Narrative of My Escape from Slavery (African American)
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My life prior to that time was filled with heart-aches and despair. After a meager supper, we generally talked until we get sleepy, we had to go to bed. Some of us would read, if we were lucky enough to know how. In most of us colored folks was the great desire to able to read and write. We took advantage of every opportunity to educate ourselves.
The greater part of the plantation owners were very harsh if we were caught trying to learn or write. Our ignorance was the greatest hold the South had on us. List the hardships and abuses mentioned by former slaves in the excerpts above. Search or browse the collection to find additional evidence related to each of these hardships.
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Also look for evidence of any additional types of inhumane treatment of slaves. Collect quotations from the narratives that you think are especially effective in conveying what it was like to be a slave. Use the quotes as support in an essay on the experience of slavery, to create a spoken word performance, or a text collage. Several forms of resistance to slavery are noted in the Born in Slavery collection. A number of the narratives mention both abortive and successful escapes from Southern plantations.
Read several of the narratives listed below, all of which recount escapes from slavery or actions that slaves believed slaveholders took to prevent escapes:. Conduct a full-text search using Harriet Tubman as your search term to find other former slaves who discussed this courageous woman. Slaves also defied plantation owners by holding forbidden prayer services. Harriet Cheatam, born in in Gallatin, Tennessee, is one of many who described using pots to muffle sounds from clandestine prayer meetings:.
Interviewees from different regions of the South told similar stories of using upturned pots to keep overseers from hearing prayers or discussions in slave cabins see, for example, the interview with Kitty Hill of North Carolina. What can you infer from the existence of this type of day-to-day resistance?
Richard and Drucilla Martin, Ages 92 and A few of the narratives mention John Brown and the raid on Harpers Ferry in Drucilla Martin , age , recalled accompanying her mistress to Harpers Ferry to witness the hanging. A fading memory may have accounted for discrepancies in the account. Conduct research to determine what aspects of the event Martin remembered incorrectly.
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To what extent do discrepancies in her recollection of the event invalidate the account? A number of enslaved men escaped and served with Union forces during the Civil War. Thomas Cole, about 16 years old, escaped from a plantation in Alabama and headed north, where he came upon some Union soldiers in Tennessee. He was put to work as a military laborer and later joined the army. Cole describes action at the battles of Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and Missionary Ridge. Cole was over 90 years old when he was interviewed in Texas. When the War come along I was a grown man, and I went off to serve because old Master was too old to go, but he had to send somebody anyways.
Age yrs. During the war, slaves were bombarded with pro-Confederate propaganda.
Read the interview with William M. Adams in which he recounted the efforts of white preachers to indoctrinate the slaves. Slaves on the plantation further south were warned that the remnants of the Union soldiers would never set them free. Age 88 yrs. White folks, have you seed old massa Up de road, with he mustache on?
Chorus Old massa run away And us darkies stay at home. He look up de river and he seed dat smoke Where de Lincoln gunboats lay. During the Civil War, many slaves escaped plantations and sought refuge with the Union army. Once the war ended, African Americans throughout the states that had remained at war after January 1, , were set free. Schools for African American children were established, staffed mainly by Northern white teachers.
Born into Captivity
Duncan Gaines recalled reactions to the availability of school:. Duncan was 12 years of age when freedom was declared and remembers the hectic times which followed. Most of the instructors were whites sent to the South for that purpose. All of the children secured enough learning to enable them to read and write, which was regarded as very unusual in those days.
Slaves had been taught that their brain was inferior to the whites who owned them and for this reason, many parents refused to send their children to school, thinking it a waste of time and that too much learning might cause some injury to the brain of their supposedly weak-minded children.
Simon Phillips, Age 90 with John Randolph. Simon Phillips reported that carpetbaggers directed the freedmen to divide the plantation lands that they had previously worked. Ellis Ken Kannon recalled that many believed that the federal government would soon allot each family 40 acres of land and a mule, but Kannon did not know anyone who actually received this allotment. A considerable number of interviews refer to the Ku Klux Klan. This elaborate scheme was designed to frighten and intimidate. Use Ku Klux Klan in a full-text search to find references to the activities of the Klan during Reconstruction.
Research the activities of the Klan during Reconstruction and the effectiveness of the Ku Klux Klan Acts of and After the war, a number of former slaves stayed on plantations and worked the land under a share crop arrangement. Isaac Adams recalled that about half of the freedmen on the Sack plantation in Louisiana stayed on after the war, working sections of the land and paying rent out of their shares of the produce. Many of the interviews reveal the difficult times during Reconstruction.
Liney Chambers described life in the post-Civil War era as worse than the Depression. Ellis Jefson worked as a nurse in Memphis in during the yellow fever epidemic and described conditions in the city and whites fleeing the city during the crisis.
A number of former slaves discussed voting and politics. I voted ever since I got to be a man grown.
That is — as long as I could vote. Conduct a full-text keyword search to locate other recollections of voting. Then consider the following questions:. Their lives were shaped by the times and circumstances in which they lived including laws, customs, and racial attitudes , their own decisions, and historical events occurring on the national and world stages.
5 Classic and Heartbreaking Slave Narratives
Read the life story of Mandy Morrow , making notes on some of the important events in her life as you read. On a sheet of paper, draw a line down the center of the sheet. Mark the bottom of the line with the date of the interview. Mark off decades between the two dates. The timeline should be to scale: that is, each decade should be represented by the same length on the line.
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On the right side of the line, write some of the events that you have studied in history class; for example, show the Civil War from You will have to estimate when some events occurred based on information in the interview and your knowledge of history. How does it reflect the time and circumstances in which she lived? How was her life shaped by her own decisions? To what extent do narratives reflect similar experiences? Different experiences? What may account for the differences? From the narratives, what can you infer about how racial attitudes changed or remained the same over time?
A number of narratives depict a tranquil life on the plantation in stark contrast with the poverty and suffering during the Great Depression. I think slavery was good because I was treated all right. Dis country is in a bad fix. Phillip Evans, however, disagreed.