I sat tied to a chair in an old wooden shed. My mouth was stuffed with old dirty rags and he had stripped me of most of my clothes. He said there would be consequences, consequences for trying to run away. My owner, Mr. Bargin usually left his workers alone, unless we rebelled or broke his rules. I had made a mistake, and now as I heard him approaching the shed, I feared what would become of me.
“It’s time to have some fun,” Mr. Bargin chuckled as he slowly opened the shed door, “Did you really think you could escape from me so easily? I thought I gave you a good life. A roof over your head, food on the table, and a job to keep you occupied. You, black boy, need to learn to appreciate what I do for you.”
He paced around me in circles as if he was a wolf and I was his prey. In one hand he held a whip and in the other a razor blade. Before I knew what was happening he tipped the chair and began whipping me repeatedly. With every hit, my anger intensified. With every hit, my rebellious spirit grew. There was no way I was staying on that plantation for the rest of my life. I decided right then that I was going to be free, and that I was going to join the Army. I was going to fight in the Civil War to help free my people, no matter what anyone told me. My skin color was not going to stop me. I would not let it define who I was and what I did in life.
After I was done receiving my beating, I was sent to my shack. There I spent my nights with eleven other slaves, cramped and dingy. We slept in beds made of straw with only torn dirty rags to use as coverings. Each month we received cornmeal, eight pounds of pork, and salted herring, but this month we were only given cornmeal. Rarely did we ever eat a meal before we went to bed.
The weeks following my attempted escape were not pleasant. I was forced to stay out in the tobacco fields with no breaks from my work. I was kept under constant watch and whipped at unnecessary times. I couldn’t take it any longer. If I stayed, I feared I would be killed.
I knew I couldn’t get away on my own. Two of my friends, Joshua and Thomas, had always talked about wanting to escape to the North and live a free life. We began discussing how we would manage to run away without being caught
“I think we should plan to leave the night of Mr. Bargin’s birthday party. Everyone will be at the house and only the servant slaves have to attend. No one will be watching the shacks and we can run through the woods out back,” Joshua suggested.
“That might work,” I answered, “But we will need a backup plan in case something happens. Maybe we should try to steal a knife or a pistol to protect ourselves. We need to find a safe route to Massachusetts.”
“I heard there is an escape system called the Underground Railroad,” Thomas chimed in, “It’s a system of “safe-houses” that slaves can use to get to the Northern states, not an actual railroad. Slaves are guided and helped by abolitionists who are called “conductors”. There’s also a...