Slavery On a Cotton Plantation
Louis Hughes • The daily task of each able-bodied slave during the cotton picking season was 250 pounds or more, and all those who did not come up to the required amount would get a whipping. When the planter wanted more cotton picked than usual, the overseer would arrange a race. The slaves would be divided into two parties, with a leader for each party. The first leader would choose a slave for his side, then the second leader one for his, and so on alternately until all were chosen. Each leader tried to get the best on his side. They would all work like good fellows for the prize, which was a tin cup of sugar for each slave on the winning side. The contest was kept up for three days whenever the planter desired an extra amount picked. The slaves were just as interested in the races as if they were going to get a five dollar bill.
Slave Cabins • Each cabin was about fourteen feet square; containing but one room, and was covered with oak boards, three feet in length, split out of logs by hand. • There were in each room two windows, a door and a large, rude fireplace. The door and window frames, or facings, were held in their places by wooden pins, nails being used only in putting the doors together. The interior of the cabins had nothing more attractive than the outside ⎯ there was no plastering and only a dirt floor. The furniture consisted of one bed, a plain board table and some benches made by the slaves themselves. Sometimes a cabin was occupied by two or more families, in which case the number of beds was increased proportionately.
Whippings • One method was to tie the slave to a tree, strip off his clothes, and then whip him with a rawhide, or long, limber switches, or the terrible bull whip. • After these whippings the slave was often left helpless and bleeding upon the ground, until the master, or overseer, saw fit to let him up.
Bull Ring • The most common method of punishment was to have the servants form a ring, called the “bull ring,” into which the one to be punished was led naked. The slaves were then each given a switch, rawhide, strap or whip, and each one was compelled to cut at the poor victim as he ran around the ring. The ring was composed of men, women and children; and, as they numbered from forty to fifty, each circuit of the ring would result in that number of lashes, and by the time the victim had made two or three rounds his condition can be readily imagined. The overseer was always one of the ring, vigorously using the whip, and seeing that all the slaves did the same. Some of the victims fainted before they had passed once around the ring. Women slaves were punished in the same manner as the men. The salt water bath was given after each punishment.
Solomon Northup • Black man born free in New York in 1808 • In 1841 he was on business in Washington DC. He was kidnapped and sold into slavery • He was brought to Louisiana and sold. • He was sold several times during his years as a slave. • For a while he worked on a cotton plantation • After years of tedious work, his family in New York were able to find him and provide proof that he was a free man • In 1853 Solomon was freed
Solomon Northup’s account from his autobiography • "...each slave is presented with a sack. A strap is fastened to it, which goes over the neck, holding the mouth of the sack breast high, while the bottom nearly reaches to the ground. Each one is also presented with a large basket that will hold about two barrels. This is to put the cotton in when the sack is filled. The baskets are carried to the field and placed at the beginning of the rows. The cotton grows from five to seven feet high, each stalk having a great many branches shooting out in all directions and lapping each other above the water furrow. There are few sights more pleasant to the eye than a wide cotton field when it is in the bloom. It presents an appearance of purity, like an immaculate expanse of light, new-fallen snow. Sometime the slave picks down one side of a row and back upon the other, but more usually there is more than one on either side, gathering all that has blossomed, leaving the unopened bolls for a succeeding picking. When the sack is filled, it is emptied into the basket and trodden down. It is necessary to be extremely careful the first time going through the field, in order not to break the branches off the stalks. The cotton will not bloom upon a broken branch."--Solomon Northrup
Steal Away • Lyrics: • Chorus:Steal away, steal away!Steal away to Jesus!Steal away, steal away home!I ain’t got long to stay here! • My Lord calls me!He calls me by the thunder!The trumpet sounds in my soul!I ain’t got long to stay here! • Chorus: • My Lord, he calls me!He calls me by the lightning!The trumpet sounds it ina my soul!I ain’t got long to stay here! • Chorus:
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot • Lyrics: • Chorus:Swing low, sweet chariot,Comin' for to carry me home! • I looked over Jordan and what did I see,Comin' for to carry me home!A band of angels comin' after me,Comin' for to carry me home! • Chorus: • If you get there before I do,Comin' for to carry me home,Jess tell my friends that I'm acomin' too,Comin' for to carry me home. • Chorus: • I'm sometimes up and sometimes down,Comin' for to carry me home,But still my soul feels heavenly boundComin' for to carry me home!