The Destruction of the Black Family- Part 2

Black Family Part2 Hat tip R-Evolution

. . . But I now entered on my fifteenth year — a sad epoch in the life of a slave girl. My master began to whisper foul words in my ear. Young as I was, I could not remain ignorant of their import… [mean- ing]. I tried to treat them with indifference or contempt. . . He tried his utmost to corrupt the pure principles my grandmother had instilled. He peopled my young mind with unclean images, such as only a vile monster could think of. I turned from him with disgust and hatred. But he was my master. I was compelled to live under the same roof with him — where I saw a man forty years my senior daily violating the most sacred commandments of nature. He told me I was his property, that I must be subject to his will in all things. My soul revolted against the mean tyranny. But where could I turn for protection? No matter whether the slave girl be as black as ebony or as fair as her mistress. In either case, there is no shadow of law to protect her from insult, from violence, or even from death; all these are inflicted by fiends who bear the shape of men. The mistress, who ought to protect the helpless victim, has no other feelings towards her but those of jealousy and rage. The degradation, the wrongs, the vices, that grow out of slavery, are more than I can describe. They are greater than you would willingly believe. . . .

. . . If God has bestowed beauty upon her [a female slave], it will prove her greatest curse. That which commands admiration in the white woman only hastens the degradation of the female slave. I know that some are too much brutalized by slavery to feel the humiliation of their position; but many slaves feel it most acutely and shrink from the memory of it. I cannot tell how much I suffered in the presence of these wrongs, nor how I am still pained by the retrospect. My master met me at every turn, reminding me that I belonged to him, and swearing by heaven and earth that he would compel me to submit to him. If I went out for a breath of fresh air after a day of unwearied toil, his footsteps dogged me. If I knelt by my mother’s grave, his dark shadow fell on me even there. The light heart which nature had given me became heavy with sad forebodings. The other slaves in my master’s house noticed the change. Many of them pitied me, but none dared to ask the cause. They had no need to inquire. They knew too well the guilty practices under that roof, and they were aware that to speak of them was an offense that never went unpunished. . . .

The secrets of slavery are concealed like those of the Inquisition. My master was, to my knowledge, the father of eleven slaves. But did the mothers dare to tell who was the father of their children? Did the other slaves dare to allude to it, except in whispers among themselves? No, indeed! They knew too well the terrible consequences. . . .

Southern women often marry a man knowing that he is the father of many little slaves. They do not trouble themselves about it. They regard such children as property, as marketable as the pigs on the plantation, and it is seldom that they do not make them aware of this by passing them into the slave- trader’s hands as soon as possible, and thus getting them out of their sight. . . .

No pen can give an adequate description of the all-pervading corruption produced by slavery. The slave girl is reared in an atmosphere of licentiousness and fear. The lash and the foul talk of her master and his sons are her teachers. When she is fourteen or fifteen, her owner, or his sons, or the overseer, or perhaps all of them, begin to bribe her with presents. If these fail to accomplish their purpose, she is whipped or starved into submission to their will. She may have had religious principles inculcated by some pious mother or grandmother or some good mistress; she may have a lover whose good opinion and peace of mind are dear to her heart; or the profligate men who have power over her may be exceedingly odious to her. But resistance is hopeless.

“The poor worm
Shall prove her contest vain. Life’s little day Shall pass, and she is gone!”

The slaveholder’s sons are, of course, vitiated, even while boys, by the unclean influences everywhere around them. Nor do the master’s daughters always escape. Severe retributions sometimes come upon him for the wrongs he does to the daughters of the slaves. The white daughters early hear their parents quarrelling about some female slave. Their curiosity is excited, and they soon learn the cause. They are attended by the young slave girls whom their father has corrupted; and they hear such talk as should never meet youthful ears or any other ears. They know that the women slaves are subject to their father’s authority in all things, and in some cases they exercise the same authority over the men slaves. I have myself seen the master of such a household whose head was bowed down in shame, for it was known in the neighborhood that his daughter had selected one of the meanest slaves on his plantation to be the father of his first grandchild. She did not make her advances to her equals nor even to her father’s more intelligent servants. She selected the most brutalized, over whom her authority could be exercised with less fear of exposure. Her father, half frantic with rage, sought to revenge himself on the offending black man, but his daughter, foreseeing the storm that would arise, had given him free papers and sent him out of the state.

Fountain Hughes: If I thought I’d be a slave again, I would take a gun and end it all right away.

In such cases the infant is smothered or sent where it is never seen by any who know its history. But if the white parent is the father, instead of the mother, the offspring are unblushingly reared for the market. If they are girls, I have indicated plainly enough what will be their inevitable destiny.

You may believe what I say, for I write only that whereof I know. I was twenty-one years in that cage of obscene birds. I can testify from my own experience and observation that slavery is a curse to the whites as well as to the blacks. It makes the white fathers cruel and sensual, the sons violent and licentious. It contaminates the daughters and makes the wives wretched. And as for the colored race, it needs an abler pen than mine to describe the extremity of their sufferings, the depth of their degradation.

Yet few slaveholders seem to be aware of the widespread moral ruin occasioned by this wicked system. Their talk is of blighted cotton crops — not of the blight on their children’s souls.

