The lives of Slaves on Plantations vs. the lives of Slaves in Big Cities During the mid 18th century African Americans living in the United States were born, raised, and sold as slaves. Many of them were transported from Africa to the Americas through the middle passage. Arriving in the Americas, African Americans were sold as slaves to slave owners during auctions and were sent out to different homes in order to start their new lives. Many slaves were sent out to large rural plantations in the South and many slaves were sent out to more urban areas like the cities of New Orleans and Baltimore. The lives of slaves on plantations differed greatly from the lives of slaves in the cities. Slaves who lived on plantations worked very long and hard days in the fields doing tasks such as picking tobacco, wheat and other crops. However, slaves who lived in the cities worked in an urban type of environment, usually in households where they cooked and cleaned. Two texts that depict the different living conditions and lives of a slave living on a plantation and city are Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass: An American slave, an autobiography of Fredrick Douglass which explains the life of a slave living in a city. An opposing view presented in Uncle Toms Cabin written by Harriet Beecher Stowe is about the life of a slave named Tom living on a plantation. Living on a plantation slaves were confined and isolated and were not allowed to associate or interact with one another as opposed to slaves living in cities, who were allowed to make contact with one another and given more leisure and free time. Slaves who lived in southern plantations led harsher and cruel lives than slaves living in southern cities.
Slaves living on plantations suffered many brutal acts from their owners and lived very stringent lives, being treated poorly and stripped of their freedom. Many slaves had to rely on stealing to survive yet another day. Slaves would steal food to satisfy their hunger for a small period of time, while others stole everyday materials such as bags used for corn to keep themselves warm through the cold winter nights. Fredrick Douglass speaks of his experience as a slave working on a plantation and having to steal so he can live to see another day. Douglass states, “ … I used to steal a bag which was used for corn … and crawl into this bag and sleep in the cold, damp, clay floor … with my feet so cracked with the frost …” (59). Given no actual bed, blanket, pillow, or place to sleep on, slaves such as Douglass were forced to steal so they can have a slim chance of survival. Day by day African American slaves were stripped of something far more vital then clothing and food but most importantly their freedom. Unfortunately many slaves froze to death during the cold winter nights, while others did whatever they could just to stay alive (Berkin). Many slave owners did not provide their slaves with proper clothing and food. Fredrick Douglass tells his readers about the lack of clothing stating, “… I was kept almost naked- no shoes, no stockings, no jacket, no trousers, nothing on but a coarse tow linen shirt, reaching only to my knees” (59). In addition to being kept nearly naked slaves were deprived of sufficient nourishment. They were not fed properly and were forced to settle for whatever type of food was handed to them, which they referred to as “mush” which was simply a meal of “coarse corn boiled … and put into a large wooden tray” (Douglass 59-60). The lives of slaves on plantations was like survival of the fittest, whoever was the most fit and strong was able to work more, and who ever ate the fastest was able to eat more (Owens). This comes to show the dark truth of living on a plantation and being deprived of everyday essentials that were needed for survival.
Not only were slaves given improper clothing and living conditions but they were also forced to work in all types of weather: snow, rain, sleet or stifling...
Cited: Berkin, Carol. Making America: A History of the United States. Fifth ed. Vol. 1. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008. Print.
Brown, John. Slave Life In Georgia. Savannah, Georgia: Beehive, 1972. Print.
Douglass, Fredric. Narrative of the life of Fredrick Douglass, an American Slave. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003. Print.
Owens, Leslie Howard. This Species of Property: Slave Life and Culture in the Old South. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1977. Print.
Stowe, Harriett Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. New York: Signet Classics, 2008.
Wade, Richard C. Slavery in the Cities: The South 1820-1860. New York: Oxford University Press, 1946.
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