Treatment of Slaves

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Treatment of Slaves

Yu-Chuan ChouEin KimShrey SamdaniKaran MalhotraAyush Sarkar

Treatment of Slaves

Slaves were treated extremely unfairly. For example, the slaves could have been beat, whipped, shackled, burned, branded, imprisoned, and much more. They were usually punished if they didn't follow the rules, but every once in a while the master would punish the slaves to assert his dominance over them. The slave women were often raped and abused sexually. However, there were some slaves who were treated better than others. Some slaves employed white workers and some slaves acted as doctors for others. Some slaves were even provided an education from their masters. Unfortunately, most were not, as the masters feared that the knowledge would open a door to the slaves and help them rebel. Eventually though, the treatment of slaves got better. After 1820, slaves could no longer be imported from Africa, so slave owners improved conditions so that slaves would have less of an incentive to run away.

"The white chillun tries teach me to read and write but I didn' larn much, 'cause I allus workin'. Mother was workin' in the house, and she cooked too. She say she used to hide in the chimney corner and listen to what the white folks say. When freedom was 'clared, marster wouldn' tell 'em, but mother she hear him tellin' mistus that the slaves was free but they didn' know it and he's not gwineter tell 'em till he makes another crop or two. When mother hear that she say she slip out the chimney corner and crack her heels together four times and shouts, 'I's free, I's free.' Then she runs to the field, 'gainst marster's will and tol' all the other slaves and they quit work. Then she run away and in the night she slip into a big ravine near the house and have them bring me to her. Marster, he come out with his gun and shot at mother but she run down the ravine and gits away with me."Primary Source 2

The export of slaves grew from about 36,000 a year during the early 18th century to almost 80,000 a year during the 1780s. About 12,000,000 African slaves were shipped across the Atlantic, with a death rate of 10-20 percent of the total amount of slaves during the Middle Passage. An average field worker worked for a total of 5,000 hours a year while the house workers worked for about 4,600 hours. They were given weekly ration of food which was barely enough to supply more than a meal per day.There was no legal way for a slave to buy their freedom, it depended entirely on their master's decisions.

James Ramsay, a doctor working for several sugar plantations in St Kitts, was shocked by the way the slaves were treated by the overseers. Ramsay later recalled in his book, Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of African Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies (1784): "The ordinary punishments of slaves, for the common crimes of neglect, absence from work, eating the sugar cane, theft, are cart whipping, beating with a stick, sometimes to the breaking of bones, the chain, an iron crook about the neck... a ring about the ankle, and confinement in the dungeon. There have been instances of slitting of ears, breaking of limbs, so as to make amputation necessary, beating out of eyes, and castration... In short, in the place of decency, sympathy, morality,and religion; slavery produces cruelty and oppression. It is true, that the unfeeling application of the ordinary punishments ruins the constitution, and shortens the life of many a poor wretch."Primary Source 1



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