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100 Years Ago


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Life As a Slave

By 1860, the slave states controlled around 4 million slaves, almost one third of their entire population. They toiled laboriously in plantation fields, from sunrise to sunset, served as house servants, skilled craftsmen, worked in factories, constructed canals/railroads, and shortened their lives inhaling the residue and gasses of dangerous mines. The market value for each slave ranged from a few dollars to over 1,000 dollars.

Josiah Hensen, writing about his experience as a slave, recorded, "Our dress was of tow-cloth [coarse material made from flax]...a pair of coarse shoes once a year. We lodged in log huts...Wooden huts were an unknown luxury. In a single room were huddled, like cattle, ten or a dozen persons, men, women, and children...There were neither bedsteads nor furniture...Our beds were collections of straw and old rags...The wind whistled and the rain and snow blew in through the cracks, and the damp earth soaked in the moisture till the floor was miry as a pig-sty."

The rise of the South, with its strong agricultural base secured by the bondage of others, brought southern visions of independence from those in the North who would compromise the South’s honor and control its destiny. The fight for the continued use of slaves would soon begin.

'Black History' segment written in June, 1998 by David Lodge

 

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