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Up from bondage

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Chapter I 45Sl2

Bondage

A slave among slaves.

& # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8212 ; & # 8211 ;

Chapter I.

I WAS born a slave on a plantation in Franklin County, Virginia. I am non rather certain of the exact topographic point or exact day of the month of my birth, but at any rate I suspect I must hold been born someplace and at some clip. Equally about as I have been able to larn, I was born near a cross-roads post-office called Hale & # 8217 ; s Ford, and the twelvemonth was 1858 or 1859. I do non cognize the month or the twenty-four hours. The earliest feelings I can now remember are of the plantation and the slave quarters & # 8212 ; the latter being the portion of the plantation where the slaves had their cabins.

My life had its beginning in the thick of the most suffering, desolate, and detering milieus. This was so, nevertheless, non because my proprietors were particularly barbarous, for they were non, as compared with many others. I was born in a typical log cabin, about 14 by 16 pess square. In this cabin I lived with my female parent and a brother and sister boulder clay after the Civil War, when we were all declared free.

Of my lineage I know about nil. In the slave quarters, and even later, I heard whispered conversations among the colored people of the anguishs which the slaves, including, no uncertainty, my ascendants on my female parent & # 8217 ; s side, suffered in the in-between transition of the slave ship while being conveyed from Africa to America. I have been unsuccessful in procuring any information that would throw any accurate visible radiation upon the history of my household beyond my female parent. She, I remember, had a stepbrother and a half sister. In the yearss of bondage non really much attending was given to household history and household records & # 8212 ; that is, black household records. My female parent, I suppose, attracted the attending of a buyer who was subsequently my proprietor and hers. Her add-on to the slave household attracted approximately every bit much attending as the purchase of a new Equus caballus or cow. Of my male parent I know even less than of my female parent. I do non even cognize his name. I have heard studies to the consequence that he was a white adult male who lived on one of the near-by plantations. Whoever he was, I ne’er heard of his taking the least involvement in me or supplying in any manner for my raising. But I do non happen exceptional mistake with him. He was merely another unfortunate victim of the establishment which the Nation unhappily had engrafted upon it at that clip.

The cabin was non merely our living-place, but was besides used as the kitchen for the plantation. My female parent was the plantation cook. The cabin was without glass Windowss ; it had merely gaps in the side which Lashkar-e-Taiba in the visible radiation, and besides the cold, chilly air of winter. There was a door to the cabin & # 8212 ; that is, something that was called a door & # 8212 ; but the unsure flexible joints by which it was hung, and the big clefts in it, to state nil of the fact that it was excessively little, made the room a really uncomfortable one. In add-on to these gaps at that place was, in the lower right-hand corner of the room, the & # 8220 ; cat-hole, & # 8221 ; & # 8212 ; a appliance which about every sign of the zodiac or cabin in Virginia possessed during the ante-bellum period. The & # 8220 ; cat-hole & # 8221 ; was a square gap, approximately seven by eight inches, provided for the intent of allowing the cat base on balls in and out of the house at will during the dark. In the instance of our peculiar cabin I could ne’er understand the necessity for this convenience, since there were at least a six other topographic points in the cabin that would hold accommodated the cats. There was no wooden floor in our cabin, the bare Earth being used as a floor. In the Centre of the earthen floor there was a big, deep gap covered with boards, which was used as a topographic point in which to hive away sweet murphies during the winter. An feeling of this potato- hole is really clearly engraved upon my memory, because I recall that during the procedure of seting the murphies in or taking them out I would frequently come into ownership of one or two, which I roasted and exhaustively enjoyed. There was no cooking-stove on our plantation, and all the cookery for the Whites and slaves my female parent had to make over an unfastened hearth, largely in pots and & # 8220 ; skillets. & # 8221 ; While the ill built cabin caused us to endure with cold in the winter, the heat from the unfastened hearth in summer was every bit seeking.