If you want to be fully convinced of the abominations of slavery, go on a southern plantation and call yourself a negro trader. Then there will be no concealment, and you will see and hear things that will seem to you impossible among human beings with immortal souls.

HARRIET JACOBS, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 1861

About SouthernGirl2

A Native Texan who adores baby kittens, loves horses, rodeos, pomegranates, & collect Eagles. Enjoys politics, games shows, & dancing to all types of music. Loves discussing and learning about different cultures. A Phi Theta Kappa lifetime member with a passion for Social & Civil Justice.
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13 Responses to The Destruction of the Black Family- Part 2

  1. There is no legal marriage among the slaves of the South. I never saw nor heard of such a thing in my life, and I have been through seven of the slave states. A slave marrying according to law is a thing unknown in the history of American Slavery. And be it known to the disgrace of our country that every slaveholder, who is the keeper of a number of slaves of both sexes, is also the keeper of a house or houses of ill-fame. Licentious white men can and do enter at night or day the lodging places of slaves, break up the bonds of affection in families, destroy all their domestic and social union for life; and the laws of the country afford them no protection.

    HENRY BIBB, Narratives of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, An American Slave, 1849

  2. rikyrah says:

    thank you for these powerful pieces. the pain and horrors visited upon our ancestors must be told. My heart broke reading this, but being educated about the past is the only way to honor it.

  3. vitaminlover says:

    These tragic memories remind me of the falconhurst series. I read those books. Made my blood boil. This is why we are so powerful as a race. Nothing or no one can keep us down.

  4. Ametia says:

    i will have to spend some time reading and watching these videos. Lord have Mercy.

  5. Yahtc says:

    How many more stories would we have had if stories had been recorded years before the WPA captured these accounts?

    What also would have been revealed if the had recorded the voices of sharecroppers and sharecropping conditions from the period of Emancipation to the year of the WPA’s work?

    We owe so much to those who pushed for Civil Rights during the Movement because they drew the National Television reporters to film the horrid treatment that still existed in the 1950’s and 1960’s for anyone who challenged Jim Crow.

    Just consider what was happening in Birmingham alone!

    A book was published last year that I recommend: “The Giant of Dynamite Hill” that tells the story of Arthur Shores of Birmingham, AL:

    These are the firsthand accounts of sisters Helen and Barbara Shores growing up with their father, Arthur Shores, a prominent Civil Rights attorney, during the 60s in the Jim Crow south Birmingham district—a frequent target of the Ku Klux Klan. Between 1948 and 1963, some 50 unsolved Klan bombings happened in Smithfield where the Shores family lived, earning their neighborhood the nickname ‘Dynamite Hill.’ Due to his work, Shores’ daughter, Barbara, barely survived a kidnapping attempt. Twice, in 1963, Klan members bombed their home, sending Theodora to the hospital with a brain concussion and killing Tasso, the family’s cocker spaniel. The family narrowly escaped a third bombing attempt on their home in the spring of 1965. The Gentle Giant of Dynamite Hill is an incredible story of a family’s unfair suffering, but also of the Shores’ overcoming. This family’s sacrificial commitment, courage, determination, and triumph inspire us today through this story and the selfless service, work, and lives of Helen Shores Lee and Barbara Sylvia Shores.

  6. I was regarded as fair-looking for one of my race, and for four years a white man ⎯ I spare the world his name ⎯ had base designs upon me. I do not care to dwell upon this subject, for it is one that is fraught with pain. Suffice it to say that he persecuted me for four years, and I⎯ I⎯ became a mother. The child of which he was the father was the only child that I ever brought into the world. If my poor boy ever suffered any humiliating pangs on account of birth, he could not blame his mother, for God knows that she did not wish to give him life. He must blame the edicts of that society which deemed it no crime to undermine the virtue of girls in my then position.

    ELIZABETH KECKLEY, Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House, 1868

  7. [Patsey] had a genial and pleasant temper, and was faithful and obedient. Naturally, she was a joyous creature, a laughing, light-hearted girl, rejoicing in the mere sense of existence. Yet Patsey wept oftener and suffered more than any of her companions. She had been literally excoriated. Her back bore the scars of a thousand stripes ⎯ not because she was backward in her work, nor because she was of an unmindful and rebellious spirit, but because it had fallen to her lot to be the slave of a licentious master and a jealous mistress. She shrank before the lustful eye of the one, and was in danger even of her life at the hands of the other, and between the two she was indeed accursed.

    In the great house, for days together, there were high and angry words, poutings and estrangement, whereof she was the innocent cause. Nothing delighted the mistress so much as to see her suffer, and more than once, when Epps had refused to sell her, has she tempted me with bribes to put her secretly to death and bury her body in some lonely place in the margin of the swamp.

    Gladly would Patsey have appeased this unforgiving spirit if it had been in her power, but not like Joseph, dared she escape from Master Epps, leaving her garment in his hand. Patsey walked under a cloud. If she uttered a word in opposition to her master’s will, the lash was resorted to at once to bring her to subjection. If she was not watchful when about her cabin, or when walking in the yard, a billet of wood or a broken bottle, perhaps, hurled from her mistress’ hand, would smite her unexpectedly in the face. The enslaved victim of lust and hate, Patsey had no comfort of her life.

    SOLOMON NORTHUP, Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, 1853

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