The period of slavery in the United States is one of the darkest periods in the history of the country, associated with the humiliation and misfortune that befell black people. For learning about these events, it is best to turn to the words of direct witnesses to slavery. The purpose of this essay is to study the stories of former slaves to get an idea of slavery in Louisiana.
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As sources telling about those times, it is appropriate to study the stories of two former slaves, Mary Reynolds and Charley Williams. They speak about their life and work, as well as about the fundamental principles adopted in a slave society. Mary’s story is more focused on her personal experiences and relationships with the people around her. Charlie talks more about the organization of his life and the plantation of his owner, without going much into the personal details.
According to Cobb, slaves for their masters were nothing more than property, instruments devoid of personality (6). Despite the differences in views of Mary and Charley, similar lines can be deduced in both texts confirming the previous statement and characterizing the slave-owning regime in general.
Such details as, for example, the general arrangement of life, are slightly different for Mary and Charley. Slaves lived separately from the owners in distinctly constructed rooms with a minimum of comforts. Sometimes, like in Charlie’s case, in such houses, there was not even a fireplace. The day of slaves proceeded in work on the plantations, to which they were brought out under the supervision, but the working conditions also differed.
For example, Charlie recalls his work with enthusiasm and without complaining about the injustice of the owners. At the same time, Mary mentions Solomon, a cruel warder who observes their every move and punishes the slightest fault. Thus, we can conclude that although the general rules of slaveholding society in many respects coincided, a lot of the life conditions depended on the particular owner.
Such interviews, like many similar sources, despite their age, are valuable to this day. Such records store not just a historical summary but contain emotions and impressions of former slaves. These impressions allow us to look at the regime from the subjective point of view of a person who lived in that period. Such knowledge reveals details that are often not displayed in general historical reports, and that is why these retellings are so valuable and significant.
Cobb, Christy. Slavery, Gender, Truth, and Power in Luke-Acts and Other Ancient Narratives. Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.
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