The early old ages of my life, which were spent in the small cabin, were non really different from those of 1000s of other slaves. My female parent, of class, had small clip in which to give attending to the preparation of her kids during the twenty-four hours. She snatched a few minutes for our attention in the early forenoon before her work began, and at dark after the twenty-four hours & # 8217 ; s work was done. One of my earliest remembrances is that of my female parent cooking a poulet tardily at dark, and rousing her kids for the intent of feeding them. How or where she got it I do non cognize. I presume, nevertheless, it was procured from our proprietor & # 8217 ; s farm. Some people may name this larceny. If such a thing were to go on now, I should reprobate it as larceny myself. But taking topographic point at the clip it did, and for the ground that it did, no 1 could of all time do me believe that my female parent was guilty of hooking. She was merely a victim of the system of bondage. I can non retrieve holding slept in a bed until after our household was declared free by the Emancipation Proclamation. Three kids & # 8212 ; John, my older brother, Amanda, my sister, and myself & # 8212 ; had a palette on the soil floor, or, to be more right, we slept in and on a package of foul shreds laid upon the soil floor.

I was asked non long ago to state something about the athleticss and interests that I engaged in during my young person. Until that inquiry was asked it had ne’er occurred to me that there was no period of my life that was devoted to play. From the clip that I can retrieve anything, about every twenty-four hours of my life had been occupied in some sort of labor ; though I think I would now be a more utile adult male if I had had clip for athleticss. During the period that I spent in bondage I was non big plenty to be of much service, still I was occupied most of the clip in cleaning the paces, transporting H2O to the work forces in the Fieldss, or traveling to the factory to which I used to take the maize, one time a hebdomad, to be land. The factory was about three stat mis from the plantation. This work I ever dreaded. The heavy bag of maize would be thrown across the dorsum of the Equus caballus, and the maize divided about equally on each side ; but in some manner, about without exclusion, on these trips, the maize would so switch as to go imbalanced and would fall off the Equus caballus, and frequently I would fall with it. As I was non strong plenty to recharge the maize upon the Equus caballus, I would hold to wait, sometimes for many hours, till a opportunity passerby came along who would assist me out of my problem. The hours while waiting for some one were normally spent in shouting. The clip consumed in this manner made me late in making the factory, and by the clip I got my maize land and reached place it would be far into the dark. The route was a alone one, and frequently led through dense woods. I was ever frightened. The forests were said to be full of soldiers who had deserted from the ground forces, and I had been told that the first thing a apostate did to a Negro male child when he found him entirely was to cut off his ears. Besides, when I was tardily in acquiring place I knew I would ever acquire a terrible chiding or a whipping.

I had no schooling whatever while I was a slave though I remember on several occasions I went every bit far as the schoolhouse door with one of my immature kept womans to transport her books. The image of several twelve male childs and misss in a classroom engaged in survey made a deep feeling upon me, and I had the feeling that to acquire into a schoolhouse and survey in this manner would be about the same as acquiring into Eden.

So far as I can now remember, the first cognition that I got of the fact that we were slaves, and that freedom of the slaves was being discussed, was early one forenoon before twenty-four hours, when I was awakened by my female parent kneeling over her kids and fierily praying that Lincoln and his ground forcess might be successful, and that one twenty-four hours she and her kids might be free. In this connexion I have ne’er been able to understand how the slaves throughout the South, wholly nescient as were the multitudes so far as books or newspapers were concerned, were able to maintain themselves so accurately and wholly informed about the great National inquiries that were fomenting the state. From the clip that Garrison, Lovejoy, and others began to foment for freedom, the slaves throughout the South kept in close touch with the advancement of the motion. Though I was a mere kid during the readying for the Civil War and during the war itself, I now recall the many late-at-night whispered treatments that I heard my female parent and the other slaves on the plantation indulge in. These treatments showed that they understood the state of affairs, and that they kept themselves informed of events by what was termed the & # 8220 ; grape-vine & # 8221 ; telegraph.

