kill a slave was a criminal offense of murder. However, if a slave was disrespected and defiance of it owner commands his or her killing was a minor offense punishable by corporal punishment (Starling 67).
There existed a difference between the codes in Virginia and Texas. For instance, in Texas slaves were not permitted to leave the compound within which they worked without permission in written form, and they were not to engage in trade. In Virginia, no slave was allowed to drink while the master was away.
In both states, the slaves were denied the opportunity to read and write. This was viewed as an opportunity that could help them claim their right or escape. Those who were lucky they learned from their master’s children or other educated manual workers while working together. In both states, the slaves were given inadequate medical care; some of them were using their produced remedies that made from American plants and herbs. Most of the slave died from easily curable diseases
The treatment of slaves in the two state differed widely depending on circumstances, period and place. For example, according to Harriet Smith, Texas portrayed a peaceful life in the neighboring plantation while her master was very cruel (Smith). Williams narrates of cruelty and life of regret in the plantation of Virginia.
Both narratives indicate how slaves or their family members were brought to slavery as a result of Antarctic slave trade. The interviewee pronounces the suffering of being sold at auction. Williams narrates what was narrated by her mother about her torture when she was sold in Richmond, Virginia (Williams). Moreover, slaves were forbidden joining or meeting in groups except in the worship services, but in 1831 religion meeting were banned after Nat Turner’s rebellion. The master feared that this gathering could lead to rebellion. Harriet was disconnected from her family when she was a young child. She was sold to her master in Texas. Her narration reveals a desire to be free and the feeling that freedom would soon come. She narrated the torture of a slave who was heard praying for independence by his master.
Slaves were punished by detention, killing, burning and whipping. The punishments administered depended on the type of crime or disobedience. The punishment was done by the slave-owner or supervisors (Starling 66). In Texas, Harriet reported that where there were large plantations which were managed by supervisor’s slave undergone harsh conditions such as beating and lack of food. Williams indicated that Virginia, which has slaves working for small families, they were well treated and had a close relation between them and their masters. From the Harriet narrative, she explains that men slaves that were working in cotton plantation were supposed to pick eighty pounds of cotton per day while women were supposed to pick seventy pounds of cotton per day (Smith). If one fails to reach the target, he or she received a thorough beating. The narrator indicates that a lot of male slaves who were being auctioned were scarred from the beating.
According to both narratives from Texas and Virginia states, slave women were exposed to sexual harassment such as rape and other sexual abuse. Many of the slaves struggled against sexual harassment many of them died in the process. Other suffered psychological and physical pain which made them have low esteem and lacks the sense of belonging. Wealthy slave owners took black women slaves as concubines. During the time of American civil war, slaves were given false propaganda. Slaves on a plantation in Texas were threatened that those who remain as union soldiers would remain as a slave for their lifetime (Starling 70).
The narratives clearly show that there were a lot of sufferings on the narrators in both states. The institution of slavery in both states had a lot of similarities especially in the governing system although there are some differences in both states. The living condition of a slave was poor due to inhumane treatment in both states. Texas was the worst state because of cruel supervisors and large plantation of crops. The whole time of slavery slaves longed for freedom.
Baptist, Edward. The Half has Never Been Told: Slavery and the making of American Capitalism. New York: basic Books. Print.
Smith, Harriet. Interview with Aunt Harriet Smith, Hempstead, Texas, 1941. Voices From the Days of Slavery. The Library of Congress. ND. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.
Starling, Marion Wilson. The Slave Narrative: Its Place in American History. Washington, D.C.: Howard UP, 1988. Print.
Williams. Interview with Mrs. Williams, Norfolk, Virginia, Ca. 1937-1940. The Library of Congress. ND. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.