A Life on Slaverys Frontier

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Economy during the 1860s was very demanding when it came crops and maids. Many people wanted to own slaves in order to sell more produce. The more produce that was made or picked and sold by the families, the more money that was made. Little did people know they were the ones that helped built the economy in the 17th and 18th centuries. Due to that, cruelty towards slave families during the 1860s was a huge factor that went into being as slavery grew over the years. Slaves were on high demand as the cotton and tobacco fields grew. Most enslaved women were raped by their owners in order to bear children for the children to work on the plantations in the future. As one can see, the economy and slavery tie in perfectly with the way families were treated and what their conditions were during these harsh times; such as children were being forced to work in the fields and woman being abused; families were separated against their will and their living conditions were below normal.

In the book, Mrs. Dred Scott: A Life on Slaverys Frontier, the author, Lea VanderVelde, studys the life of Harriet Scott, the not so know wife of Dred Scott. The lawsuit and outcome of the Dred Scott case is known to many and even studied by some, but not all know that even she, Harriet Scott, sued to be freed. Instead of only focusing only on the court case that came to be, Lea VanderVelde also tries to talk about Harriet Scotts life entirely in order to help expand our knowledge and understanding of the freedom suite but also the struggles that slaves had to experience in a wider spectrum. This will be a troubling goal due to the shortage of records provided to the public about slaved people and enslaved people near the frontier.

VanderVelde addresses the challenge by looking through records that are valid and looking through anyone who owned or fired Harriet or Dred. In addition, they looked for people that were their neighbors and friends in order to get a sense of what world they lived in. By taking an approach to write a biography, she is able to make predictions and assumptions about the type of work that Harriet did in the past, where she used to live, and what type of relationships she had with those people that surrounded her on a daily basis. VanderVelde has in her possession diaries and letters of Lawrence Taliaferro, Harriets first owner in the frontier. His letters have been overlooked many times by historians, just like Harriet had been by many people, and not thoroughly reviewed. He was a diarist with journals including many details of past events that shaped the Scotts lives on the wilderness frontier- and presumably influenced the development of Harriets character.

Vandervelde begins her story when Harriet arrives to the frontier as a fourteen-year-old girl in 1835. She tags along with her master when he travels to west from Pennsylvania to get into his new position as Indian Agent to the Dakota,serving as Indian agent to the Dakota was his lifes work. Harriet grew up in a multiracial environment where whites, native Americans, and black slaves all lived close to each other. While she lived in the West, she met Dred Scott and married him. The time they spent living north of the Missouri Compromise line became the basis for them to claim freedom, due to the fact that Harriets master did not state he was going to free her after he gave her to Dred for her to become his wife. VanderVelde continues to make an effort to try and reconstruct the Scotts lives and their relationships with white people when they moved to St. Louis. It tries to tie in how slavery played a huge role in the citys economy and social life as they lived in a slave state as free blacks.

The battle of the Scotts legal battle in order for them to be freed is also detailed. She tells us about both Dreds and Harriets case and how their case was developed and how the choice of the courts to join them together. The typical identity of a woman in the nineteenth century was hidden under her husband, due to this her story was hidden but helped change the terms of the case. In a way, her claims were stronger and closer to getting her freedom. This would also benefit her because this gave her the opportunity to liberate her two daughters. The case caught a lot of people attention at the time because of the political situation they were surrounded by during the time the case went to trial. The amount of data accumulated all in one book is so much that it is so appealing to readers who are interested in the freedom suits or frontier slavery. Because of Vanderveldes wide research into the frontier life, this book helps us learn about the relationships of whites, African Americans, and Native Americans.

The work VanderVelde came up with is a huge contribution to our way of understanding slavery. Moving on to the next book is Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery. This book talks about the economy and how it came to unravel and develop. During the colonial era, a period that had the countrys history when it was exposed to colonial power, the size of the plantations was not as big as people thought. The fields of tobacco were averaged to lower than twenty slaves each, and the fields of cotton were not any bigger than thirty-five slaves. Plantations that had the largest about of production were the ones that grew rice and sugar. About 100 slaves were working on the plantations in Louisiana in 1860. As the ending of the eighteenth century got closer and the beginning of the nineteenth century got closer, most of the slave population that the British, French, and Brazil had been born in Africa in order to neutralize the death rates. Later on, creoles (slaves born in the New World) made up the majority of the slave population in the U.S Colonies as early as 1740 . Slave labor involves not just adults but children.

When children start maturing at the age of eleven, by the time they reach ages fifteen or sixteen they would have fully matured in a sense where they are capable of doing more. Data from Olsons sample showed that ages 16-20, about 83% of the males and 89% of the females were field hands. In a graph shown it is evident that men would earn more money than females, they were below twenty percent to forty percent earnings. Although, ages 5 through 17, the annul net earnings from females exceeded that from males, probably because girls matured more rapidly than boys.

