Moral Dilemmas In Celia, A Slave By Melton Mc Laurin

1408 words - 6 pages

Melton McLaurin’s book Celia, A Slave is the account of the trial, conviction, and execution of a female slave for the murder of her “master” Robert Newsom in 1855. The author uses evidence compiled through studying documents from Callaway County, Missouri and the surrounding area during the middle of the Nineteenth Century. Although much of what can be determine about this event is merely speculation, McLaurin proposes arguments for the different motives that contribute to the way in which many of the events unfold. Now throughout the book the “main characters”, being Celia, her lawyer Jameson, and the judge William Hall, are all faced with moral decisions that affect the lives of two different people.
The first of the main characters that are introduced are Celia’s master, Robert Newsom. Mr. Newsom was a wealthy landowner in Callaway County. In 1850, after the death of his wife, Robert Newsom purchased a fourteen year old slave girl from nearby Audrain County. Now as far as McLaurin can tell Newsom purchased Celia for no other reason than a sexual chattel. The night that Newsom purchased Celia it was “on his return to Callaway County, Newsom raped Celia, and by that act at once established and defined the nature of the relationship…” (McLaurin 24). From the time that Newsom first acquires Celia, he begins to rape her on a regular basis. Although it was generally accepted as being morally wrong for a slave master to sexually abuse a slave, Robert Newsom seems to view her as his property, to do with as he pleased rather than as a human being. McLaurin states that “…Celia’s rape by her new master would have been a psychologically devastating experience, one which would have had a profound effect upon her” (25). Even though the “unique circumstances” (McLaurin 25) of Celia’s rape cannot be determined, her feelings would have been “a variety of responses: fear, rage, an overpowering sense of violation, sometimes helplessness, and a loss of self-esteem” (McLaurin 25). Regardless of whether or not she was a virgin at the time of the rape, it was this trauma, combined with pressure from her boyfriend/husband, another of Newsom s slaves named George that drove her to decide to forcefully resist Robert’s sexual advances toward her. Now Celia’s predicament is either that she continues to suffer Newsom’s violations and lose the man she loves, or fight back and risk losing her life. Celia, in the attempt to stop the abuse talks to Newsom’s daughters Virginia and Mary, but they do not “attempt to intervene with their father on Celia’s behalf” (McLaurin 32), so Celia being left with no more options confronts Newsom “sometime on or immediately before June 23, 1855” (McLaurin 33), Celia “begged Newsom to leave her alone…” saying she was sick due to her pregnancy instead of “revealing the nature of her relationship with George” (McLaurin 33). Newsom ignores Celia’s request and told her “he was coming to her cabin that night” so Celia desperate to break off the...

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