During the run when Lincoln was foremost a campaigner for the Presidency, the slaves on our faraway plantation, stat mis from any railway or big metropolis or day-to-day newspaper, knew what the issues involved were. When war was begun between the North and the South, every slave on our plantation felt and knew that, though other issues were discussed, the cardinal 1 was that of bondage. Even the most nescient members of my race on the distant plantations felt in their Black Marias, with a certainty that admitted of no uncertainty, that the freedom of the slaves would be the one great consequence of the war, if the northern ground forcess conquered. Every success of the Federal ground forcess and every licking of the Confederate forces was watched with the keenest and most intense involvement. Often the slaves got cognition of the consequences of great conflicts before the white people received it. This intelligence was normally gotten from the colored adult male who was sent to the post-office for the mail. In our instance the post-office was about three stat mis from the plantation, and the mail came one time or twice a hebdomad. The adult male who was sent to the office would linger about the topographic point long plenty to acquire the impetus of the conversation from the group of white people who of course congregated at that place, after having their mail, to discourse the latest intelligence. The mail-carrier on his manner back to our maestro & # 8217 ; s house would as of course retail the intelligence that he had secured among the slaves, and in this manner they frequently heard of of import events before the white people at the & # 8220 ; large house, & # 8221 ; as the maestro & # 8217 ; s house was called.

I can non retrieve a individual case during my childhood or early boyhood when our full household sat down to the tabular array together, and God & # 8217 ; s approval was asked, and the household ate a repast in a civilised mode. On the plantation in Virginia, and even later, repasts were gotten by the kids really much as dense animate beings get theirs. It was a piece of staff of life here and a bit of meat at that place. It was a cup of milk at one clip and some murphies at another. Sometimes a part of our household would eat out of the frying pan or pot, while some one else would eat from a Sn home base held on the articulatio genuss, and frequently utilizing nil but the custodies with which to keep the nutrient. When I had grown to sufficient size, I was required to travel to the & # 8220 ; large house & # 8221 ; at meal-times to fan the flies from the tabular array by agencies of a big set of paper fans operated by a block. Naturally much of the conversation of the white people turned upon the topic of freedom and the war, and I absorbed a good trade of it. I remember that at one clip I saw two of my immature kept womans and some lady visitants eating ginger-cakes, in the pace. At that clip those bars seemed to me to be perfectly the most alluring and desirable things that I had of all time seen ; and I so and at that place resolved that, if I of all time got free, the tallness of my aspiration would be reached if I could acquire to the point where I could procure and eat ginger-cakes in the manner that I saw those ladies making.

Of class as the war was prolonged the white people, in many instances, frequently found it hard to procure nutrient for themselves. I think the slaves felt the want less than the Whites, because the usual diet for slaves was maize staff of life and porc, and these could be raised on the plantation ; but java, tea, sugar, and other articles which the Whites had been accustomed to utilize could non be raised on the plantation, and the conditions brought approximately by the war often made it impossible to procure these things. The Whites were frequently in great passs. Parched maize was used for java, and a sort of black molasses was used alternatively of sugar. Many times nil was used to dulcify the alleged tea and java.

The first brace of places that I recall have oning were wooden 1s. They had rough leather on the top, but the undersides, which were about an inch midst, were of wood. When I walked they made a fearful noise, and besides this they were really inconvenient, since there was no giving up to the natural force per unit area of the pes. In have oning them one presented and extremely awkward visual aspect. The most seeking ordeal that I was forced to digest as a slave male child, nevertheless, was the erosion of a flax shirt. In the part of Virginia where I lived it was common to utilize flax as portion of the vesture for the slaves. That portion of the flax from which our vesture was made was mostly the garbage, which of class was the cheapest and roughest portion. I can barely conceive of any anguish, except, possibly, the pulling of a tooth, that is equal to that caused by seting on a new flax shirt for the first clip. It is about equal to the feeling that one would see if he had a twelve or more chestnut burrs, or a hundred little pin-points, in contact with his flesh. Even to this twenty-four hours I can remember accurately the anguishs that I underwent when seting on one of these garments. The fact that my flesh was soft and stamp added to the hurting. But I had no pick. I had to have on the flax shirt or none ; and had it been left to me to take, I should hold chosen to have on no covering. In connexion with the flax shirt, my brother John, who is

several old ages older than I am, performed one of the most generous Acts of the Apostless that I of all time heard of one slave comparative making for another. On several occasions when I was being forced to have on a new flax shirt, he liberally agreed to set it on in my position and have on it for several yearss, till it was “broken in.” Until I had grown to be rather a young person this individual garment was all that I wore.