Women picked more than males prior to the age of sixteen. As time passed, a lot of the men were transferred from working on the fields to crafting jobs and females were moved to being house servants. Their jobs kept shifting as time went by, men to gardeners, women to nurses in order to care for children and sick people. In larger plantations, women were sent to cloth houses where their job was to spin, wove and sew the cotton into garments for the whites. The number of hours slaves were put to work was ranging from fifty-seven to sixty during the spring, summer, and fall. After the civil war, the amount of labor done by the slaves decreased, after the Civil War, by a third. This is because the amount of work done by the black agriculturalist decreased, not to mention the of withdraw of women and children from labor. A lot depended not only on slaves but free workers due to the fact that having both would be just as profitable.

The demand for slaves not only increased between every decade from 1820 and 1860, but slaves were being used more in the cities than in the countrysides. Due to that, the price for slaves was increasing and cities decided to let the countryside deal with the high prices while they depended on free workers. Northern farmers began to expand,not by adding many workers to the unit, as happened in the South, but by adding capital to a farm with limited number of workers. Before the nineteenth century it was known that many women would give birth to babies, yet not all survived due to illnesses, little to no medical technology, and diseased environments. Although the churches generally kept track of the babies that were baptized and buried, not all could be baptized due to them dying before they got a chance. Because of that, the number of babies that died not long after birth are unaccounted for.

The author of this book was trying to show us that people were mistered and forced to do things they did not want to do. The author of In Search of a Promised Land: A Slave Family in the Old South started out by introducing the family of Sally Thomas during the early antebellum or time immediately before the Civil War. The family consisted of three boys, all of whom were from two different white men. The book analyzed all characters by explaining what they did when they were young compared to what they grew to be as adults. First, begin by introducing Sally Thomas, who was relocated and was taken to Nashville, Tennessee, where she became a quasi-slave, meaning she is allowed to have a job and work freely, although still owned by her master. She soon made enough money to rent a small house and open a place a place to do laundry. She started building a reputation for herself and became a very widely known, successful, respected businesswoman. Although she had to give some of the money to her master, she was able to keep the majority of it. As time passed, Sally thought of her children and knew the ideal way for her children to mature was to travel.

Due to Sallys friendship with Captain Richard Rapier, she had close contact with some rivermen, who were also her customers. She was able to get John Thomas, her oldest son, a trip to New Orleans where Slaves and free blacks loaded and unloaded tens of thousands of bales or raw cotton each year for export to textile mills in the North and Great Britain. Before Richard Rapier died, he set aside some money and left John, Sallys oldest son, to the Thomas Estate. After he died, the executors of his estate met his demands and paid the money in order to emancipate a certain male slave by the name of John H. Rapier. Sally was so joyful because her son was legally free at the age of twenty-one. Although she was an illiterate herself, John was able to learn how to read and write as Richards personal servant. After she got her oldest son free, Sally felt it would be almost impossible to purchase both Henry and James due to that fact that their value was high on the slave market, but she kept working hard.

Her middle child, Henry, did not go with Sally and James to Nashville. He was a big, in shape, and a smart man in his mid-twenties. He was sold on the market for a price that was unreachable for Sally. She had encouraged him many times to run away, and one day, in 1834, he did. He was later caught only to escape again, stealing a boat on the Ohio River. He made it onto the Indian shore where he met a man willing to cut off his cuffs, and after that he went on to move as far away from his pursuers as possible. Sally was still working in her laundry place. As soon as James grew old enough, he started helping Sally run errands. Later, in order for James to stay with Sally, she had to pay John Martin, her owner, 400 dollars in order for John Martin to set him free. She had only saved up 350$ from all her time working at the laundry place, so she asked Foster if he would pay the fifty and she would pay him back, which she paid a short time later. The deal was made, and Sally later received free papers for her boy James. Although this book mainly talked about the Thomas-Rapier family, their search for freedom, and the economy backtracks, they also gave the reader an inside picture into the lives of free slaves in the antebellum South and quasi-slaves, like Sally Thomas.

The readers are able to look through the opportunities yet limits slaves had in their predicament during these troubled times. A lot of visual sources are provided in order to get an idea of what was happening. Travels of James Thomas and John Rapier Jr. to Nicaragua which is a visual representation of a map that shows the passages they took in order to travel. What the authors Franklin, and Schweninger, were trying to explore the 1860s as well as the events that went on during this historical century. In closing, as reading analyzing these books, they teach the readers about the lives of the slaves.

The way they were treated was no way to ever treat a human being but was done due to the societys blindness to see everyone is a human being, no matter skin color. African Americans way of living during this time was so harsh, many people would die due to starvation and sicknesses. Families were separated and sold to different masters, because of this, not many family members would see each other ever again. Especially newborn babies because they would grow up to help on the fields. The money they were worth was so little at times, most masters didnt care about their slaves as long as they worked on the fields and got work done for them.  

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A Life on Slaverys Frontier. (2019, May 13). Retrieved July 19, 2024 , from

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