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Slavery In The American South Essay

1810 words - 7 pages

Slavery in the South

Slavery was a big part of life in the South. Many plantation owners relied on slaves and their work to help get the money and crops they needed. There were two types of slaves in the South at this time. There were house slaves and there were field slaves. House slaves consisted of servants, maids, and butlers. They were normally treated better than the field slaves (Biel 14). They got to be inside most of the time. Owners of house slaves would usually not beat them because they wanted the slaves to look presentable for whatever guests arrived or stopped by. With house slaves, the owner’s family enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle (Biel 14). These houses were normally extremely elegant. Some house slaves had the luxury of being taught basic education. Just enough to understand what was going on and what to do.

     Field slave life was much different than that of a house slave. There was no education taught to a field slave. Literacy for enslaved blacks was clearly viewed as a potential weapon against the slave system (“Voices of Triumph” 167). Educated slaves were thought not only more likely to rebel but also to pose a greater threat if they did (“Voices of Triumph” 167). Forty to fifty slaves lived on a typical plantation (Biel 14). These field slaves were very important and was a heavy contributor to the plantation owner’s income.

Slavery was a way to use man, woman, and child power to raise crops for sale (Boorstin and Kelly 273). The largest of these crops was cotton, which the Southerners thought was the “King” of all crops, but also important were tabacco, rice, hemp, and sugar (Boorstin and Kelly 273). From age 12, slaves were expected to get up at sunrise and work until it was to dark to see (Biel 14). It was the black slave, working from dusk to dawn, who planted, tended, and harvested these crops, as well as built fences, cut wood, and fed farm animals (Boorstin and Kelly 273).

     The institution of slavery was operated by the planters and through custom. The owner of the plantation was the head guy who ran the plantation. A small planter would go ahead and supervise the plantation by himself if he could. If he was a medium or major planter, he hired an overseer and perhaps an assistant overseer to represent him (Williams, Current, and Friedel 494). An overseer was a position that had the responsibility of watching over the plantation and making sure that everything was going well. These overseers were hired if the owner of the plantation was to busy or occupied with something else. Almost as important as the managerial force was the “head driver”, a trusted and responsible slave, who acted under the overseer as a kind of foremen (Williams, Current, and Friedel 494). The head driver was normally a prior long time slave who could be trusted to help get the work done that needed to be done. There were two methods of appointing jobs to field slaves for the owners. One method was the gang system. Under...

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