One may acquire the thought, from what I have said, that there was acrimonious experiencing toward the white people on the portion of my race, because of the fact that most of the white population was off contending in a war which would ensue in maintaining the Negro in bondage if the South was successful. In the instance of the slaves on our topographic point this was non true, and it was non true of any big part of the slave population in the South where the Negro was treated with anything like decency. During the Civil War one of my immature Masterss was killed, and two were badly wounded. I recall the feeling of sorrow which existed among the slaves when they heard of the decease of & # 8220 ; Mars & # 8217 ; Billy. & # 8221 ; It was no fake sorrow, but existent. Some of the slaves had nursed & # 8220 ; Mars & # 8217 ; Billy & # 8221 ; ; others had played with him when he was a kid. & # 8220 ; Mars & # 8217 ; Billy & # 8221 ; had begged for clemency in the instance of others when the superintendent or maestro was threshing them. The sorrow in the slave one-fourth was merely 2nd to that in the & # 8220 ; large house. & # 8221 ; When the two immature Masterss were brought place wounded, the understanding of the slaves was shown in many ways. They were merely every bit dying to help in the nursing as the household relatives of the wounded. Some of the slaves would even implore for the privilege of sitting up at dark to nurse their hurt Masterss. This tenderness and understanding on the portion of those held in bondage was a consequence of their kindly and generous nature. In order to support and protect the adult females and kids who were left on the plantations when the white males went to war, the slaves would hold laid down their lives. The slave who was selected to kip in the & # 8220 ; large house & # 8221 ; during the absence of the males was considered to hold the topographic point of honor. Any one attempting to harm & # 8220 ; immature Mistress & # 8221 ; or & # 8220 ; old Mistress & # 8221 ; during the dark would hold had to traverse the dead organic structure of the slave to make so. I do non cognize how many have noticed it, but I think that it will be found to be true that there are few cases, either in bondage or freedom, in which a member of my race has been known to bewray a specific trust.

As a regulation, non merely did the members of my race entertain no feelings of resentment against the Whites before and during the war, but there are many cases of Negroes tenderly transporting for their former Masterss and kept womans who for some ground have become hapless and dependent since the war. I know of cases where the former Masterss of slaves have for old ages been supplied with money by their former slaves to maintain them from enduring. I have known of still other instances in which the former slaves have assisted in the instruction of the posterities of their former proprietors. I know of a instance on a big plantation in the South in which a immature white adult male, the boy of the former proprietor of the estate, has become so decreased in bag and self- control by ground of drink that he is a pathetic animal ; and yet, notwithstanding the poorness of the colored people themselves on this plantation, they have for old ages supplied this immature white adult male with the necessities of life. One sends him a small java or sugar, another a small meat, and so on. Nothing that the colored people possess is excessively good for the boy of & # 8220 ; old Mars & # 8217 ; Tom, & # 8221 ; who will possibly ne’er be permitted to endure while any remain on the topographic point who knew straight or indirectly of & # 8220 ; old Mars & # 8217 ; Tom. & # 8221 ;

I have said that there are few cases of a member of my race bewraying a specific trust. One of the best illustrations of this which I know of is in the instance of an ex-slave from Virginia whom I met non long ago in a small town in the province of Ohio. I found that this adult male had made a contract with his maestro, two or three old ages old to the Emancipation Proclamation, to the consequence that the slave was to be permitted to purchase himself, by paying so much per twelvemonth for his organic structure ; and while he was paying for himself, he was to be permitted to labor where and for whom he pleased. Finding that he could procure better rewards in Ohio, he went at that place. When freedom came, he was still in debt to his maestro some three hundred dollars. Notwithstanding that the Emancipation Proclamation freed him from any duty to his maestro, this black adult male walked the greater part of the distance back to where his old maestro lived in Virginia, and placed the last dollar, with involvement, in his custodies. In speaking to me about this, the adult male told me that he knew that he did non hold to pay the debt, but that he had given his word to the maestro, and his word he had ne’er broken. He felt that he could non bask his freedom boulder clay he had fulfilled his promise.

