What is slavery? If you were to type this into google, you would get a response such as the following: A condition compared to that of a slave in respect of exhausting labor or restricted freedom (Slavery). We know from readings, documentaries, and etcetera that slavery is horrifically more gruesome and inconceivable than the pathetic, suppressing definition that was given. Slavery played the leading role in the lives of African Americans. Imagine going through so much devastation and not having no one to lean on or comfort you. Imagine feeling unwanted and unloved by majority of everyone around you and being treated in such manner. Well, that was a part of the slavery experience. The prejudice and gory effects of slavery led to black families being ruptured due to the separation of families, absence and capability to love, and the presence of fear.
“Frequently, before the child has reached its twelfth month, its mother is taken from it, and hired out on some farm a considerable distance off…’ (Douglass, 338). Children were taken from their mothers and family shortly after they were born in efforts to abolish the child’s support system, history, and any form of identity that the slaves felt entitled to. “I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it… it is the wish of most masters within my knowledge to keep their slaves thus ignorant” (Douglass, 337). Separating mother from their children at birth gave white slave owners the power to make slaves feel vulnerable. The separation was the beginning process of how a slave was “made.” Keeping black families separated was a reoccurring event that took place within the lives of slaves.
Throughout the life of a slave, he or she could be moved from various plantations at any given time at any given moment, no matter the age nor family content within the black community. “We were all ranked together at the valuation. Women and men, old and young, married and single…”(Douglass, 356). “After the valuation, then came the division” (Douglass, 357). Separation was a strategy used by slave owners to gain and hold power over blacks. This separation also lead to a divide amongst one another in the black community. No matter how mistreated slaves were by their owner, they often took up for them when something negative was stated about their owner by another slave. These types of occurrences made slaves feel as though they stood for something rather than nothing at all. “These quarrels would almost always end in a fight between the parties, and those that whipped were supposed to have gained the point at issue” (Douglass, 345).
Lack of love caused by slavery was also the cause of rupture within the homes of black families. White slave owners did whatever possible to ensure that blacks were deprived from any sense of happiness, worthiness, self-strength, and, most of all, love. In the following quote Douglass speaks of how he took the news about the death of his mother and how slavery took hold of his feeing towards her. Never having enjoyed, to any considerable extent, her soothing presence, her tender and watchful care, I received the tidings of my mother’s death with much the same emotions I should have probably felt at the death of a stranger. (Douglass, 338)
Due to white landowners separating black families and separating mothers and infants from one another not long after birth (as mentioned above), the normal child to mother bond and love was nonexistent. Children considered their parents strangers. As one can see from the quote, Douglass lacked any normal emotion a child would have after receiving the news that their mother died. Due to the separation, the love and affection was lost. “For what this separation is done, I do not know, unless hinder the development of the child’s affection toward is mother, and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother of child” (Douglass, 338). Black families could not thrive if their bond was constantly broken. How could they continue to provide love or receive it from one another if they were deprived from being around each other? As we know from life experience, the more time you willingly spend around someone, your affection grows stronger for them.
The following quote identifies how strain the relationship is between Douglass’s family as a whole and how the separation led to an absence of love and care. “I found no severe trail in my departure…I had two sisters and one brother…but the early separation of us from our mother had well-nigh blotted the fact of our relationship from our memories” (Douglass, 349). The senseless part of slavery was that white father t black children could not and would not treat their children any different from slaves. Even when the slave owners impregnated their slaves, the white fathers could not show any love or affection with their black kids without severe punishment. If a father wanted to care for his black child, the child had to undergo whippings, from both the white family and the father and the father would be looked down on. To save “themselves,” the white fathers showed their slave children no love and treated them like everyone else (Douglass, 339).
The presence of fear from white slave owners also ruptured black families. Slaves were so terrified of the actions of slave owners. Every day, every second, fear was inserted in the lives of slaves. The smallest thing or even nothing at all could set their slave owner off and cause them to be whipped, raped, or even the unthinkable. Marriage between slaves, relationships, or any form of courtship had to be done in the private of slaves. White slave owners became jealous of the slaves they raped partners. Though sex between owner and slave was not consensual, the slave owners did not want their “mate” with anyone else but them. They felt that the slave’s personal body and area belonged to them.
If the white owner’s companion was found with her lover, she would be brutally punished. Douglass speaks or a similar situation with his aunt and her slave owner. “[He] warned her that she must never let him catch her in the company with a young man, who was paying attention to her…” (Douglass,340). Douglass goes on to describe the brutal outcome that she received. He speaks of how the slave owner stripped her naked, tied her hands together, made her stand on stool, and whipped her with a cow skin whip (Douglass,340). Slavery was a sort of physical and mental control. Due to slaves being made to be afraid of white land owners and losing their own safety, slaves were too afraid to stop any brutality occurring with their family members. These types of actions could have led to disrupt in the family because no one felt safe or taken up for. Slavery cause psychological damages as well as physical effects such as the whip.
Slavery ruptured black families by separating slave families, stripping any form of love between them, and assuring the presence of fear existed. Things that occurred during slavery are beyond anyone’s understanding. Reading these articles and visualizing the emotion that traveled through the veins and souls of blacks is unimaginable. Reading and understanding the severity that slaves went through allows one to understand how slavery mentally, emotionally, and physically affected the bond of black families. Unlike what Kanye West stated, slavery was no a choice, but instead a terror that grew from the separation of families, lack of love, and presence of fear.
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