From some things that I have said one may acquire the thought that some of the slaves did non desire freedom. This is non true. I have ne’er seen one who did non desire to be free, or one who would return to slavery.

I pity from the underside of my bosom any state or organic structure of people that is so unfortunate as to acquire entangled in the cyberspace of bondage. I have long since ceased to care for any spirit of resentment against the Southern white people on history of the captivity of my race. No one subdivision of our state was entirely responsible for its debut, and, besides, it was recognized and protected for old ages by the General Government. Having one time got its tentacles fastened on to the economic and societal life of the Republic, it was no easy affair for the state to alleviate itself of the establishment. Then, when we rid ourselves of bias, or racial feeling, and look facts in the face, we must admit that, notwithstanding the inhuman treatment and moral wrong of bondage, the ten million Negroes populating this state, who themselves or whose ascendants went through the school of American bondage, are in a stronger and more hopeful status, materially, intellectually, morally, and sacredly, than is true of an equal figure of black people in any other part of the Earth. This is so to such an extend that Negroes in this state, who themselves or whose sires went through the school of bondage, are invariably returning to Africa as missionaries to edify those who remained in the homeland. This I say, non to warrant bondage & # 8212 ; on the other manus, I condemn it as an establishment, as we all know that in America it was established for selfish and fiscal grounds, and non from a missional motivation & # 8212 ; but to name attending to a fact, and to demo how Providence so frequently uses work forces and establishments to carry through a intent. When individuals ask me in these yearss how, in the thick of what sometimes seem hopelessly detering conditions, I can hold such religions in the hereafter of my race in this state, I remind them of the wilderness through which and out of which, a good Capital of rhode island has already led us.

Ever since I have been old plenty to believe for myself, I have entertained the thought that, notwithstanding the barbarous wrongs inflicted upon us, the black adult male got about every bit much out of bondage as the white adult male did. The hurtful influences of the establishment were non by any agencies confined to the Negro. This was to the full illustrated by the life upon our ain plantation. The whole machinery of bondage was so constructed as to do labor, as a regulation, to be looked upon as a badge of debasement, of lower status. Hence labor was something that both races on the slave plantation sought to get away. The slave system on our topographic point, in a big step, took the spirit of autonomy and self-help out of the white people. My old maestro had many male childs and misss, but non one, so far as I know, of all time mastered a individual trade or particular line of productive industry. The misss were non taught to cook, run up, or to take attention of the house. All of this was left to the saves. The slaves, of class, had small personal involvement in the life of the plantation, and their ignorance prevented them from larning how to make things in the most improved and thorough mode. As a consequence of the system, fencings were out of fix, Gatess were hanging half off the flexible joints, doors creaked, window-panes were out, stick oning had fallen but was non replaced, weeds grew in the pace. As a regulation, there was nutrient for Whites and inkinesss, but inside the house, and on the dining room tabular array, there was desiring that daintiness and polish of touch and finish which can do a place the most convenient, comfy, and attractive topographic point in the universe. Withal there was a waste of nutrient and other stuffs which was sad. When freedom came, the slaves were about every bit good fitted to get down life afresh as the maestro, except in the affair of book-learning and ownership of belongings. The slave proprietor and his boies had mastered no particular industry. They unconsciously had imbibed the feeling that manual labor was non the proper thing for them. On the other manus, the slaves, in many instances, had mastered some handcraft, and none were ashamed, and few unwilling, to labor.

Finally the war closed, and the twenty-four hours of freedom came. It was a momentous and eventful twenty-four hours to all upon our plantation. We have been anticipating it. Freedom was in the air, and had been for months. Abandoning soldiers returning to their places were to be seen every twenty-four hours. Others who had been discharged, or whose regiments had been paroled, were invariably go throughing near our topographic point. The & # 8220 ; grape-vine telegraph & # 8221 ; was kept busy dark and twenty-four hours. The intelligence and murmurs of great events were fleetly carried from one plantation to another. In the fright of & # 8220 ; Yankee & # 8221 ; invasions, the silverware and other valuables were taken from the & # 8220 ; large house, & # 8221 ; buried in the forests, and guarded by sure slaves. Woe be to any 1 who would hold attempted to upset the inhumed hoarded wealth. The slaves would give the Yankee soldiers nutrient, drink, vesture & # 8212 ; anything but that which had been specifically intrusted [ sic ] to their attention and honor. As the great twenty-four hours drew nigher, there was more vocalizing in the slave quarters than usual. It was bolder, had more ring, and lasted subsequently into the dark. Most of the poetries of the plantation vocals had some mention to freedom. True, they had sung those same poetries before, but they had been careful to explicate that the & # 8220 ; freedom & # 8221 ; in these vocals referred to the following universe, and had no connexion with life in this universe. Now they bit by bit threw off the mask, and were non afraid to allow it be known that the & # 8220 ; freedom & # 8221 ; in their vocals meant freedom of the organic structure in this universe. The dark before the eventful twenty-four hours, word was sent to the slave dealer quarters to the consequence that something unusual was traveling to take topographic point at the & # 8220 ; large house & # 8221 ; the following forenoon. There was small, if any, sleep that dark. All as exhilaration and anticipation. Early on the following forenoon word was sent to all the slaves, old and immature, to garner at the house. In company with my female parent, brother, and sister, and a big figure of other slaves, I went to the maestro & # 8217 ; s house. All of our maestro & # 8217 ; s household were either standing or seated on the gallery of the house, where they could see what was to take topographic point and hear what was said. There was a feeling of deep involvement, or possibly sadness, on their faces, but non bitterness. As I now recall the feeling they made upon me, they did non at the minute seem to be sad because of the loss of belongings, but instead because of separating with those whom they had reared and who were in many ways really near to them. The most distinguishable thing that I now recall in connexion with the scene was that some adult male who seemed to be a alien ( a United States officer, I presume ) made a small address and so read a instead long paper & # 8212 ; the Emancipation Proclamation, I think. After the reading we were told that we were all free, and could travel when and where we pleased. My female parent, who was standing by my side, leaned over and kissed her kids, while cryings of joy ran down her cheeks. She explained to us what it all meant, that this was the twenty-four hours for which she had been so long praying, but fearing that she would ne’er populate to see.

For some proceedingss there was great rejoicing, and Thanksgiving, and wild scenes of rapture. But there was no feeling of resentment. In fact, there was commiseration among the slaves for our former proprietors. The wild rejoicing on the portion of the emancipated colored people lasted but for a brief period, for I noticed that by the clip they returned to their cabins there was a alteration in their feelings. The great duty of being free, of holding charge of themselves, of holding to believe and be after for themselves and their kids, seemed to take ownership of them. It was really much like all of a sudden turning a young person of 10 or twelve old ages out into the universe to supply for himself. In a few hours the great inquiries with which the Anglo- Saxon race had been coping for centuries had been thrown upon these people to be solved. These were the inquiries of a place, a life, the raising of kids, instruction, citizenship, and the constitution and support of churches. Be it any admiration that within a few hours the wild rejoicing ceased and a feeling of deep somberness seemed to permeate the slave quarters? To some it seemed that, now that they were in existent ownership of it, freedom was a more serious thing than they had expected to happen it. Some of the slaves were 70 or 80 old ages old ; their best yearss were gone. They had no strength with which to gain a life in a unusual topographic point and among unusual people, even if they had been certain where to happen a new topographic point of residence. To this category the job seemed particularly difficult. Besides, deep down in their Black Marias there was a unusual and curious fond regard to & # 8220 ; old Marster & # 8221 ; and & # 8220 ; old Missus, & # 8221 ; and to their kids, which they found it difficult to believe of interrupting off. With these they had spent in some instances about a half-century, and it was no light thing to believe of separating. Gradually, one by one, stealthily at first, the older slaves began to roll from the slave quarters back to the & # 8220 ; large house & # 8221 ; to hold a whispered conversation with their former proprietors as to the hereafter.

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